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So Sick of Your Excuses


It’s not uncommon for folks in the video games industry to say incredibly stupid things- the kinds of things that point out how clueless, in denial, and utterly corporate the business has become. Two recent items caught my eye and ire. One is a statement made by a Capcom executive during a 3Q shareholder call. The question was point blank- why did Resident Evil 6 miss its sale mark of 6 million copies sold, landing somewhere around 4.8 million? The response was typical corporate bullshit, saying absolutely nothing in a way that sounds important. There’s talk about analyzing causes, validation that 4.8 million sales indicates a popular title, and a bunch of unmitigated corporate  bullshit about how marketing and “internal operating frameworks” need to be examined to determine shortcomings (you can make your own “jackin’ off” gesture at home). The other is a comment made by Puzzle Clubhouse CEO Jesse Schell  (who?)  at last week’s DICE conference about how releasing a demo harms game sales, potentially halving them. He went on to explain that the best way to sell games is to release a trailer and provide the consumer with no possible way to try it before you buy it. Love you too, buddy.

Both of these statements put me in mind of the kinds of post-sales failure finger-pointing and “dog ate my homework” excuses that we’ve seen too often in this video games generation- like poor old Warren Spector claiming that Epic Mickey failed because they used a adventure game camera instead of a platform game camera. Or the tired “gamers didn’t get it” response.  For all of the money in the video games business, it’s just incredible that none of these analysts, developers, executives, or stakeholders has bothered to own up to what the truth about these games failing actually could be. Nobody wants to state the obvious and take responsibility for all of these millions of dollars in development and promotion squandered. So many excuses, but nobody talking straight.

It could be that your game just fucking sucked.

Or that nobody wanted to buy it for any number of reasons ranging from market saturation to the $60 price point. Or maybe people DON’T want a Resident Evil game that moves further and further away from the core values of the franchise in ten different directions. Maybe the demo showed potential buyers that the game was just BAD to begin with.

And maybe- just maybe, guys- gaming consumers aren’t Pavlovian idiots responding to your marketing. Maybe- just maybe- consumers should be respected instead of treated as marks for day one DLC scams, unasked for multiplayer, and used game lock-out tactics like online passes. Could it be that maybe people are starting to NOT want the shit you’re selling? Could it be that with more choices available, the guys that treat their customers like mindless trash are the ones seeing losses, failures, and missed expectations?

Hearing these kinds of excuses just points out how the desperate this industry is becoming and how far removed from reality the people in positions of power in it really are. It shows- yet again- that video games and corporations don’t always mix so well.  And it shows yet again the latent contempt these companies have for us. This Jesse Schell character wants to tell the business to NOT let us see their game before we buy. He wants us to make a blind $60 purchase based on a trailer. A trailer. I hope no one listens to this clown, who has no business being CEO of anything.

It blows my mind that people with business degrees, corner offices, decades of experience, and other attractive resume elements can’t see something that I and a lot of you have had figured out for as long as we’ve been spending money on any kind of consumer good. There is no analysis needed, no one needs to be paid a dime for the kinds of simple business wisdom the video games industry has forgotten.

If you make a great product or offer a great service and you treat your customer with respect, you will make money.

Let me repeat that. Consider this a free course in running a business. I don’t think they teach this in MBA school. Memorize it. Jesse Schell- you need to hear this.

If you make a great product or offer a great service and you treat your customer with respect, you will make money.

Really, it is that simple. If you’re making huckleberry pies or satellite guidance systems, all of the marketing and hufflepuff in the world doesn’t make a lick of difference if you’re treating people badly and delivering sub-par product that no one wants to buy. Yeah, you need to get the word out.  But people do not buy things just because of an advertisement- regardless of what the folks in marketing trying to hold onto their jobs will tell you.

I never saw endless streams of trailers, previews, preorder bonuses, transmedia, or an E3 presentation for Minecraft. It seems to be doing pretty well. I wonder if Mojang blames “internal processes and administration” or the availability of a demo for his game selling 20 million copies instead of 21 million.

More and more, I regret ever giving most of these companies and developers my money. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that for too many in the industry that the business/customer relationship is an adversarial one. There are good people in this business, good businesses. Let’s run these corporate jackasses and their excuses for failure out of town and get the good guys back in control. Folks that understand the Barnes Maxim-

If you make a great product or offer a great service and you treat your customer with respect, you will make money.

No excuses.