Out of the 3 talks given at the Gamers' Sympozium at EA Play '07, held at the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) on 16 March 2007, this talk was the first and most interesting one. The second was by senior manager Jason Teo of the Media Development Authority's Community and International Relations department, discussing the direction Singapore is taking on gaming, and career opportunities, and the third was by Associate Professor Willy Susilo from the University of Wollongong discussing Multimedia and Game Development. We'll just talk about the first one. The following is a summary of Chris Ng's talk.
Chris discussed how with the usual way of things, a game went through creation, publishing/packaging, distribution, retail/publicity, and then purchase. With the boom of the Internet however, especially high speed access, games are experiencing a phenomenal leap from creation straight to purchase. He however, will be concentrating his scope, as mentioned in the title, on publishing/packaging and distribution.
So first after the game is presented by the creator or developer, the acceptance and negotiation occurs. One of the first things then done is localization for the various markets. We don't experience localization much in Singapore because the gaming market of youths and young adults speak proficient English. Places like Korea and Japan require localization, which is basically translation and the necessary language pack issues, to reach out to the market.
After that is the pre-press, comprising of package design and copy-writing, I'm guessing both the manuals and the text on the disc box. As an interesting note, Chris mentioned later about how consumers very ridiculously didn't take to the slick DVD cases of games on the PS2 and xBox because they felt that it wasn't worth their S$79.90 (US$49.90). Publishers solved this with the frankly insulting solution of 'mocking-up', which simply meant slipping the slim DVD case inside a thick fat preferably shiny and essentially empty box. Retarded? The consumers bought it.
Then there is the marketing, by building communities online. Not much of this was discussed but it ties in with the next point, which is advertising. Advertising is crucial in the gaming industry, because games have only 3-6 months shelf life. Games move very fast, because gamers want to be on par with others, if not with their direct community, then competitively against the rest of the world.
After that as the product moves on to distributors comes channel management, the pricing structure, coverage, and product visibility, basically the 'P's of marketing. Although as Chris said, it's not just the 5 Ps anymore. There are many many more P's now. Financial management is when the middlemen start saying that while they want to carry the products, they don't have enough capital to return the cost, that they need to have some units moving first before they can payback. That's where the credit system comes in to negotiate a balance.
Product sales, then product promotion, driving the products straight to the consumers. I asked the question why we don't see TV spots for game ads, and Chris answered that basically, calculated the costs, it was financially more sensible to just shoot it straight through the Net and gaming magazines. Less is gained than spent on TV advertising. Then after product promotion, technical support must be maintained.
An interesting question asked when the floor was opened was if the download model of distribution would work. Chris answered that certainly more and more people are looking towards it, and that the day will come to pass when it matures and people would start using it. For now though, he said, he feels that on a global scale the Internet isn't sufficiently penetrated, and that also they are still working the kinks out with the DRM issue, that it's better to stick to discs in that aspect. The question is, as privately posed by Kevin, aren't CDs and even DVDs a breeze to crack nowadays? The fact is that no matter how many walls you build around your structure, it takes only one genius to find and remove that one bolt that will send everything falling down like paper on a rainy day. And I assure you, that genius will always be there. Kevin felt that it was only fair, that a portion of the market buys the game and has access to full features, and another portion goes for piracy and gets... almost everything. With Warcraft III for example, pirate users have been provided with the Eurobattle.net server to play. So we still get to experience online gaming, but what we'll be missing is the higher standard found on the actual Battle.net. Eurobattle, anyone who plays knows (unless you're one yourself), has as many idiots, leavers, noobs, and spammers as good players. Not that Battle.net doesn't, but you'll find less there.
And finally the mindset has to change that, gaming is no more a leisure activity, but a lifestyle.
So that's it for the summary of this talk, Game Publishing and Distribution, given by Chris Ng, Asia-Pacific Head of Electronic Arts Publishing, at EA Play '07, held at the Singapore Institute of Management, on 16 March 2007. If you're interested in the games exhibition, stick around or check back, that would probably in my next couple of posts. Got videos of Burnout Revenge and Battlefield 2142, as well as pictures of Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars.