What Web 2.0 means for the games industry

“In reality, one size has never fit all, but when players didn’t have so many choices, they had to put up with it. Now they don’t. No longer can publishers rely on retailing strategies designed to make money by forcing players to buy what the publishers want them to buy, when and where the publishers want them to buy it. These strategies are aimed more at wooing retailers with slotting and promotion allowances than at wooing customers, and they just won’t fly anymore. In the future, retailing strategies are going to have to be like those of Amazon.com or the one-hour eyeglass shops, which are designed to sell the consumers what they want to buy. And they do it by making it easier, better, less cumbersome to do so.”

Does this sound familiar?

If you’re in Marketing, it should – it’s what Sergio Zuman (one-time head of marketing for Pepsi Co, and later Chief Marketing Officer of Coca-Cola) wrote in the Conclusion to his book “The End of Marketing As We Know It”.

Only, of course, where he wrote the word “consumers” I put “players”, and where he put “marketers” I put “publishers”.

This was his call to arms in 1999, for the Marketing industry to wake up and smell the roses, and to realise that the modern (or post-modern, or post-post-modern … whatever) consumer was a different beast to traditional ones. Consumers now have been liberated by the internet – they have access to more brands than you can imagine, and those brands have access to millions of them for, at the bottom-end, no cost at all. And to top it off, the consumers are inured to traditional Marketing. This means that the big Marketing people need to start playing a new game: more focussed, more willing to “experiment”, to not only accept failure but to embrace it – and quickly work out what’s failing, why, and change it – and perhaps fail again – but to keep going back and changing until you get it right.

And there’s some parallels there to what Web 2.0 means for the games industry too, where the consumer has undergone a similar change. Games players now number in the hundreds of millions, at the low end (heck, there’s that many people who’ve bought a PlayStation alone, and I’m more interested here in the wider market of non-console gamers, the people who play games on their PC, or on their phone, and haven’t had to pay for the priviledge of playing games – they already had the hardware), and more and more of them live on the internet, which is the Web 2.0 part.

We’re in an age where every individual has a very good idea how little it can actually cost to “share” information – and anything that can be encoded as information, from music to computer games – thanks to the internet. And as that changes people’s outlooks on many things taken for granted, and we see consumers actually winning against the combined legal might and bullying of desperate entities like the music publisher-backed RIAA, you’d be foolish to suppose that their attitudes to buying – and playing – games aren’t changing already as well, just as fundamentally.

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