Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Broadcasting your likes (whether you want to or not)

There has been a fair bit of controversy lately about a new tactic by mainstream games publishers that involves only releasing marketing assets (videos, screenshots etc) when a certain threshold of social media activity is reached, such as encouraging people to ‘like’ them on facebook, or retweet a news story.

Personally, I believe it’s a silly marketing strategy. If you have a video that will encourage me to buy Battlefield 3, and I am a potential customer, why on earth have some barrier preventing showing me the video? And who are you kidding anyway, we all know I’ll see the video before the game goes on sale, so don’t patronise me…

However, having said that…

I do find it interesting that people are suddenly getting super-irate about companies asking, or even encouraging them (with benefits in return) for doing something like retweeting a link or liking on facebook / reddit. I udnerstand *why* people feel that way, but I think people forget you do this already about a HUNDRED TIMES A DAY.

Right now, sat at my desk, I can observe without turning my head that my keyboard is by Saitek, my router is a Netgear one, my monitors are iiyama, and my office phone is made by Doro. I can just about see the Logitech microphone and the Bose headphones. That’s 6 logos within my current field of view. On my desktop I can see that Google supplied my clock, and this blog comes courtesy of WordPress. This is ALL advertising, it is ALL marketing, and if you think about it, it’s the equivilant of a forced facebook ‘like’ with no opt-out.

I bought a new car recently, and there were dozens and dozens of options, most of which were hugely overpriced. Do you know the ONE option that was not available at ANY price? It’s removing the car makers logo. Never in a million years. Have you ever seen a car without the makers logo on it?

When a company, even a humble indie games company like mine asks you to retweet something, or ‘like’ it, it might seem a bit pestering, and a bit cynical and a bit ‘markety’, but remember that you are being forced to do this hundreds of times a day anyway. My last car was a Peugeot and it was pretty crap, but I drove up and down with the equivilant of a big ‘+1 peugeot’ advert whether I liked it or not. Games portals also do this all the time (your friend is playing GENERIC SHOOTER #3 right now!)

If you enjoyed this post, why not retweet it, or facebook like it, or submit it to reddit :D

15 thoughts on Broadcasting your likes (whether you want to or not)

  1. In fairness, your games sport your company’s logo and there’s no option to remove that either…

    What’s cars don’t do is ask me to ring all my friends and tell them what I drive/where I get it serviced/how much petrol it uses/which model I fancy next.

    Most of the grumbling is really online NIMBYism tho – people don’t want their Facebook/Twitter feed to contain anything but stuff they want to see there…

    So long as developers/publishers use it wisely – it’s a tool for good and I personally think most people are grown-up enough to realise when it’s not and not bother their friends about it.

  2. I think what people don’t like is having their hand “forced” on it. Liking GSB and Frozen Synapse on Facebook? Hell yes. I do it because I want to support them and their makers, spread them to increase my pool of challengers, etc.

    I don’t want to advertise something in any sort of feed of mine because it’s an obligation, just like I don’t feel like having to get arcane achievements to unlock shit (looking at you, TF2) should be an obligation either.

  3. I’m actually one of very few developers that has no splash screen at the start of my games :D

  4. For which I love you Cliff (in a platonic games developer/customer way of course). The first thing that caught me about GSB was the very short time from clicking the link to actually doing what I wanted to do :-)

    I have to agree with John Peat though:
    “What cars don’t do is ask me to ring all my friends and tell them what I drive/where I get it serviced/how much petrol it uses/which model I fancy next.”

    Maybe we should all get two Twitter feeds? A “me” feed and a “products I’m looking at right now” feed?

  5. The reason other folks have problems with the “like” is that other folks see it on their feeds, it’s like sending a junk mail out to some degree.

    On top of that, my facebook is personal, and I keep some boundaries on there, I don’t want to spam my ex-military friends with “Use GGPO in Soul Calibur 5” unless I think it’s really important.

    That said, one thing I like about your games is that you don’t have to go through any screens to start playing.

  6. I’d actually question whether the people doing this sort of thing have actually done any research into whether it is successful.

    People aren’t idiots, they know when they are being used as a marketing tool, rather than being engaged with in a positive way.

    I suspect that in reality, for lots of games, having a positive respectful relationship with your customers and potential customers (like, say, having a blog and discussing stuff relevant to your games in an open manner) is a more effective way of getting long term support.

    Especially facebook, where clearly lots of people seeing “Likes” are not going to be interested at all, the overlap between people who I went to uni with and people with any interest in gaming (or indeed similar gaming tastes to me) is pretty tiny.

    It seems like the kind of thing that out of touch board members would be all over. That was part of why I was surprised to see indies doing it actually.

  7. I really don’t mind volunteering to endorse products I like. I know for a fact that in the last few months I’ve sold at least 2 Kindles for Amazon, 1 Moka pot for Bialetti, and various games (possibly including GSB; I don’t think he pirated it, anyway) and CDs, getting nothing in return. The thing that bugs me about this sort of Facebook/Twitter campaign is the implied bargain: you’re helping this company market their product, not out of love, but for a reward. And that reward is frankly insulting: more marketing. I’d feel like less of a tool spamming for cents on MTurk.

  8. From the Indie perspective it could actually make a really odd kind of sense: frequently word of mouth is the only form of advertisement.

    So it’s not surprising an Indie would pick up the idea of creating an explicit prerequisite/incentive involving (the digital equivalent of) word-of-mouth advertisement.

    But I think it’s short-sighted. In my (limited) experience it’s _far_ more important that the word-of-mouth message be “Indie company XYZ treats its customers really, really well” than “I like Game ABC from Indie company XYZ”.

  9. I think one thing you’re missing is that those “we won’t release screenshots until we reach $social_media_threshold” campaigns aren’t for you, mister prospective customer.

    They’re for the *guaranteed* customers who are already excited and will definitely buy the game. The point is to hold screenshots for *them* hostage against the hope that their social media spam will stir up new prospective customers that they otherwise wouldn’t reach.

    That said, I still think it’s a cheeseball tactic of questionable efficacy. Most of the die-hard fans *will* inform their friends about upcoming games. That’s the nature of excitement. By forcing it through social media channels it becomes easier to quantify, but also strips off a bit of the genuine nature of the contact.

  10. I have to agree with Adam’s point. Also, of all those things that you say have logos, you can cover them up and there’s no mechanism that’s going to phone everyone I know, as Kemp pointed out, to let them know.

    Facebook itself is becoming such a nightmare, because something I only use to keep in contact with friends is now barraging me every day with crap I don’t want or need and it’s getting increasingly difficult to remove it.

    Lastly, one of my philosophical complaints is the idea of this “like” button should imply that I already endorse this product, when in reality, what they’re hiding is content for me to further judge the product on. They’re telling me that in order to figure out if I like something, I have to tell people I like it first. That’s really unsettling to me, especially when I see so many people fall into that trap and making it even more popular to do.

  11. I make an effort to not buy bags or clothes where the brand is visibly printed. As for marketing material through like buttons: If a trailer is hidden behind such a machination, I will just not bother to watch it.

  12. I’ve seen the manufacturer logo analogy brought up in another discussion and in both cases it is a completely missed one. Sure, the logos do serve an advertising purpose, but they also serve as information (gee, nice car, pity I have no idea who could have built it) and a creators ‘mark’ or ‘stamp’. Something, that in old times, artisan would put on his creation as a sign of his handiwork and quality.

    More on topic, I really liked what Valve did with Portal 2 promo – in an essence it was very similar to “give us 1 billion likes and we’ll show you the boxart” but so much more engaging and fun…

  13. The reason I don’t like these campaigns is two-fold: one, I’d like to see the material, to see if I’m actually interested in the product; and two, I do not use any social media.

    By forcing social media to be the gateway into these things, they are locking them away from me altogether, which is quite annoying.

Comments are currently closed.