Monday, November 21, 2011

Enlisting Recruits

Just like the millions of other people across the globe, I picked up my copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. I have a lot to say about this new game but I’ll save that for my next post. Right now I thought I should take a look back on the series. I am not going all the way to the first Call of Duty but to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare where the game really became the giant that it is today.
There are plenty of reasons to why Call of Duty is the number one selling franchise on Xbox 360 but lets look specifically at it’s ad campaign. Ads do not get the final say if a game is good or not, but they can show consumers why they should buy in. 
Lets start off with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. This was the first time in the series that the developers took a modern approach to the game. Before this the Call of Duty series focused on the events of World War II and gamers were fed up. This was the face lift that Call of Duty needed to become more relevant in the video game market. The commercial for this version reflects this new ideal by showing you new weapons and technology. The simple phrases that pop up “weapons change” and “soldiers don’t” drove home the idea that the core values of Call of Duty would still be there. 

The commercial plays out like a montage featuring the best of today’s weaponry and has as many explosions as a Michael Bay Film. The next year it seemed that they took a step backward to World War II. The commercial’s over the top action made it seem like a  World War II  explosion orgy. Call of Duty: World at War didn’t try to push into new marketing ground but pushed the status quo that was set by Modern Warfare 4.

It wasn’t until Modern Warfare 2 (the sequel to the first Modern Warfare) that they really figured out their market. This is the first time we see an actual person rather than a montage of in-game footage. An old man pops up on the screen and simply talks about people “doing it.” What you don’t know is until the end he is talking about Modern Warfare 2. This commercial plays on a couple of new key points in the franchise. First is that the developers finally realize how big the franchise is and that everyone is playing it. The line “doing it” makes it seem like second nature to pick up the game since everyone in the world already has it. The second point is that they are focusing more on the player rather than the game. Before this the game separated the player experience and game experience. This commercial marries the two together and makes the claim that the player experience is just as important as any other aspect.

Then one year later, in Call of Duty fashion, we take another step back to the Cold War era with Black Ops. This is where the commercial really hits the mark with its fans. The commercial is live action but plays out like an online match. People of all different ages and sizes carrying guns are not featured in military uniform but in their regular work uniforms. It even features some famous faces such as Jimmy Kimmel and Kobe Bryant. Why is this commercial a turning point in recruiting players? First it acknowledged that everyone plays this game. Call of Duty had large numbers of female players which the video game industry likes to forget about at times. It even crossed economic lines by featuring the burger flipper and the Wall Street executive. This commercial drove home the fact that this game was the uniter in life not the divider. In a world filled with conflicting issues it is hard to find a game that could possibly even bring so many people together. Second the focus was less about being the actual solider but being yourself in the game. The player takes full ownership of their skills in the commercial and no matter what gender, race, or economic background you come from everyone is on the same playing field. 

Finally we come to the most recent release, Modern Warfare 3. In a slightly different fashion the commercial stars actual actors rather than the common player. The commercial stars Sam Worthington who plays “The Vet” and Jonah Hill as “The Noob.” This commercial goes back to Call of Duty’s roots while still keeping the flavor of the live action. You are taken on a montage through the games most memorable locations as The Noob learns more skills from The Vet. At the end, The Noob transforms into a Vet. This commercial is important because it shows that all players start off as a Noob and work their way up to become a Vet. The commercial shows though that you need the guidance of another player to make this progression. With diligence you can make it to the upper levels and become a Vet. This new focus is on both the game and the player. All the actors are in military outfits rather than normal clothes but act as if they were in a game. 
The progression of Call of Duty’s commercials reflect the players they are attracting. Activision has learned it takes more than a simple montage of explosions to get players to want more. Advertising the game as a social experience between fellow gamers has moved the game into pop culture. Even though the game takes criticism for its linearity and addictive nature, no other game comes close to its accessibility. The commercials paint an accurate picture of Call of Duty as being the game that anyone can jump in and play. The propaganda has worked to make Call of Duty the number one selling game on Xbox 360. Whether you like Call of Duty or not it has forever changed the landscape of the console market.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Charity Never Felt So Good

Another Humble Bundle is out and my excitement can’t be contained. Another game at any price I want! It is more than just getting a game far below market price but also a chance to donate to charity. I never thought that giving to charity would ever feel so good. I still can’t quite pin point why it is does so well, but here are some theories.
  1. Value: Nothing says buy me like a game that you can name the price. You can pay as low as a penny if you really are that cheap. The best part is if you pay more than the average donation amount, you receive even more games. No matter what you get a large amount of content for an outstandingly low price. 
  2. Exposure: Selling your game at a crazy low price means exposure. The more people that have your game on their computers means free publicity. Even if the games go back up in price, you are sure to have a friend who already has it. That means you have thousands of players playing a certain game simply because of its low price of entry. In the short term you lose money because you sell your game at such a low cost but you make up for it in the long term by the quantity of sales.
  3. Control: No matter how much money you donate you have the power to allocate that money any way you want. Let’s say you enjoy giving more to charity than you do giving to indie developers. You could to give more of your total donation  to Child’s Play a charity that donates video games to child care centers, schools, and hospitals. Then again you might think the video game developers don’t get enough money, so you put all of your money into a single game. Even if you just want to donate to the people who run it you can! No charity other than Humble Bundle allows you so much control over your donation!
  4. Limited Time: At the top of the page you notice the time keeps clicking down until you buy.  After each passing day, stakes get higher as the site adds more and more content as the clock winds down to zero. If you miss it, you miss it and the deals will wave bye-bye.
  5. Bragging Rights: Charity should always come out of the kindness of your heart but sometimes you may want to be a little self serving. Well, scroll down the page a bit more and look at the right hand side. You’ll see a top contributor’s page which lists the top ten people who have donated. When you are one of the top donators, people are bound to find out who you are.  This can lead to virtually free publicity. Don’t forget your helping a charity or struggling indie developers, so you are doing a great thing no matter what your motive.
  6. Guilt: Yes you can donate as much as a penny, but Humble Bundle doesn’t let you off easy. Anything lower than a dollar gives you the sad picture of a guy in tattered clothes and a broken computer. He has a cardboard sign that says, “INDIE DEVELOPER Needs Food To Make Games. Can You Spare A Dollar?” If that is not enough, it makes you verify that you are really heartless by making you enter in a code. There will be people who buy at such dirt low prices but very few people like to be called heartless.

The Humble Bundle is no joke.  The  last bundle raised 1.1 million dollars in total revenue. This is good for charity, developers, and gamers. It’s a win-win situation and you should take advantage of the Voxatron Bundle. If you pay more than the average right now (which is $4.85) you can also get two more games. Blocks That Matter, The Binding of Isaac, and Voxatron each for only five dollars are a great deal! Just make sure you slide a couple of dollars over to charity and the Humble Bundle.