You Can Start By Being The Best (Or Trying)

Sorry guys, we had a great last week with all of the E3 news to comment on and then I went dark. I once again blame my rising side business and desire to spend some free time actually playing games.

I have a bit of a cross-dimensional post for you today. As you guys know, I work in marketing. I work with a decent number of clients (~150 give or take depending on the season). I’m responsible for the marketing strategies for most of them, as well as my company. We do a lot of work on the internet with advertising, building websites, growing brands, getting leads and reaching new audiences, yada yada. I started to noticed a trend these past few weeks.

Client: “How do I rank for ‘best doctor in Los Angeles’?”

Me: “You can start by being the best doctor in Los Angeles.”

Client: “Isn’t there something else we can do instead?”

Here’s another one from today.

Client: “How come so and so is higher than me in search engines?”

Me: “So and So has built a brand. People talk about him more on the internet. There are news reports, blog posts, tweets, facebook likes, newsletters, comments, and conversations going on about So and So. Google and ‘the internet’ are able to parse So and So more naturally and understand that So and So sells better widgets. If you want to be first in people’s minds (and in search engines) as a widget seller, then you need to be the first widget seller that comes to mind when people think about your industry.”

Client: “That sounds expensive.”

Yeah, so internet marketing sucks when you work for an agency that will take anyone on as a client. Other than that important lesson (Really, pay attention kids: Avoid agencies. Work for a company. Avoid internet marketing.), I tied this back to games while on my commute home. Screw you 91 freeway and caltrans.

This is one of those painfully obvious posts, but in my mind it comes together all eloquently and epiphany-ish.

Presentation matters. Building a brand matters. Building a community matters. Having a quality product matters. Blizzard releases a me-too product and obliterates even the thought of failure in people’s minds. No one is even thinking, “is Overwatch good?” or caring that it’s a straight up copy of so many other games. Why? They are gods at what they do. They build a masterful product (even when it’s copycat), brilliantly position that game in the market space, and print their own money on the roads they pave for themselves. I needn’t go on.

Why do some Kickstarters for games fail? The game could be phenomenal. The idea could be even better than Warcraft. Did you present it the wrong way? Did you make people care? Or better yet, SHOULD they even care? That’s one people skip far too often.

Fooling people doesn’t end well either. You can pretend to be something you’re not, slap on a beautiful facade, wow us with your graphics, and even have a team of marketing savants drum up all sorts of demand. 2-3 months later everyone quits playing, bad mouths your company, and you play catch up for the next 6 years making F2P games or doing licensing deals until people are willing to forgive you at our sheer boredom.

We’ve seen a transition away from companies making great games to companies making games they think a large group of people want. To me that’s as absurd as my client wanting to be perceived as the best before actually/even trying to be the best — or worse, knowing he will never even try but wanting to fool people into thinking he is anyway. It’s backwards, and it will fail.

In hindsight I think this made a whole lot more sense in my head, but hey this is where I dump my thoughts.

Gambling Isn’t Quite Like Gaming

I’m back from Vegas! Sorry for a slow few days around here. While in Vegas on a 4 day business trip I was able to try my hand at gambling for the first time. I looked for some fun slot machines, took my 5 dollars, and tried my luck.

The one I found had pirates on it and it made cannon sounds. I cautiously put in a dollar. Hit the button. And lost my whole dollar. I then went to the PENNY slots, put in my dollar, and lost 75 cents. It was then that I figured out a penny slot could still bet 75 cents at a time. So I found a true penny slot that let me literally play 1 cent at a time. I ended up playing for 30 minutes betting anywhere between 1 and 10 cents per bet.

At one point I thought I won the jackpot. I got 3 skull and crossbones and the thing started making all sorts of sounds. Nope, I just won 40 free plays. I was a little sad that I wouldn’t be starting up my own gaming studio.

In the end, I lost my $5 but had 30 minutes of trying to figure out the most effective way to maximize my bets. While sitting in the gross, smoke filled casino gambling away my pennies I was thinking about how this could relate to video games. It really didn’t. I wasn’t “playing” anything here. I was pushing one button and hoping. But the business model felt akin to some games monetize. Hearthstone, for example, is essentially gambling. You put down your money and hope good cards come out. Many games are the exact same way.

I walked away still feeling the same way: I like to know that the money I spend on entertainment is guaranteed, or at leave highly likely, to entertain me. Sure, I take a “gamble” on seeing a movie every now and again that I may not know a lot about, but I still do my best to do my homework. For example, I love Disney so I knew I would enjoy Zootopia (I did, best movie I’ve seen in a long, long time.) I was skeptical about Batman vs. Superman, and sure enough the reviews were scathing — I skipped it.

Video games are the same way, though I do take more gambles in order to give you guys my thoughts. I tend toward buying games I know I will enjoy.

Catching up after a long week

I’m back from my 4 day business trip to Seattle — forgot to mention I would be gone. I missed SoCal quite a bit. All that wet stuff falling from the sky and people smoking everywhere took a bit of getting used to for me. Living in the suburbs in the Inland Empire (greater Los Angeles area) we see very little of either of those things these days. I caught some kind of cold from the trip which either came from all the people hacking up a lung on the plane or the rain.

miitomoI had my first experience with Uber while in Seattle, and proceeded to use it a dozen times. That was pretty cool. I was marveling at how incredible it is that I walk out of my hotel, tap a button on my phone, and a car pulls up. I get in the car, it drives me where I told my phone I wanted to go, and when I get there I just get out of the car and go along my way never having to exchange money or interact with anyone (if that’s my desire). Technology is getting pretty darn cool — especially where our handheld devices are concerned. Now if only gaming could catch up a bit. Seems to me we’ve stagnated a bit on these dumb time waster games and haven’t seen much for mobile devices.

Nintendo’s first official first-party app Miitomo launches next month. I’m once again a little confused by their direction with new products. Miitomo is going to be an app about dressing up your Mii, talking with friends, and taking photos with your Mii. I was hoping for more from them when Tatsumi Kimishima took over. Just not seeing any of that yet. Where’s the true first party GAMES rather than these awkward Japanese inspired social mechanics?

Interestingly enough, Nintendo continues to push forward with updating games they released in the past for use on the 3DS family of systems. FOr example, Pokemon Yellow Special Edition Pikachu Edition launches on February 27, 2016 ($9.99). Pokemon Yellow was released 18 years ago! I love that they are bringing back these titles, but I’d also love that Zelda open-world RPG we’ve been waiting on for a few years now. I’ll be a tad bitter if the Nintendo NX launches and all these Wii U games we could have had are pushed out a generation.

Settling back into my routine is nice. I’m going to pick Final Fantasy Explorers back up and continue pushing forward. I’m loving the Machinist and looking forward to the Red Mage. Also playing LEGO Dimensions, Just Cause 3, and way too many games — write ups coming soon. Several of you have joined us in Albion Online. If you need a guild invite let me know! Our island is awesome for free crafting on high-tier stations.

D23 Expo Gaming and Geek News

I’m a huge fan of Disney. My wife and I just renewed our Disneyland annual passes, and I’m eager to start going again once this heat weave we’re experiencing is over. Somewhat on-topic for our blog, Disney just had their D23 Expo over the weekend and announced some incredible news for fans like us as well as for gaming fans.

First…

Star Wars Land

Star Wars Land

I got chills when this was announced. An entire land at Disneyland (and Disney World) dedicated to Star Wars… it’s a dream come true. Star Tours the ride is already a must-ride for me every time we go. I spend at least 10-15 minutes in the Star Wars gift shop looking at all of the overpriced licensed goodies. Apparently the new Star Wars Land will have shops operated by difference species, and new major attractions featuring the Millenium Falcon and a “cinematic battle.” My fingers are crossed for blue milk at concession stands. I didn’t see an announced date, but I’m guessing 2017.

A little more on topic now… (Not that Star Wars and geekery are ever off-topic…)

Disney Magic Kingdoms

Disney Magic Kingdoms App Game

Disney Magic Kingdoms will be a Roller Coaster Tycoon style game where players can build their own Disney themepark. Starting with the iconic castle (which one I do not know, but I’m partial to Sleeping Beauty), players can place many of the rides and attractions from the parks including Haunted Mansion, California Screamin’, Astro Orbiter, and of course Space Mountain.

I’m assuming Magic Kingdoms will be a time-waster game. I’m okay with that, and I trust Disney to carefully control the experience, especially since it involves their brand in such a huge way. I’m betting we’ll see expensive In-App Purchases — the likes of which I will never, ever, purchase but always work hard to hopefully try and earn them in-game.

Nothing beats Disney quality. Their apps are phenomenal. I’m really excited to build the ultimate park, put Dole Whips on every corner, and pipe that sweet smell of cinnamon and sugar to every inch of the Keenland. Definitely putting this one on my must-watch list.

I’m back!

Woohoo! It’s good to be back! Well, not really. I loved being on my honeymoon, and I enjoyed the first real 100% relaxing trip I’ve taken in over 10 years. Nothing beats swaying in a hammock on a tropical island. We took a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas and had an absolutely wonderful time. This was my first cruise ever, and I have to say it was much better than I expected.

We were on aboard the Disney Dream. She really is a beautiful ship, and as a detail oriented person I love how Disney goes to great lengths to ensure every little detail contains that sparkle of Disney magic. From the Aqua Duck water slide-coaster to the private island, it really is a great experience. We paid quite a premium, as in all things Disney, but it was worth it for us as Disney fans. I’m happy to share any details and answer any questions you might have about the cruise. Suffice it to say I highly recommend it and will do it again.

Oh! The wedding was beautiful, and the the whole day was magnificent. I’m so glad that I can say the entire thing from ‘I do’ until the last day of the honeymoon was absolutely flawless. The one hiccup in all of it was at the very end on our flight home … we got delayed right at the last second before boarding and ended up spending like 14 hours in the airport waiting on our flight. To top it off we both got colds from all the sneezing and coughing people on the plane. Both of us agreed that the honeymoon ended upon the cruise docking so this doesn’t count! 😉

So what now? My internet (~22mbps … grumble) is up and running. I just got my computer and desk all set up yesterday night. I’ll be logging in from home now to play games again!

Did I miss anything big? I’m going through all the news sites and my email (over a week without my phone on means quite a pile to sort through) and should be up and running today or tomorrow at the latest. We have lots of furniture being delivered and still so much to do, but I’m at a point now where I can come home from work and relax to some games.