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thebardyspoon
Jun 30, 2005


One thing I've always been curious about, with people in the games industry who lose their jobs when a game comes out and just doesn't hit, like what's happened with V1 Interactive where it actually killed the studio or the crucible devs where Amazon just cut that game lose (and I assume, the people). Or even worse, a game just getting cancelled after being in development for ages so people don't even have their name in any credits for a released product. How do those various things affect like, a programmer, an artist, a QA persons, prospects for future jobs?

Is it basically just accepted by people in the industry as a standard, unfortunate thing that can happen? I've only worked at a big platform holder where I didn't have to worry about the consequences of a thing I worked on failing really but now I'm curious. I guess if a game was ridiculously buggy that'd reflect badly on a QA lead maybe?

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more falafel please
Feb 26, 2005
Probation
Can't post for 6 hours!


thebardyspoon posted:

One thing I've always been curious about, with people in the games industry who lose their jobs when a game comes out and just doesn't hit, like what's happened with V1 Interactive where it actually killed the studio or the crucible devs where Amazon just cut that game lose (and I assume, the people). Or even worse, a game just getting cancelled after being in development for ages so people don't even have their name in any credits for a released product. How do those various things affect like, a programmer, an artist, a QA persons, prospects for future jobs?

Is it basically just accepted by people in the industry as a standard, unfortunate thing that can happen? I've only worked at a big platform holder where I didn't have to worry about the consequences of a thing I worked on failing really but now I'm curious. I guess if a game was ridiculously buggy that'd reflect badly on a QA lead maybe?

It doesn't affect my evaluation, really. I'm well aware of how many different things can cause a project to go terribly wrong, and a rank-and-file developer has effectively no control over any of them. And a title that got cancelled before shipping I treat the same as a title that hasn't shipped yet -- I won't ask what the game was, but I still want to know what you did on it.

I've done some of my best work on titles that sucked or never saw the light of day, and if anyone judged me based on the actual products that came out (or didn't) that'd be pretty stupid. Vice versa too -- just because you worked on a great/successful game doesn't mean I'm automatically going to think higher of you.

MJBuddy
Sep 22, 2008

Now I do not know whether I was then a head coach dreaming I was a Saints fan, or whether I am now a Saints fan, dreaming I am a head coach.

Studios and devs don't have to cut and close if they don't hit. It's brutal if it's the first title out, but practically if you're concerned about that when joining a place you should be trying to make an informed decision based on the resiliency of your studio.

Some studios will have multiple projects and move people over. Some have multiple projects and will lay everyone off. It's a business reality or a business strategy, but I'd really suggest placing some value on roles with resiliency and having that in your calculus.

I think people DO that, actually, which is why those shutdowns aren't necessarily catastrophic for those employees even if they suck. People do great work on games that don't work out. People do great work on games that do work out and just don't hit. I don't think working at those places is a stigma or anything.

more falafel please
Feb 26, 2005
Probation
Can't post for 6 hours!


I remember there was a 15 minute period where Metacritic was going to start rating individual developers based on the Metacritic scores of their credited titles, and, uh, lol

DancingMachine
Aug 12, 2004

He's a dancing machine!

Shipping a hit game is a HUGE boost to your career almost regardless of what your role was on the title. But shipping (or failing to ship) a dud doesn't really hurt you, other than the opportunity cost of not getting the boost you would get from the hit.
Rationally, everyone knows that it's impossible to map individual contributions to team success unless you were personally there on the project. But in practical terms, recruiters and hiring managers do gravitate toward resumes with hit games on them.
It's not literally true, but very close to true, that a single hit game can make your career for life.

Edit: should add that "shipping" vs. "not shipping" is the same dynamic just at lower magnitude. So you are much better off if you ship than if you don't, since resume reviewers will (correctly on this count in my view) perceive finishing something end-to-end and getting it out the door as more valuable experience than working on something that was never completed.

DancingMachine fucked around with this message at 20:54 on Mar 11, 2021

thebardyspoon
Jun 30, 2005


Yeah that all makes sense, cheers. I've started at an indie place and I suddenly feel very aware of this kind of thing after years of being kind of.... insulated from that worry a bit and I am a natural worrier.

MJBuddy
Sep 22, 2008

Now I do not know whether I was then a head coach dreaming I was a Saints fan, or whether I am now a Saints fan, dreaming I am a head coach.

Practical advice is keep your resume updated and increase the size of your emergency fund.

Hughlander
May 11, 2005



thebardyspoon posted:

One thing I've always been curious about, with people in the games industry who lose their jobs when a game comes out and just doesn't hit, like what's happened with V1 Interactive where it actually killed the studio or the crucible devs where Amazon just cut that game lose (and I assume, the people). Or even worse, a game just getting cancelled after being in development for ages so people don't even have their name in any credits for a released product. How do those various things affect like, a programmer, an artist, a QA persons, prospects for future jobs?

Is it basically just accepted by people in the industry as a standard, unfortunate thing that can happen? I've only worked at a big platform holder where I didn't have to worry about the consequences of a thing I worked on failing really but now I'm curious. I guess if a game was ridiculously buggy that'd reflect badly on a QA lead maybe?

It doesn't affect their prospect. When a studio closes there's a run by recruiters and senior managers to track down everyone who's now on the market and see if there's a fit against open roles. The biggest downside is that if you want to stay in games then you may need to move every time that happens. I moved early in my career something like 5 times in 3 years (Including going from Bay area, to Las Vegas, to the same building in the bay area in 9 months.) and then never again in the remaining 18 years. I just said to myself, "I'll stay in games as long as I don't have to move but I'll leave games rather than move again."

Even your QA lead example wouldn't mean a drat thing since the conversation would be around, "We generated reports and KPIs showing the trend of bugs opened vs bugs closed. Eventually ship blockers were resolved as ship with."

Hyper Crab Tank
Feb 10, 2014

The future of crustacean-based warfare


Yeah, if anything when a studio closes every other studio in the area will rush over to look for potential recruits. Everyone knows a game's financial success is dependent on a host of factors that don't come down to the actions of any one individual, even those in leadership positions, and sometimes games just fail to meet expectations because of factors completely out of the studio's control, even. What we want is people with experience, and experience looks the same whether the game was a hit or not.

That said, I would still like to have a conversation with recruits coming from failed studios to see what it was like. Sometimes there may be pervasive operational issues that the public never heard about and you want to make sure you don't drag that into your organization. Fortunately most people are painfully aware when a process they have used in the past didn't work and tend to be hungry for something better rather than want to use the same failing process again.

And frankly, none of us really know what we're doing anyway. Constantly loving up is part of the process and part of life.

Hyper Crab Tank fucked around with this message at 07:17 on Mar 12, 2021

more falafel please
Feb 26, 2005
Probation
Can't post for 6 hours!


On the flip side I've seen people coming from bad studio situations where everything was dysfunctional, they just got done crunching for a year, they got laid off, and the game flopped, but they're absolutely convinced that everyone did everything right and it was just the Cruel Hand Of Fate that hosed their entire life up.

People at midway would keep track of how many divorces happened during each project, and a higher number was meant to be a point of pride. It can be a truly hosed up culture

Popoto
Oct 21, 2012

miaow


This is going to be a -bit- E/N, but I thought I would write it here nonetheless, in case it resonates with someone (and in turn allows me to see if I'm simply being delusional).

I actually find this thread very depressive to read. Just the last mention of a 1000 indie games per day just makes me feel as if I'm working in a field in which I will never ever be able to make enough money to live on.

Backstory: I've been in and out of the industry, worked for a small (for the standards of the time) studio of 40 people back in 2008. Unfortunately, it's also at the same time I got hit with chronic illness that hosed up my capacity to be at work in a consistent manner. In the worst of it I would be sick almost 8 times a month at random, with about one more day to recuperate. Suffice to say that, uh, a normal company doesn't like that, despite me living in a country that had plenty of financial incentive and subsidies for people like me (IE not the U.S.). In the end I got sacked for "too many absences", not long before the company would declare bankruptcy. Despite that, I was young, and swore off the industry for the next six years, going back to University, and trying out a few other subjects. The same sickness hosed up my graduation, and in the end, I retreated to the most common job I could find: working for a family member in a restaurant, the only place I could work at for someone that understood my health problems. I couldn't see myself in that domain, mostly because of my health, and barely survived financially for the past 10 years by working part time in an economy that just seems to want to kill me at every corner possible. Four years ago, I got into my head to try making games again. Now in my early thirties, I realize it's the only thing I know about, the only field I've been more or less at the periphery for a decade, if not my entire life. [edit] I've also tried getting back in games companies with the intend of hiding my sickness, just to get some small income before inevitably getting fired for being sick, but even then I couldn't get a foot in anything. Pretty sure no one wants to work with someone that's early thirties and has been out of the loop for 6 years. [/edit] My skills as an environment artist have deteriorated, simply because of being in other subjects in University during the shift to ZBrush and PBR mapping. So I've pivoted to learning C#, and plonked down in Unity. I released my first game a year and half ago, and I guess could say I published/integrated one for a friend on Steam. I'm now working on my second one.

The first one didn't make a buck (100 copies sold, which is a rounding error on Steam), the other published one the same. The current one I'm making, while its probably going to be much better in terms of presentation due to the skills I've gained, will probably still bring in poo poo revenu. I've since cut off all my spending, barely spend more than a 100$ a month. I now live with my fiancee, moved to another country, and live in a house that is paid for. A huge loving privilege nowadays. I'm now just sick two to 4 times a month, which is actually life changing for me compared to before. I feel like I'm almost there at being able to create games without worrying about the rest of the world.

But then I read this thread, I read about how the market is completely saturated, I read about what people that have been able to work 40 hours a week for the past ten years in the field are now achieving, while I feel stuck in arrested development. I feel like this field I've been wanting to work in all my life is forever out of reach and all I'm going to be is an outsider making lovely games, with lovely sales, with no public to even invalidate (or validate) this probably extremely colored vision I have of my stuff. How do you even start to get going as an indie dev if you don't know a guy at Sony to make your own Journey. How do you even get to make a successful Kickstarter if no one is even going to click on your page since nobody ever heard your name? Reading about TooMuchAbstraction getting 500 followers after three years of spreading his info on twitter (and TMA, I've seen your game pop up here and there in the Making Games thread, and I just want you to know it's super lovely. I say that as a terminal cynic when it comes to game design).

I'm probably going to keep trying for the next five years. Ideally releasing one game a year would be my goal. I'm also now training another friend to be a budding programmer (his PHD in Chemistry is giving him absolutely nothing). This makes the usual team I work with 3 (one as an artist, me for design/programming/admin/music, and one more for programming). There's nothing else for me but to butt my head against this wall I guess. But drat if the future isn't bleak.

Popoto fucked around with this message at 01:21 on Mar 14, 2021

leper khan
Dec 28, 2010
Honest to god thinks Half Life 2 is a bad game. But at least he likes Monster Hunter.


So I know there's a lot of doom/gloom in this thread, but it's really a wonderful time to try to make it in games.

Any random person is able to release their game on the dominant storefronts. It used to be you literally needed to know a guy to have any shot at making money.

Writing a game used to require a lot of specialized programming knowledge. Today the leading game engines solve a crazy number of problems for you for free. The barriers to entry are very low for small teams of artists/creators to bring their games to market.

These are incredibly powerful forces for small teams in the marketplace.

It's just that they both mean that while execution is still important, sales/marketing matters more. And most of the people who understand the craft of making games haven't spent a lot of time understanding the craft of how to sell them. And the easiest way around this problem is to have an astronomical budget. Turns out having lots of money makes a lot of things easier and always has.

Hyper Crab Tank
Feb 10, 2014

The future of crustacean-based warfare


It might help a little to get some perspective on just what those "1000" indie games being released every day are. Have a look at https://steamdb.info/upcoming/ to get a sense for what's coming up on Steam, for example. I'll leave it to you to render judgment in any particular case, to not single anyone out, but there are an awful lot of asset flips, Unity jankfests, zero-budget games and a smattering of personal art projects that I doubt anyone thought were financially viable to begin with. And there's not 1000 of them; to get to that number you need to factor in mobile games, I think. But if there's one thing I can say for certain, it's don't get into mobile games, holy poo poo. That's the most oversaturated trash market in the world.

Point is, though, that if you want to make a living doing something, you have to consider what actually makes something financially viable. Marketing is one thing, but more important is actually having a game worth buying in the first place. And the majority of the stuff coming out on Steam, if you bother to look, is of such poor quality that there isn't a marketing department in the world that could make it into a big seller. If you want to make a living out of this, you need to have the ambition and level of self-criticism necessary to not accept being just another in a sea of less-than-mediocrity - that's a dead end. And if you do that, then the majority of these games are not your competitors, because they're trash and you're not.

Of course, if you don't want to make a living out of it and just want to cultivate your own little personal project for its aesthetic value, or developmental value, or just personal value to you, and earning money is a far secondary goal, then none of this matters.

Red Mike
Jul 11, 2011


On that note, I've always wondered what the "diamonds buried in the mud" games are, because every time I've tried getting examples out of people or finding some myself I've only found three things, which directly correlate to the types of failures a game dev project might run into that isn't practical like running out of money/time:

1. "Failures" that were mild successes (recoup majority of investment) and that had quite an audience but for various reasons unrelated to the market size (e.g. wrong price point or design that needs a large playerbase first to be fun at all; or also commonly sales/marketing lack of investment)
2. Actual failures that are just average-ish games, whether or not they were marketed well, but that resonated with the people I'm talking to and only a few others so they didn't form an audience really (this could also be sales/marketing lack of investment)
3. Failures that got an audience and the audience decided they didn't really like the game - usually a game with a gimmick/"hook" that's enough to draw people in, but not enough to sustain the game

#1 is a common failure when releasing a game, and some of the ways you could fail might be unavoidable because of things outside your control. I don't think market size affects this much though, because the market size is the thing enabling you in the first place (unless you wanted your game to take years to develop and then build an audience around on multiple platforms and/or with gates that would likely prevent you releasing).
#3 is the most frustrating type of failure, but one that people generally should catch early in development at the prototyping stage. It's difficult to admit you've designed a game that's only fun for 5 minutes/until the player figures it out/etc, but doing that is what saves you spending thousands and thousands of pounds on a dead-on-arrival product.
#2 is the most difficult failure to admit to yourself, as a developer. It's very easy to have a product you like, or that a few people like, and keep asking yourself "why can't other people recognise how good this is", or in cases like multiplayer active-development games "why aren't our players ever happy".

Surely if there were diamonds buried in the mud, then much like in film we'd end up having new "cult hits" that bomb at the box office but people hear about and start buying. Even if they were average, we'd see one or two pop up 'out of nowhere' when someone randomly comes across it post-release when going through a backlog. Has that happened in modern storefronts at all?

Mr Beens
Dec 2, 2006


Red Mike posted:

On that note, I've always wondered what the "diamonds buried in the mud" games are, because every time I've tried getting examples out of people or finding some myself I've only found three things, which directly correlate to the types of failures a game dev project might run into that isn't practical like running out of money/time:

1. "Failures" that were mild successes (recoup majority of investment) and that had quite an audience but for various reasons unrelated to the market size (e.g. wrong price point or design that needs a large playerbase first to be fun at all; or also commonly sales/marketing lack of investment)
2. Actual failures that are just average-ish games, whether or not they were marketed well, but that resonated with the people I'm talking to and only a few others so they didn't form an audience really (this could also be sales/marketing lack of investment)
3. Failures that got an audience and the audience decided they didn't really like the game - usually a game with a gimmick/"hook" that's enough to draw people in, but not enough to sustain the game

#1 is a common failure when releasing a game, and some of the ways you could fail might be unavoidable because of things outside your control. I don't think market size affects this much though, because the market size is the thing enabling you in the first place (unless you wanted your game to take years to develop and then build an audience around on multiple platforms and/or with gates that would likely prevent you releasing).
#3 is the most frustrating type of failure, but one that people generally should catch early in development at the prototyping stage. It's difficult to admit you've designed a game that's only fun for 5 minutes/until the player figures it out/etc, but doing that is what saves you spending thousands and thousands of pounds on a dead-on-arrival product.
#2 is the most difficult failure to admit to yourself, as a developer. It's very easy to have a product you like, or that a few people like, and keep asking yourself "why can't other people recognise how good this is", or in cases like multiplayer active-development games "why aren't our players ever happy".

Surely if there were diamonds buried in the mud, then much like in film we'd end up having new "cult hits" that bomb at the box office but people hear about and start buying. Even if they were average, we'd see one or two pop up 'out of nowhere' when someone randomly comes across it post-release when going through a backlog. Has that happened in modern storefronts at all?

Might be handy to give some examples for your 3 categories.

I tend to agree with you that there isn't this massive pile of buried overlooked classics that are just sitting there waiting to be discovered.
You do get the occasional one though - most recent example being among us.

Fangz
Jul 5, 2007

Oh I see! This must be the Bad Opinion Zone!


Red Mike posted:

Surely if there were diamonds buried in the mud, then much like in film we'd end up having new "cult hits" that bomb at the box office but people hear about and start buying. Even if they were average, we'd see one or two pop up 'out of nowhere' when someone randomly comes across it post-release when going through a backlog. Has that happened in modern storefronts at all?

Why is that the case? I'm not sure how I can even "randomly come across" an unpopular game on Steam.

Red Mike
Jul 11, 2011


Fair point. I don't have a good set of examples even for these, but just a couple that came up in conversations about this topic I had with others:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/585420/Trailmakers/ - this fits under #1 reasonably well (depending on how you measure success), and if it were made by a single individual it would likely be a success by any measure, but it's a studio. Somewhat subjective, but I don't see any clear reason why its audience isn't growing and/or the audience is the size that it is. It could be related to investment (more marketing needed, more features, more changes), but it could just as easily be related to external factors or game design, etc.

https://store.steampowered.com/app/920690/CardLife_Creative_Survival/ - this fits under #3, with the additional mention that there was a good deal of marketing put into it which didn't really have a lot of effect. The audience was gathered outside Steam organically, was grown over time to a decent size, launched on Steam and tried to form a community around that, but the general consensus was that it's 'minecraft with a gimmick' which wasn't enough to hold attention.

https://store.steampowered.com/app/498470/Switch_N_Shoot/ - this fits under #2, and is noticeably smaller than the rest because it's made by a single individual. On Steam there's no way this can be counted as a commercial success, and being brutally honest the main reason can only really be that people looked at the game and weren't particularly interested. Because the game had plenty of exposure and even made it to Nintendo Switch.

Just to be clear, I'm not trying to be some negative twat saying you're bad, your game is bad and that's why it failed. There's tons of reasons why it might fail that aren't a developer's fault, and there's tons of easy ways to mess up and create a game that just isn't fun no matter how much work you put into it. But the argument about over-saturation to me seems complete sour grapes.,

To me it's like we've gone from a shortage market (there's so few games that any single game gets a lot of undeserved attention despite barely - if at all - clearing a low bar of quality) to a normal market (there's a bar of quality to pass and get some amount of attention, and the quality of the game/marketing and some external factors will affect how much of that attention turns into sales). This would be like a customer knowing some entrenched brands and defaulting to them, but them not being so absolutely entrenched that a much cheaper price/better features/other draws can't pull them away. A shortage market would be like a customer basically defaulting to the only brand available - in essence that brand gets 'free advertising'.

But the arguments I'm seeing are that we've gone to an over-saturated market (there's so many games - of such high quality too - that a game needs to clear an unreasonably high bar of quality to get any amount of attention). This would be like how generally you don't care which particular brand of toothpicks you use, so you will buy whichever is available/you see first in a shop. Trying to get a customer to move away from the brand they're using/the entrenched brand would require a lot of effort for very little chance of success. If we were in this situation, we wouldn't be seeing any smaller indie games at all.

I think maybe the arguments boil down to a simpler "the algorithm is against smaller games showing up in recommendations/searches" which is literally 'why doesn't my brand get free advertising any more', so asking for a shortage market. Which is literally asking for it to be harder to publish onto storefronts/make games, so that there's fewer games, so that yours doesn't need to be as high a quality in the end.

e: I said 'I'm not trying to be a negative twat' and then came across like that anyway. The point I failed to get to was that when the market isn't a shortage market, you have to change your tactic. Get the minimum audience first to judge your product (invest into marketing/features to capture an initial small audience, whether on Steam or not), that's your initial quality gate to prove you have a viable product that will get some attention. If you don't get that, it's dead. If you do, your job is now to judge your product critically with the audience, and up the quality until it gathers the audience size you want. If 'the algorithm' is the only problem there, then it's only a matter of time, even with a small audience you'll eventually be 'discovered'. If it's taking too long, it's a flop, try again.

If 'try again' or 'it's dead' sounds too rough because these are people's livelihoods, yes, it's true, I definitely don't recommend trying to go indie when you don't have the funds to back it (or admit it's a big risk) or an initial quality gate or two passed and thus the risk low enough to be worth it.

e2:

quote:

Why is that the case? I'm not sure how I can even "randomly come across" an unpopular game on Steam.

I get plenty of recommendations that are games with <50 reviews and that look awful. They passed that initial bar. If they hadn't, I wouldn't want Steam to show them because of course it'll all be crap. Steam doesn't give free advertising, nor will any store (in real life or otherwise), you need to gather that initial audience. Steam isn't there to do this, and it can't do this unless there's so few games that an unpopular game has to show up.

Red Mike fucked around with this message at 12:32 on Mar 15, 2021

TooMuchAbstraction
Oct 14, 2012

Hubris

Fun Shoe

I'm a little concerned about the contract that this PR/marketing firm wants me to sign, specifically because it feels kind of vague in terms of the work that will be provided in exchange for my money. Like, the PR campaign items are:
  • Conduct pre-launch and launch campaigns
  • Draft and distribute associated pitches and launch press release
  • Create strategies and tactics documentation
  • Provide retail prep documentation
  • Produce coverage report with metrics
  • Handle media relations (including followup outreach)
And the marketing items are:
  • Conduct one 6-week marketing campaign
  • Maintain social media profiles and create assets related to campaign
  • Post and tweet through client social media pages and profiles
  • Provide internal community management and external community outreach
  • Produce advertising research and support (including options and media plan)
  • Handle promotional activities as needed (including giveaways, contests, and competitions)

Like, there's a lot of things here, but there's basically zero indication of how much work will be done on any of them. The "post and tweet" item could technically be satisfied by a single post or tweet, by my reading.

Is this a legitimate concern, or am I overthinking it?

EDIT: this is a good-sized outfit, they're not a fly-by-night scam group. Still just a weirdly...brief contract, to my mind.

TooMuchAbstraction fucked around with this message at 17:47 on Mar 16, 2021

Tricky Ed
Aug 18, 2010

It is important to avoid confusion. This is the one that's okay to lick.




TooMuchAbstraction posted:


Like, there's a lot of things here, but there's basically zero indication of how much work will be done on any of them. The "post and tweet" item could technically be satisfied by a single post or tweet, by my reading.

Is this a legitimate concern, or am I overthinking it?

This is legitimate. If they won't provide a detailed plan for exactly what your money is paying for, don't sign.

Can they show you examples of their campaigns for other studios, and what the results were?

Can you contact those studios to see how they feel about the campaign now?

TooMuchAbstraction
Oct 14, 2012

Hubris

Fun Shoe

They provided a substantial slide deck of examples of work they'd done, and they were referred to me by one of my friends. So I don't think they're coming at this with intent to scam. But it sure does feel weird that the contract is so bare. I'm not sure how you measure "results" though, for marketing. Part of the issue here is that my own inexperience with this domain limits my ability to judge the quality of the people I might hire.

I just got a response back from my contact with them; they seem amenable to updating the contract to be more specific (e.g. amend the post/tweet item to be "post/tweet 5-7 times per week", and they asked around for how many assets are typically created as part of a marketing campaign, and will be adding "30+ assets" to the contract in consequence). But they also want me to take the lead on exactly what I want to be more specific on, which is tricky given my aforementioned lack of expertise.

SerthVarnee
Mar 13, 2011


Big Super Slapstick Hunk

TooMuchAbstraction posted:


Handle media relations (including followup outreach)


for how long?

quote:


Produce coverage report with metrics


Define metrics. clicks per week, amount of eyeballs popped, returning views on your site, retweets, astronauts hunted, trains derailed?

quote:


Post and tweet through client social media pages and profiles


Is the number they suggest here going to include any short replies they need to/could make to reactions to their larger tweet postings?
If not will there be a limit to those or will they add a cost of those per tweet?

quote:


Provide internal community management and external community outreach


Which external communities? twitter, reddit, 4chan, foxnews commercials, discord channels where they supply a moderator, gigantic chainletters?

quote:


Handle promotional activities as needed (including giveaways, contests, and competitions)


Who foots the bills for these giveaways, and contest prizes?
Are they physical prices? If yes who has final responsibility for quality and cost of production and shipping?

TooMuchAbstraction
Oct 14, 2012

Hubris

Fun Shoe

Thanks, that kind of nit-picking is exactly what I needed!

VelociBacon
Dec 8, 2009



I have what I think is a quick question but I constantly wonder about it.

In situations like the mobile diablo game announcement, it's so obviously the kind of thing that everyone could see a mile away was going to be scorned, was this something that a higher up just made their pet idea and even though every reasonable person under them could see it was going to be taken horribly by the community, they couldn't do anything because the producer wants it?

Other examples being that SimCity online rollout, or the Warcraft 3 'reforged'. Maybe also the dota 2 card game to a lesser extent.

Stuff like cyberpunk/fallout 76 issues I don't consider to be the same obvious problem and more just decent ideas with poor execution.

Is this problem related to top-down philosophy of management or did everybody in important positions really feel these were going to be successful?

Fangz
Jul 5, 2007

Oh I see! This must be the Bad Opinion Zone!


Red Mike posted:


I get plenty of recommendations that are games with <50 reviews and that look awful. They passed that initial bar. If they hadn't, I wouldn't want Steam to show them because of course it'll all be crap. Steam doesn't give free advertising, nor will any store (in real life or otherwise), you need to gather that initial audience. Steam isn't there to do this, and it can't do this unless there's so few games that an unpopular game has to show up.

I'm not sure what you are doing to get those recommendations, because the recommendations I get right now if I pull up steam are

Valheim
Forza horizon
Little Nightmares 2
Persona 5S

The only way I can find games with few reviews are if they were released within the last hour or so, going off of New and Trending. That or if I sort all the games on steam alphabetically or something.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

You walk in with the Turnips, you leave with the Bells.



VelociBacon posted:

I have what I think is a quick question but I constantly wonder about it.

In situations like the mobile diablo game announcement, it's so obviously the kind of thing that everyone could see a mile away was going to be scorned, was this something that a higher up just made their pet idea and even though every reasonable person under them could see it was going to be taken horribly by the community, they couldn't do anything because the producer wants it?

Other examples being that SimCity online rollout, or the Warcraft 3 'reforged'. Maybe also the dota 2 card game to a lesser extent.

Stuff like cyberpunk/fallout 76 issues I don't consider to be the same obvious problem and more just decent ideas with poor execution.

Is this problem related to top-down philosophy of management or did everybody in important positions really feel these were going to be successful?

I disagree that all of those games are "inherently, obviously bad ideas". I think there are plenty of marketing missteps that companies make, but something like "We're announcing a mobile Diablo game at Blizzcon" seems entirely reasonable to me.

What's interesting to me is that you seem to be giving Cyberpunk's and Fallout's launches a pass when those releases would better fit your stated criteria wherein I'm betting plenty of people internally knew what was coming and probably even spoke up but were likely calculated to be not worth delaying the game over in lieu of just fixing it after launch.

It's easy to point at a developer on a stage and go "LOL YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME", but there was nothing inherently wrong with Artifact, SimCity (2013), Diablo Immortal, or Warcraft 3 Reforged. There was obviously an expectation that the general gaming public would receive those announcements better than they did, so some marketer somewhere miscalculated, but often times these games are being developed for a parallel demographic or are trying to achieve different goals. I bet Diablo on mobile does extremely well, especially in overseas markets.

To answer your question more directly, though, yes, there are usually at least a few people internally who predict how these things go, and it'd probably behoove the suit-levels to take stock of their decisions with the rest of a company more often, but alas.

MJBuddy
Sep 22, 2008

Now I do not know whether I was then a head coach dreaming I was a Saints fan, or whether I am now a Saints fan, dreaming I am a head coach.

VelociBacon posted:

I have what I think is a quick question but I constantly wonder about it.

In situations like the mobile diablo game announcement, it's so obviously the kind of thing that everyone could see a mile away was going to be scorned, was this something that a higher up just made their pet idea and even though every reasonable person under them could see it was going to be taken horribly by the community, they couldn't do anything because the producer wants it?

Other examples being that SimCity online rollout, or the Warcraft 3 'reforged'. Maybe also the dota 2 card game to a lesser extent.

Stuff like cyberpunk/fallout 76 issues I don't consider to be the same obvious problem and more just decent ideas with poor execution.

Is this problem related to top-down philosophy of management or did everybody in important positions really feel these were going to be successful?

It's going to be hard not to get orphaned failure responses to this. Everyone thinks every bad idea is horrible after we know it had blowback.

A lot of time it's just contracts. You make an agreement, everyone tries their best (or maybe they don't) and at the end you have a thing so you release it because it cost money and you'll make money when you release it. Any amount of loss less than 100% is good.

Some of the stuff is services back end that can't just be turned off. Which is kinda in the category of contracts in that you committed to something and the result is worse than you want but it's done.

VelociBacon
Dec 8, 2009



mutata posted:

I disagree that all of those games are "inherently, obviously bad ideas". I think there are plenty of marketing missteps that companies make, but something like "We're announcing a mobile Diablo game at Blizzcon" seems entirely reasonable to me.

What's interesting to me is that you seem to be giving Cyberpunk's and Fallout's launches a pass when those releases would better fit your stated criteria wherein I'm betting plenty of people internally knew what was coming and probably even spoke up but were likely calculated to be not worth delaying the game over in lieu of just fixing it after launch.

It's easy to point at a developer on a stage and go "LOL YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME", but there was nothing inherently wrong with Artifact, SimCity (2013), Diablo Immortal, or Warcraft 3 Reforged. There was obviously an expectation that the general gaming public would receive those announcements better than they did, so some marketer somewhere miscalculated, but often times these games are being developed for a parallel demographic or are trying to achieve different goals. I bet Diablo on mobile does extremely well, especially in overseas markets.

To answer your question more directly, though, yes, there are usually at least a few people internally who predict how these things go, and it'd probably behoove the suit-levels to take stock of their decisions with the rest of a company more often, but alas.

I think I isolated the games with Bad Launches as being their own thing because they were poor in part due to economic realities of them not being finished, and I was trying to express that the other games I brought up had inherently undesirable design decisions that I think very early someone could have easily pointed at. I'm ignoring the DRM stuff because of course players don't want it and of course publishers do, it's not a design thing.

These people might have said things like "I think players of city builders are not going to enjoy running out of space or only being able to have one city" or "I think a bunch of people who are fans of fairly complex pc-based blizzard products to the extent they are willing to attend a convention about them will be distressed that the newest game in a beloved non-mobile series is not going to be on PCs". I suppose with fallout they could have said "I don't think there has ever been a game series renowned for it's single player RPG/narrative experience that has been successful as an MMO" or "have you guys heard of that elder scrolls online thing".

I would think you're correct that the mobile diablo does well in mobile-dominated markets (why else would developers bend over backwards to the demands of some of those governments), it just seems clear that the vocal majority in NA/Euro markets were going to have the response they did.

MJBuddy posted:

It's going to be hard not to get orphaned failure responses to this. Everyone thinks every bad idea is horrible after we know it had blowback.

A lot of time it's just contracts. You make an agreement, everyone tries their best (or maybe they don't) and at the end you have a thing so you release it because it cost money and you'll make money when you release it. Any amount of loss less than 100% is good.

Some of the stuff is services back end that can't just be turned off. Which is kinda in the category of contracts in that you committed to something and the result is worse than you want but it's done.

Yeah this is the kinda thing I was mostly giving a pass to cyberpunk/fallout 76 about. It's easy to see even from the outside how things get set in motion and end up the way they did.

Skwirl
May 13, 2007

The 'blood babe with the silicone chest, 200-dollar haircut, and a closet full of the latest fashions.




Mobile Diablo is gonna make BlizzActivision a bazillion dollars, they don't care about the immediate backlash from fans at a fan con. Are the people there gonna be so pissed about it they stop playing world of warcraft or refuse to buy the Diablo 2 remake? They announce it there because they know it will get more mainstream news attention than a press release put out at random.

MJBuddy
Sep 22, 2008

Now I do not know whether I was then a head coach dreaming I was a Saints fan, or whether I am now a Saints fan, dreaming I am a head coach.

It's also important to that market that it doesn't feel like some knock off product, so it gets the full force of promotion. It's a "real game" not some side branded knock off.

Ignore if any of that is true.

Skwirl
May 13, 2007

The 'blood babe with the silicone chest, 200-dollar haircut, and a closet full of the latest fashions.




MJBuddy posted:

It's also important to that market that it doesn't feel like some knock off product, so it gets the full force of promotion. It's a "real game" not some side branded knock off.

Ignore if any of that is true.

Oh yeah, that too, the freemium market both has a poo poo ton of money and is completely oversaturated, so you can make a poo poo ton of money but you have to be in the upper .01% to do it.

Shruggoth
Nov 8, 2020


It's important to distinguish between bad press and a bad launch. Just because something is unpopular in games media/reddit/whatever doesn't mean it's commercially unsuccessful or didn't later become popular. Players who pay attention to things outside of the game are generally a minority from what I've seen.

It seems to me that people were disappointed with the Diablo mobile/Artifact announcements due to the way expectations were set up, since they were alternate genres initially marketed at their 'core' audiences. No one cares that there's a mobile game for Fallout or Elder Scrolls, for example.

TooMuchAbstraction
Oct 14, 2012

Hubris

Fun Shoe

I'd say the main thing that was done wrong around the Diablo mobile announcement was that the announcer did not handle being hated on very well. The "Do you guys not have phones?" comment was tone-deaf. If they'd done a talk that was basically "hey, mobile is huge, we can work in this space, we have amazing graphics folks that can make great-looking games on limited hardware and Diablo is a perfect fit for this, but we're not neglecting PC because of X/Y/Z" then...they'd still have been hated on, most likely. Oh well. But I think the wider (non-BlizzCon) audience would probably have been more receptive to a presentation along those lines.

leper khan
Dec 28, 2010
Honest to god thinks Half Life 2 is a bad game. But at least he likes Monster Hunter.


Diablo immortal is going to make insane amounts of money from exactly the people that lambasted it when they announced it. In addition to the insane amount of money from asian markets.

I'm holding both ATVI and NTES on that conviction.

I'd bet that immortal makes over a billion in revenue in the first 5 years. I doubt diablo 2 remake will perform as well. Or for as long.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

You walk in with the Turnips, you leave with the Bells.



One of the things I'll easily admit to here is that the games industry in general is very bad at communication and managing customers' expectations. Then again, gamers who post online are literally one of the worst demographics to try to deal with, so it's often times a Kobayashi Maru.

Tricky Ed
Aug 18, 2010

It is important to avoid confusion. This is the one that's okay to lick.




The problem with each of those poorly-received games is one of expectations. Most of the times when this happens you start out with the idea of expanding your existing IP into a new market, which obviously means making something that appeals to a different group of people than the people who are currently fans of your IP. That ideal target market might include your current fans, but it necessarily will not be solely focused on that fan group. The trouble is that fans haaaaaate being told that they aren't the most important people in the world. This is something that game fans understand, but it is not something that marketers understand.

Diablo Immortal shouldn't have been announced at Blizzcon, period. It's not targeted at Blizzcon people and will not be received well by them. It also won't really benefit from early hype, so it is really mystifying why they would choose that place and time to do it (unless they knew the project was going to go into shareholder reports and they'd lose the spotlight?). It's got the potential to be absolutely enormous but there's not a lot of overlap with the PC-centric crowd. When you have a convention of people who love the things you already make, you announce more of the same to them. It didn't help that the presenter didn't have any clue what to say or do when he got the response he did, which compounded the tonedeafness of the presentation. If they'd announced something for PC people before that, and then said "and we've also got a small team of people working on this phone game, which you also might like," it might not have been as hated.

SimCity 2013 had a lot of poorly-received decisions made for it that absolutely came from upper management. It was the final nail in the Maxis coffin. However, all of that could have been fixed if they had released a game that worked like SimCity. I was a huge SimCity fan and the reason I didn't engage with SC5 wasn't the online stuff (I thought that was weird but they'd probably figure out a better way to do it eventually), it was because the simulation was broken in ways that broke the illusion of an inhabited city. They made something that looked right but played wrong, and that can't be fixed. Again, it's an easy thing to explain to someone who plays games but impossible to explain to someone without that context.

I'll throw in another example, XCOM: the Bureau Declassified. It's an okay game, by all accounts. It tries some innovation and the story got jumbled a bit, but it's serviceable. The problem was that it got announced before the strategy game reboot from Firaxis was announced. Switch the order of those two announcements, and people are ecstatic. I'm sure the marketing people at 2k looked at the two projects and thought the Bureau showed better, which was probably true, but putting that out first into a void where no one but hardcore fans remembered the franchise was a mistake. The first reaction was "Dammit, the rights holders for XCOM obviously don't understand it, and they're just putting out a dumb shooter with the XCOM name attached, this can do nothing but suck, and I can only hope for the company's demise so the rights can go to someone else," when it could have been "Awesome, a new XCOM strategy game after 15 years! Made by a studio that makes and loves turn based games! Oh, and they're expanding the lore around it with this interesting little side thing, I guess, which I, the XCOM fan, can ignore since it isn't turn based!"

Brand managers all want to develop transmedia franchises. Card games, board games, novels, TV shows, movies, whatever. In a lot of cases it's cheap/free for the rights holder to develop the side thing, putting the risk of development on the company who makes the thing, and the upside to that method is that if the thing hits you collect royalties, and if it doesn't you didn't really pay much to do it and it got your name into a new place. These are, incidentally, the same sort of people who think that unpaid internships are cool and good, and that exposure has value in itself. They're very likely to say "let's make a viral video." It's a very mass media approach and not one that actually applies to much of the world right now, but it fits what most people who sit on company boards expect so that's who gets listened to.

Games are interactive and create a feeling of ownership that other media doesn't. Think about how most single player games are about you, the player, solving everything. It's super empowering! When a company that made a product like that tells you that you're not the most important person in the world, it feels like a betrayal. It's not something that's easy to understand if you haven't felt it. Ultimately that's why stuff like this happens and will continue to happen. Companies need to get better at managing expectations, and fans need to understand that companies are always going to want to cast a wider net.

mutata
Mar 1, 2003

You walk in with the Turnips, you leave with the Bells.



Diablo Immortal should absolutely have been announced at Blizzcon. It is a Blizzard game with a popular Blizzard IP that deserved to have time on the big stage. You can argue that they woulda coulda shoulda managed expectations better, but to say that Blizzard shouldn't have announced a game they were making during their personal convention they set up specifically to announce things is very silly. In any case, since the announce I've only heard pretty decent things about it, and the alpha tests went well and were received well.

Beyond "Yeah, marketing is hard and expectations of fans often get carried away," I don't really put much weight in the premise of the question. The entire hypothesis itself is very subjective. I'm a huge fan of SimCity 2000, 3000, and 4 and I enjoyed the time I spent with SC 2013 even if I also wanted something more akin to SC4. Elder Scrolls Online is a pretty successful MMO. I think there's a lot of bias in the hypothesis and it's again silly to try to derive some kind of objective rule or conclusion from any of it.

quote:

SimCity 2013 had a lot of poorly-received decisions made for it that absolutely came from upper management. It was the final nail in the Maxis coffin. However, all of that could have been fixed if they had released a game that worked like SimCity.

Do you have sources or direct experience for this? It's an interesting assertion and I'd love to learn more about the context.

mutata fucked around with this message at 02:12 on Mar 17, 2021

Studio
Jan 15, 2008





Tricky Ed posted:

Diablo Immortal shouldn't have been announced at Blizzcon, period.

I have worked on products that had extremely poorly received announcements, and a lot of it is setting up expectations. Diablo Immortal as a closer when people expect a Diablo 4 announcement. Absolutely terrible idea because of fan expectations. That doesn't mean Diablo Immortal didn't need to be announced, though I do think mobile game announcements are generally pretty weak if there's not a "PLAY THIS NOW" hook at the end of the announcement. It means that it needed to be an earlier part of the event, where "hey cool here's phone diablo" makes sense as a smaller announcement. I do think Blizzard would have greatly benefitted from a Diablo 4 acknowledgement at that Blizzcon, especially in conjuction with Immortal. Not even footage, but a "Hey, we're working on it 👀."

Skwirl
May 13, 2007

The 'blood babe with the silicone chest, 200-dollar haircut, and a closet full of the latest fashions.




Then all of the coverage would have been about Diablo 4 being officially announced and not the actual game they were trying to promote.

Hughlander
May 11, 2005



Tricky Ed posted:

I'll throw in another example, XCOM: the Bureau Declassified. It's an okay game, by all accounts. It tries some innovation and the story got jumbled a bit, but it's serviceable. The problem was that it got announced before the strategy game reboot from Firaxis was announced. Switch the order of those two announcements, and people are ecstatic. I'm sure the marketing people at 2k looked at the two projects and thought the Bureau showed better, which was probably true, but putting that out first into a void where no one but hardcore fans remembered the franchise was a mistake. The first reaction was "Dammit, the rights holders for XCOM obviously don't understand it, and they're just putting out a dumb shooter with the XCOM name attached, this can do nothing but suck, and I can only hope for the company's demise so the rights can go to someone else," when it could have been "Awesome, a new XCOM strategy game after 15 years! Made by a studio that makes and loves turn based games! Oh, and they're expanding the lore around it with this interesting little side thing, I guess, which I, the XCOM fan, can ignore since it isn't turn based!"

Oh please, it was only 11 years since the master piece of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-COM:_Enforcer...
(Yes I get your point but I couldn't refuse a dig at enforcer.)

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Canine Blues Arooo
Jan 7, 2008

when you think about it...i'm the first girl you ever spent the night with



Grimey Drawer

quote:

Diablo Immortal shouldn't have been announced at Blizzcon, period. It's not targeted at Blizzcon people and will not be received well by them.

I strongly agree with this. Or at least, if it was announced at Blizzcon, you need to be very ready for the audience at the very least asking, 'Where is D4 dude?' and at the worst, 'Is this an out of season April Fools Joke?' Anyone who thought this was going to get some kind of positive reception with that audience is likely both delusional and completely out of touch.

The correct-est way to announce this would have been, 'Here's D4 - it's pretty cool. Also, we are doing this little Diablo Immortal thing too! Now, lets do a Diablo Franchise Q&A'. The questions would be probably nearly exclusively about D4. The audience there wouldn't really care about D:I, and they wouldn't have to spend an hour trying to piece together a disastrous Q&A for a product no one in the audience wanted. Critically, D4 needed to be announced before D:I. Less critically, but still important, don't give that audience an 'in' to start poking at D:I - combine that stuff with something they care about.

Exilecon was a master class of this kind of an announcement: Announce your big new cool thing talk about for 80% of the time. Talk about your mobile thing that your core audience will probably not be interested in. Talk about it for 20% of the time and spend some of that time appeal directly to the fans there ("If this isn't cool, we'll sack it"). Take questions about both products at the same time. Everyone just asks about your new big thing anyway.

Canine Blues Arooo fucked around with this message at 04:18 on Mar 17, 2021

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