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Fantasy of the Familiar Or “Why do bad sales happen to good games?”

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Presentation on theme: "Fantasy of the Familiar Or “Why do bad sales happen to good games?”"— Presentation transcript:

1 Fantasy of the Familiar Or “Why do bad sales happen to good games?”

2 What is this about? Answering: “What makes games sell?” Answering: “What makes games sell?” Why do some IPs channel the Zeitgeist and sell millions? Why do some IPs channel the Zeitgeist and sell millions? Why do some really great games sell poorly? Why do some really great games sell poorly?

3 Defining “Fantasy of the Familiar” It consists of TWO THINGS: It consists of TWO THINGS: A Familiar Premise. A Familiar Premise. –People must know a lot about the subject. –Deeper general knowledge and interest in the premise = more sales. Pre-existing Fantasies. Pre-existing Fantasies. –People must already have dreams/desires to engage in that premise outside of games. –Examples: Race car driving, slaying dragons, exploring space, playing pro sports, being a WWII hero, being a Star Wars character.

4 FotF in Action! Licensed Games Licensed Games Sports Games Sports Games WWII Shooters WWII Shooters

5 More FotF in Action!! Tony Hawk Tony Hawk Grand Theft Auto Grand Theft Auto Need For Speed Underground Need For Speed Underground

6 Even MORE FotF in Action!!! WWE Games WWE Games The Sims The Sims Gran Turismo Gran Turismo

7 Last Set, I Promise… Nintendogs Nintendogs Wii Sports Wii Sports Guitar Hero Guitar Hero

8 Good Games That Sold Badly Was lack of FotF part of the reason? Beyond Good and Evil Beyond Good and Evil Okami Okami Mark of Kri Mark of Kri Primal Primal Ico Ico

9 FotF at the Micro Level Using Familiar Associations Inside Games Using Familiar Associations Inside Games –Hockey in Spyro 2 –Licensed cars in racing games –The shotgun in every FPS –The tank (“Scorpion”) in Halo –The radio stations in GTA3 –Pirates in R&C Future

10 Fantasy of the Forbidden Letting you do things you Wouldn’t, Couldn’t or Shouldn’t Letting you do things you Wouldn’t, Couldn’t or Shouldn’t –Because those things are: –Illegal –Risky –Dangerous –Scary –Or Just Too Dang Hard

11 Examples of Fantasy of the Forbidden GTA GTA Tony Hawk Tony Hawk Hitman Hitman Need For Speed: Underground Need For Speed: Underground The Sims The Sims

12 “High Concept” in Movies What is it? What is it? –A “High Concept” idea can be described in a single sentence and immediately suggests boundless possibilities. –When you hear a High Concept idea you can’t help but instantly think of some of the fun directions it could go. That’s the “promise” of the idea. The film has to deliver on the promise by coming up with ideas even better than the ones you can think of when you hear the concept.

13 Examples of High Concept Speed Speed Click Click Mr. and Mrs. Smith Mr. and Mrs. Smith Home Alone Home Alone Toy Story Toy Story Bruce Almighty Bruce Almighty Monsters Incorporated Monsters Incorporated The Incredibles The Incredibles

14 What’s the Point of High Concept? The biggest issue in marketing movies is telling people “What It Is” The biggest issue in marketing movies is telling people “What It Is” –Who’s in it? –What kind of movie is it? –What’s it about? –Is it my kind of movie? High Concept Answers “What Is It?” High Concept Answers “What Is It?” –In a single sentence it offers you a “promise”. It offers an enticing idea that sounds like it could pay off in a funny/exciting/interesting way. When you hear the one-line description you want to see the movie and see the promise fulfilled.

15 High Concept in Games GTA GTA –Play as a gangster in a living 3D city where you can walk, drive or fly anywhere and interact with everything and everyone in the world. Dead Rising Dead Rising –You’re stuck in a mall that’s taken over by Zombies! Fight them off with whatever you can loot. Ratchet and Clank Ratchet and Clank –A futuristic platformer with high tech weapons, gadgets and interplanetary travel.

16 FotF and High Concept in Games High Concept game ideas usually also rely on Fantasy of the Familiar. High Concept game ideas usually also rely on Fantasy of the Familiar. You know a High Concept idea when you hear it because it feels “filled with potential.” You know a High Concept idea when you hear it because it feels “filled with potential.” Most movie pitches have to be “high concept” to be considered these days. Most movie pitches have to be “high concept” to be considered these days. Very few games, even successful ones, are “High Concept”. Very few games, even successful ones, are “High Concept”. Maybe the game industry should try to make more high concept games? Maybe the game industry should try to make more high concept games? Maybe we should? Maybe we should?

17 “Pre-Sold” Concepts Movie Execs love “Pre-Sold” movies. “Pre-Sold” means the movie has a built-in audience who will see it based on what it is. Examples: “Pre-Sold” means the movie has a built-in audience who will see it based on what it is. Examples: Sequels to original hits. Sequels to original hits. Big Licenses – Spider Man, Transformers Big Licenses – Spider Man, Transformers Every Adam Sandler movie. Every Adam Sandler movie. Films based on popular TV shows, video games Films based on popular TV shows, video games Pre-Sold concepts succeed because they are familiar. People know what it is already. Pre-Sold concepts succeed because they are familiar. People know what it is already.

18 Main Reasons Movies Succeed Who’s in it Who’s in it Strength of the genre Strength of the genre Pre-Sold Concept Pre-Sold Concept Compelling High Concept Compelling High Concept Word of mouth – i.e. was it any good? Word of mouth – i.e. was it any good?

19 Main Reasons Games Succeed Pre-Sold concept (sequel, licensed property) Pre-Sold concept (sequel, licensed property) Word of mouth Word of mouth Fantasy of the Familiar Fantasy of the Familiar Compelling High Concept Compelling High Concept Strength of the genre Strength of the genre (NOTE: We can’t control the first two factors.) (NOTE: We can’t control the first two factors.)

20 Let’s Look at Recent Sales We’ll look at top 10 on DS, PS2 and 360 We’ll look at top 10 on DS, PS2 and 360 We’ll include titles released 2005 and after We’ll include titles released 2005 and after Sales are counted up through June 2006 (that’s all I have data for) Sales are counted up through June 2006 (that’s all I have data for) How many titles use FotF? How many titles use FotF? How many are “High Concept”? How many are “High Concept”? How many have a large “Pre-Sold” base? How many have a large “Pre-Sold” base?

21 Top 10 DS Games Nintendogs 4.6M Nintendogs 4.6M Pokemon (Diamond and Pearl)2.8M Pokemon (Diamond and Pearl)2.8M New Super Mario Bros 2.6M New Super Mario Bros 2.6M Brain Age & Big Brain Academy 2.4M Brain Age & Big Brain Academy 2.4M Mario Kart 2.0M Mario Kart 2.0M Super Mario M Super Mario M Animal Crossing: Wild World1.3M Animal Crossing: Wild World1.3M Pokemon Mystery Dungeon0.9M Pokemon Mystery Dungeon0.9M Yoshi’s Island 20.8M Yoshi’s Island 20.8M Pokemon Ranger0.7M Pokemon Ranger0.7M

22 Top 10 DS Games (New IPs) Nintendogs 4.6M Nintendogs 4.6M Brain Age & Big Brain Academy 2.4M Brain Age & Big Brain Academy 2.4M Pokemon (Diamond and Pearl)2.8M Pokemon (Diamond and Pearl)2.8M Cooking Mama.42M Cooking Mama.42M Spectrobes.29M Spectrobes.29M Asphalt: Urban GT.28M Asphalt: Urban GT.28M CATZ.28M CATZ.28M DOGZ.28M DOGZ.28M HORESEZ.20M HORESEZ.20M Trauma Center: Under The Knife.20M Trauma Center: Under The Knife.20M

23 Top 10 PS2 Games Madden 06: 3.3M Madden 06: 3.3M Madden 07: 2.8M Madden 07: 2.8M Gran Turismo 4: 2.1M Gran Turismo 4: 2.1M God of War2.0M God of War2.0M Guitar Hero 22.0M Guitar Hero 22.0M Star Wars Battlefront 21.9M Star Wars Battlefront 21.9M Kingdom Hearts 21.9M Kingdom Hearts 21.9M Lego Star Wars1.7M Lego Star Wars1.7M Final Fantasy XII1.5M Final Fantasy XII1.5M Need For Speed: Most Wanted1.4M Need For Speed: Most Wanted1.4M

24 Top 10 PS2 Games (New IPs) God of War2.0M God of War2.0M Black.79M Black.79M Gun.74M Gun.74M 50 Cent: Bulletproof (*).69M 50 Cent: Bulletproof (*).69M Destroy All Humans.63M Destroy All Humans.63M Bully.59M Bully.59M Mercenaries.56M Mercenaries.56M Naruto: Ultimate Ninja.46M Naruto: Ultimate Ninja.46M Thrillville (life simulation).45M Thrillville (life simulation).45M 25 To Life (shooter).33M 25 To Life (shooter).33M * = not sure whether this counts as a “license” * = not sure whether this counts as a “license”

25 Top Games Gears of War 2.1M Gears of War 2.1M Madden1.2M Madden1.2M Call of Duty 21.2M Call of Duty 21.2M Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter1.2M Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter1.2M Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.94M Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.94M Call of Duty 3.94M Call of Duty 3.94M Fight Night Round 3.92M Fight Night Round 3.92M Rainbow Six Vegas.87M Rainbow Six Vegas.87M Guitar Hero 2.84M Guitar Hero 2.84M Saint’s Row.75M Saint’s Row.75M

26 Top Games (New IPs) Gears of War 2.1M Gears of War 2.1M Saint’s Row.75M Saint’s Row.75M Dead Rising.70M Dead Rising.70M Crackdown.67M Crackdown.67M Lost Planet.54M Lost Planet.54M F.E.A.R..31M F.E.A.R..31M Kameo.28M Kameo.28M Viva Pinata.27M Viva Pinata.27M Table Tennis.23M Table Tennis.23M Chromehounds.22M Chromehounds.22M

27 Summary The biggest new IPs over that time span benefited from Fantasy of the Familiar. The biggest new IPs over that time span benefited from Fantasy of the Familiar. The top overall sellers, not just new IPs, all have FotF. The top overall sellers, not just new IPs, all have FotF. The best sellers tended to be familiar ideas but offered something new to games. The best sellers tended to be familiar ideas but offered something new to games.

28 So, Is Fantasy of the Familiar the Opposite of Creativity? Well….. Sort of? Well….. Sort of? –Being “too creative” can be a liability. –Creating a world where there is nothing familiar or accessible is likely to have a very small audience. –But creating a familiar world isn’t enough. Nobody wants to play “Let’s explore downtown Burbank.” The most successful concepts are usually the ones that tap into pre-existing human dreams and fantasies. The most successful concepts are usually the ones that tap into pre-existing human dreams and fantasies.

29 Conclusion This isn’t a road map This isn’t a road map Games without FotF can still be hits Games without FotF can still be hits These are observations, not guidelines These are observations, not guidelines Some mega-hit games don’t fit this mold: Some mega-hit games don’t fit this mold:


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