Are You Brand Loyal?

I was tossing the idea of brand loyalty around in my head this morning as I drove into work. I was thinking about how in the 90s and early 2000’s I was extremely brand loyal to many game franchises and companies. I had lots of faith in those brands/companies and would show that through the typical brand loyalty behaviors. When people are brand loyal they typically purchase without thinking too much about convenience or price. Brand loyal consumers are often unaffected by the marketing efforts of other brands, and sometimes they even disregard the fact that a certain product might be better.

brand loyalty in the gaming industry

Despite how easy it has been to become jaded, I still have elements of brand loyalty hanging in there. For example, I really like Nintendo. I really like their game franchises and I like the company. The Wii U is technologically inferior, and I think Nintendo has–in many ways–screwed up their marketing over the years. However, I still buy Nintendo products and love to be an advocate. I’m a loyal Nintendo fan.

I used to really dislike the Playstation. I was never a big fan. Certainly not to the point of being a loyal consumer. While I still do not consider myself loyal, I will admit that my PS4 is my #1 console these days. I use it for most games, and if possible I will get games on the PS4 over the Xbox One or the Wii U. It simply performs the best. That’s a marked difference between loyalty and preference. I think of it like Nvidia and ATI. I prefer Nvidia because I still see them as more universally supported.

Let’s talk MMOs and companies for a second. Blizzard? I don’t know if I’m brand loyal or not anymore. There was certainly a time when they could do no wrong. Even now I have a lot of respect for the quality of their products. They’ve made and continue to make questionable (read: stupid) decisions that I disagree with, but overall they’ve made and continue to make some of the best games of all time. On the other hand, SOE or Daybreak Games has completely crushed any loyalty I had. I do not trust a single thing they say or make to be worth playing. Yet, and here’s where I struggle, I feel this immense loyalty to the EverQuest brand. I’m drawn to it and feel like no matter what I have to be loyal. It’s pure psychology at this point.

In 2015 I feel like becoming brand loyal is much more difficult in the gaming industry–especially MMOs. The products are really volatile. It’s not like we’re talking about iPhones or body wash–things people can seemingly rely on day to day. Games have this way of being really great or really bad, and more often than not even the great companies release something that blows up in the faces of their players. It’s way too easy these days for gaming companies to let their fans down, and I haven’t seen much in the way of trying to cultivate customer loyalty or build community and following around games anymore. Instead, it’s all about herding sheep with hyping streamers. It’s all flash-in-the-pan tactics. Loyalty? It’s being tossed out the window for snap judgments and cash grabs. If it fails? Try again next year!

What about you? Are you fiercely loyal to any gaming brands, companies franchises?

  • Something I’ve noticed, partly from this blog even, is loyalty to certain developers. Ten years ago I couldn’t really care what the names of the key people on a project were but now I’m backing and following Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night simply because Koji Igarashi is leading the project. I never played DAoC but I’m looking forward to Camelot Unchained because I’ve heard of Mark Jacobs accomplishments.

  • Brand loyalty requires a company to deliver a consistent experience that meets your expectations. You know what you are getting. I probably could never have any brand loyalty to a big studio like EA or Activision, as they deliver stuff that is all over the map.

    A specific, smaller studio, like Game Freak though, which has delivered consistently when it comes to the core Pokemon RPG titles over nearly 20 years. I will buy their next game in that category without reading a thing about it because I already feel I can trust them.

    Blizzard is odd. They deliver consistent quality. I trust them on that. But I suspect that, as the years have gone by, I am no longer the target audience. At least for WoW. I know I what I will get, but sometimes it just isn’t for me.

    SOE/DGC, despite its rather chaotic approach to things, has been pretty consistent when it comes to some individual games. The EQ/EQ2 team especially has delivered what their core audience has wanted for a long, long time. That has kept the games going despite an ongoing series of corporate missteps (e.g. the ProSieben.sat fiasco) and goofy side-trips (e.g. SOEmote) over the years. In the end, I know what I am getting with them and when I am the mood for Norrath, it is there waiting for me.

    I am not sure who else I have enough or a relationship with over time to have acquired a sense of brand loyalty. I like a single game from a bunch of studios, but that doesn’t seem like enough.

  • I hope you aren’t confusing Brand loyalty with enjoying an IP. I think you enjoy EQs IP… i.e. the lore, setting, style, ect. I enjoy the Star Wars IP. I find the setting, lore, sci-fi fantasy exciting… but I don’t put that much stock in the Star Wars Brand. Typically you see Brands 3 ways, Love it, Hate it, or Meh… Most companies are in the Meh category. Only a company that has true passion for their work will build a brand of consistent quality, even then one bad product can severely hurt their brand. Look at Blizzard for example.

    When D3 proceeded to take a massive belly flop because of its server problems, they took a major hit when it came to the Blizzard brand. Now they could have done what most giant publishers do… laugh all the way to the bank and expect their next big game to hide their failings… instead Blizzard loves its Brand. They proceeded to polish that little turd into a diamond.

    I don’t just like World of Warcraft or Diablo or Starcraft, I love the supporting company behind those games. It is the same reason why Nintendo has such a fan base. Why Paradox is becoming a force in gaming. That support structure will synergize with a good IP. “Bad” companies will drive a good IP into the ground.

  • Note my distinction between enjoying an IP and/or having a preference, and being brand loyal in the post. I’ll buy Nintendo consoles and handhelds because it’s Nintendo. I’ll buy almost every Nintendo property without reading reviews because it’s Zelda, Mario, etc.

    I prefer Nvidia over ATI. I prefer PS4 over Xbox One. Those aren’t loyalties, though. Those are situational. PS4 has more games I want to play and runs better. Nvidia comes across more universally supported. I’m brand loyal to EverQuest… for whatever reason I can’t figure out… but Daybreak I’ve lost all faith. I’m brand loyal to Blizzard regardless of its mistakes, but I do occasionally have my doubts.

  • As I’ve gotten older, loyalty has shifted into expectation. For example: I expect an extremely polished, clean-running program when Blizzard is involved, but not necessarily something I’ll have to “must-buy” without more information.

    Call me Brand Expectant

  • Not anymore as I feel that the AAA are no longer loyal to my old-school demographic.

    I used to have brand loyalty to companies such as Firaxis and BioWare, but it seems I must be working on a 2 strike rule if they dumbed down a game series I used to love (CIV V and BE), or alternatively 1 strike if the interaction was disingenuous and the company I used to respect continued to exist only in name (SWToR).

    I no longer have faith in the quality control of the gaming market and detest cash grabby marketing schemes, and so I no longer pre-purchase, but wait for valid post-release reviews and ratings.

  • Regarding EQ. It’s not IP loyalty at least with me. Or at least not the “story” of EQ, because I don’t even really know or care what that story is. I’m loyal to the game, probably because I have so much time and thinking invested. And good times?

    I have no loyalty to the rest. Partly because they suck and partly because there are so many now. My loyalty has shifted to my phone. I don’t really care how cool the non iPhone phones are, I’m loyal to iPhone. And I guess Amazon when it comes to reading books.

  • I wouldn’t say I’m brand loyal as such. Certainly if a developer consistently makes quality games that I enjoy I’d go back for their next one if it was something I was interested in.

    As for hardware, I’ve only ever really owned XBox and XBox 360 consoles. Mostly done PC gaming. But if I had the spare cash I’d probably buy a Playstation too (although I reckon I’d get the XBox One first.) I need a new PC first though.

    Come to think of it, I’m probably more brand disloyal than anything else. There are companies around that I’d prefer not to buy from if I had the choice. I’m not fond of EA, but they’re such a behemoth it’s hard to avoid their products. I do avoid Ubisoft games though, mostly because of Uplay.

  • I don’t know If I am brand loyal to blizzard, but Blizzard has NEVER disappointed me, ever. I can count on 1 hand how many companies can claim to have that statistic, maybe Bethesda as well ?

    So ya, I guess I am loyal to Blizzard, they produce true quality.

  • I used to be loyal to SOE/DBG but I have lost all trust in them. But I do love EQ/EQ2. I know I can always go back to those two games and have a great time. I just do not trust the company to make sound business decisions.

    I used to be loyal to Xbox but I am about to get a PS4 and skip Xbox One. Lost faith in Microsoft with all of the ridiculous ideas for the Xbox one when it was first being released. I know they backed off a bunch of those ideas but I still think they are just waiting for the right time to implement them, ex. not allowing used games.

    Those are the only two companies that used to have my loyalty. I am not really loyal to any other company or IP. I rarely buy games when they first come out. I read reviews first and then buy them later used or at a discount.

  • No brand loyalty. I used to have some for blizzard, but my brand loyalty lasts right up until they put out one unfinished unpolished piece of crap. TBC for me was the loss of brand loyalty and everything thereafter only cemented it. I haven’t personally purchased a single blizzard product since TBC (my friends all bought stuff for me because they wanted me to keep playing with them and I sucked it up and paid the sub fee half the time.)

    bioware lost my loyalty at ME2/DA2, I forget which came first. Etc etc. Keeping brand loyalty is how companies gouge you, everything has to be evaluated on individual merits, not on the history of the company or the franchise. It’s how you get companies who think they can pull this horrible bullshit like augment your preorder, because they know brand loyal people will buy ANYWAYS. To me, brand loyalty is what’s contributing to the cancer and lack of inventiveness in the industry and why I’ve been turning to mostly indie devs with creative things like Undertale or old school classics like Wasteland 2 on Kickstarter instead of buying anything from AAA. Some companies have earned my permanent ire, I refuse to ever touch anything published by Ubisoft, and I was previously like that for EA, but Tomb Raider made me break that promise. Although it had nothing to do with loyalty.

  • I think bioware was the one company I was loyal to… Now no one…

    I think all the companies are making games for a demographic I am not part of.

  • I like bethesda in general, I think its the last one, at least some of their games. Fallout and Elder scrolls games i’ll buy without watching reviews

  • I’ve never been a brand loyalist. If a company consistently makes something that I like, great, but I won’t look at them as the be-all-end-all. I don’t like the idea of being loyal to a company in the first place. They’re loyal to their bottom line, not us, despite the platitudes their PR departments might say to the contrary, so I see no reason to be loyal. If they make something I’m willing to spend time and money on, I’ll get it, if they don’t I won’t. Everything else is irrelevant to me.

  • Brand loyalty is all about consistency, and let’s face it most of them aren’t consistent now. I agree with the Bethesda comments but think probably something will put them off their game too.

    What I find most interesting now though about brands (and power or lack of power) is how it can be completely consumed by who is distributing your product. Let me digress a minute to finely shredded mild cheddar cheese. Likely the biggest grossing cheese in the us. I’ve only been able to buy the store generic brand for the last 5 years or so. Too bad Kraft and you others.

    So consistency is important, but if you don’t control the distibution channel you are screwed too.

  • This is a really great post. Thanks for writing it up 🙂 I was just thinking about this the other day too.

    Most of my brand loyalty is tied to nostalgia or small indie companies with developers that are open and seem nice.

    I will buy any Age of Empires or Monkey Island game that comes out because those games defined my childhood. I’ll also blindly pick up anything TinyBuild or Stoic Studio or Red Hook Studios or Gambrinous make next, based on my enjoyment of their recent games and friendliness of devs on Twitter.