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Streamer Hype

You guys know I’m not a fan of streamers or how they have encouraged horrible marketing trends. Hopping on the streamer hype train and riding it hard is a very clear tell that your marketing team lacks creativity and a deeper understanding of how to build a lasting and dedicated following for your game.

Streamer hype is out of control. Companies fly dozens of them out to their headquarters, load them up on sugar, swag, and free access to the game then set them free. I have my own personal belief that more than a few of their palms are being greased despite Twitch’s supposed rules against it. From what I have heard (and can not find written verification), Streamers are not allowed to take money to speak highly of a game.

The streamer hype credo: Play it if it’s new. Play it if it gets viewers. Act like a buffoon. 

(Okay I added that last part.)

Very few of the streamers who make $10k+ a month are doing so for the love of the games they play. They are doing it because it’s now a job — an awesome job that makes them ridiculous amounts of sponsorship cash. When something risks the cash (like viewer boredom), they jump ship and hop onto the next new/popular game. I don’t fault them for making money, nor do I fault them for playing what they want when they want. Those are their rights and I respect that. I think it’s crap for game companies to abuse it, especially when it’s detrimental to the games.

Most of these streamers have fan clubs that follow them and lick their heels like lovestruck pups. When the streamers jump ship a couple weeks after launch, so do a huge number of players. When the streamers stop broadcasting, suddenly the marketing for that game dries up. Suddenly you start seeing a lot of banner ads and other knee-jerk reactionary marketing tactics to increase visibility. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a true following of players rather than illegitimately inflated numbers?

Streamers getting games for free and playing them to hype everyone up are killing the industry one game at a time. This type of flash-in-the-pan crap is being used to augment early access antics. Toss a dozen streamers free copies of your early access, give them private servers, and ‘encourage’ them to speak highly of your game when launch is less than ideal. I shouldn’t have to say more.

All of that said, let me get one thing straight: I enjoy watching streams. I watch some of the big names like Cohh and Lirik. I find them entertaining at times (albeit sometimes I have to stop watching because they go too far and start acting up for attention). I especially like Lirik who will openly act like a complete dick and decline being a puppet just to be different. It’s his shtick. But he’s definitely a sponsor-whore like the rest. Smaller streams are where you’ll find more of the real fans of the game and less of the hypers. Not always, but it’s reliable.

You and I might be intelligent. We can watch someone playing a game and hyping it all in that moment as super fun and think, “yeah but I wonder what it’s REALLY like…” But Some people watching streams get sucked into the hype and think the game is awesome because their favorite streamer is playing. Their favorite streamer is showing a version of the game that will not resemble their own experience. It’s an illusion.

Using streamers to market your game is asking to be a flavor of the month. If your goal is to grab a bunch of cash in the first 14 days then go for it. If your goal is to attract ‘real’ players who stick around, and you have long-term goals for your game then I recommend you look elsewhere.

We’re Willing to Pay for Value

Why are MMO gamers perceived as inherently stupid? Before you say, “Because they ARE stupid…” let me explain. MMO gamers are consumers just like everyone else. Consumers want value. The word value is often mistaken for “cheap”.  Value propositions come in all sorts of varieties: more for less, more for more, less for more, etc.

You can charge money for good products. People are willing to pay for something awesome. There’s a reason why Apple is able to charge $600+ for a PHONE and people are lining up and hurting each other just to get their hands on one. They’ve identified what people want, they make it, then they sell it for a premium. Due to their product actually being pretty good, Apple turns their customers into brand champions who then recruit more people to buy Apple products. This isn’t unique to Apple or to any company or industry.

Why do we have to pretend games are free or better yet that they have to be free in order for people to want to play them? MMO gamers are capable of identifying whether a product is worth being paid for or not. A good product will sell. A poor one will not.

When I see a “free” game I immediately wonder what they are trying to hide or what they are trying to accomplish. Are they hiding the fact that they aren’t a good game? Are they trying to hide something nefarious like a pay-to-win cash shop? Are they focusing on simply hooking whales and not on making good game design choices? There’s a reason why that product doesn’t have a price tag. Find it, and you’ll find the flaw.

People are happy to offer money to pay for beta testing a game or getting “Early Access” on Steam. Crowdfunding raised millions for games in 2014.

My lesson for today is that games do not have to be free. Charging for a game is absolutely acceptable, and it won’t dissuade people from playing. What dissuades people from playing is a failure to provide or convey value.

Hero Emblems

hero-emblems-rpgHero Emblems released just four days ago and I have already put in nearly five hours! It’s quickly growing to be my favorite game on my iPhone. I owe all the credit to Graev who found the game on the day it launched, before a single review hit the web, and told me I would be stupid not to get this game that quote, “Feels like the quality of a full 3DS game.”

Hero Emblems is an amalgamation of RPG, sidescrolling, tile-matching, beat’em up games. The basic gameplay revolves around trying to combine tiles to match 3 or more. You can match into different combinations and shapes to drive combos. The purpose of matching is to execute abilities for characters assigned to the tiles you are matching. For example, to execute a basic attack with my sword and shield wielding warrior I need to match three swords. Enemies take their turn to attack based on a simple turn counter, so the combat starts to feel like something out of a Final Fantasy game.

In your party you have a Warrior, Cleric, Paladin, and Sorcerer. Each of these characters executes special attacks based on their skills, Hero Emblems, and the tiles you are matching. Visiting towns allows you to purchase upgrades, or you can find them in chests. Equipping new items actually changes the visual appearance of your characters!

hero-emblems-mapExploring the world is story-driven, but you are free to roam different areas and randomly encounter enemies on the over-world. Roaming back and forth around the map has proven extremely beneficial for me as I have needed to farm coin and levels in order to upgrade my characters before taking on tougher foes.

There are a few tiny flaws. Hero Emblems is available in a couple of languages, but I feel like the native language is Japanese since the english version contains a few odd word choices. I did chuckle when the first boss made a statement about taking an arrow to the knee. Another slight flaw, albeit not really a flaw at all, is the spike in difficulty. The game gets very hard very fast, and requires a lot of thought before simply trying to match just three tiles. There are definite JRPG elements at play here.

Hero Emblems is a full game. For $2.99 you’re getting a game that could easily have launched on the 3DS for $40. I can see spending at least 50+ hours and probably still struggling to make my way through the game. Hero Emblems really does flawlessly execute this style of play on this type of device. I highly recommend it.

Keen’s Most Anticipated Games of 2015

star-wars-battlefront

Star Wars Battlefront

Uh… need I say more? It’s friggin Battlefront. It’s like Star Wars meets Battlefield. The original Battlefront games were quite fun, and with the advances in today’s shooters I’m excited to see what they come up with. I can see myself flying a snow speeder and roping some walkers. Want. Now.

The Legend of Zelda Open World

The Legend of Zelda Wii U

Greav has always been the diehard Zelda fan, but I’ve always enjoyed the franchise. The Legend of Zelda for Wii U is going to be my first real purchase of my very own Zelda game where I plan to sit and play through it all. The reason why is because of the change of pace. Nintendo is going with more of a larger open world similar to what we find in western RPGs like Elder Scrolls games.

Little else is known about the game except that there are going to be lots of side missions. Miyamoto has stated that he expects players will even forget what their main goal is due to being lost in how much side stuff there is to do throughout the world.

No Man’s Sky

Every galaxy, planet, mountain, creature, and pixel is procedurally generated. Everything is explorable. Fly from one planet and seamlessly enter the atmosphere and fly into space and land on the next. The video below will do more justice than I can showcasing what this sci-fi survival and exploration game will be like.

Honorable Mentions

  • Star Fox (Wii U) – Nice change of pace for Nintendo to focus on a game we haven’t really seen too much of in the last 10 years.
  • Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Huge and dangerous open world.

What’s on your list?

Goals for 2015

Every year I come up with predictions and try to set lofty goals for the coming year. This year I’m doing something a little bit different. There won’t be realistic or even tongue-in-cheek predictions. There won’t be unrealistic expectations placed upon my goals, or even a long list of goals to look back on. I’m going to keep it simple.

Goals for the Blog

Even when the coming industry lets me down and there isn’t a game in sight, KeenAndGraev.com provides me a place to discuss games and feel like I am still attached to gaming. We have great discussions, debates, and even the occasional productive argument. We’re not a news site. We don’t keep you up to date on the latest layoffs or trailer releases. We write stream-of-thought reviews, theorycraft, muse on gaming ideals, reminisce about the past, and create a place where actual thoughts from actual gamers collect.

I let myself down in 2014. I didn’t give the blog the attention I wanted. Here are my goals for 2015 to fix that.

  • Write More – Being busy is one thing. I won’t always have time to write. But when I don’t write simply because I have nothing to say or I’m not playing a game… I feel like I can do better in that area. I have plenty to say.
  • Write About What I do In-game – I used to be great at this style of blogging back when I was really invested in particular MMOs. I’d write adventure logs about what I did that day in the game, and I think this provides great insights into how games can be enjoyed by someone who is actually playing them. Bhagpuss and Wilhelm, fellow bloggers, do a great job at this.
  • Increase our Coverage – I know that Graev and I have already created one of the most comprehensive blogs of our kind out there. Few, if any, other blogs rival our comprehensive coverage on all types of games. I want to do even better. I value the opinions of others before I purchase a product. That’s why I love Amazon. I have a site here that is capable of being a unique resource for gamers who can use our opinions as a metric to determine if they’d like a game. This also ties in to my second goal. We should be reviewing everything we play instead of not even half.

Keen and Graev’s Gaming Blog will be tackling 2015 head on and remain one of the best gaming blogs on the internet. Why? First, you’re reading; seriously, that’s huge.  Second, we love what we do. We love games. We’ll grow in 2015. We’ll reach new and wider audiences. I have big plans for how we’ll represent when Camelot Unchained launch. I have a lot of work to do.

Goals for Gaming

I’d like to say that I have a goal to find that MMO I’ll stick with all year. I promised myself I wouldn’t set unrealistic goals, and besides this isn’t one of those silly prediction posts… an MMO to stick with for a year? in 2015? Ahahaha.

  • Continue to Diversify – This was a goal I had for 2014, and I sorta sucked at it. I want to continue to reach out and touch all corners of gaming: Console(s), PC, Mobile, and everything from big name to indie. I’ve started 2015 off right by enhancing my mobile portfiolio. There are several games on phones worth playing. I’ll let you know which are worth checking out.
  • Post More On Game Forums – Around 2004 to 2008 I did nothing but post on gaming forums. I was a moderator on IGN’s Vault Network boards. I actively posted on half a dozen MMO forums. Forums are a HUGE part of MMO communities, and I want to rekindle my involvement. I plan to post a lot more on Camelot Unchained’s forums and make myself known. Soon I will also be posting more on EQ Next’s forums. This will make my attachment to the games stronger.
  • Finish What I Start – Whew. This is a tough one. I start lots of games and many (sigh… perhaps most) I never finish. I think I started Dragon Age Origins 5 times and went 15 hours into each play-through and never beat it. I haven’t finished a Pokemon game in years despite investing dozens of hours into them. If I start a game in 2015 I plan to finish it.

We potentially have a good year ahead of us. Lots of big titles for consoles and PC are coming. MMOs might suck, but we can weather that storm together. We might even enact some change!

Feel free to share your thoughts on my goals or even discuss some of your own.