Category Archives: Marketing

The demon driving Dungeon Keeper backlash

EA is in a unique position as games publisher with a deep history. Between internally created games and a long history of acquisitions including Origin, Bullfrog, Maxis, Westwood, DICE, BioWare/Pandemic, Mythic and Criterion (just to name a few), the company holds the reins on any number of classic game brands.  Like few competitors, any time EA wishes to develop a new game for a given genre or platform, there exists at minimum one IP that can be leveraged as opposed to developing a new brand. Browser-based strategy MMO? Games have been made using both Ultima and Command & Conquer settings. Casual city building game? Sim City is a natural choice, but so are Populous, Theme Park and Theme Hospital. Mobile based infinite runner? Mirror’s Edge, SSX and even Burnout would get the job done. Any time a new category breaks and EA feels the desire to be competitive, there is a reasonable case to be made for taking an existing brand and using it to build hype and awareness in the ever heightening competition for player’s attention and dollars.

EA is the company the internet loves to hate. It is the two time winner of Consumerist’s Worst Company In America. It has made its share of public mistakes as well as releasing its share of incredible games. Over the years, the company has used its stable of intellectual properties in a variety of ways. Although there is always some backlash, the recent release of Dungeon Keeper on iOS and Android has been met with an unprecedented wave of hatred.

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The Perpetual Sale

This article was originally published on Kotaku.

As another Steam Holiday Sale comes to a close, I have spent roughly $100 to purchase 22 games. In the past 2 months I have picked up 3 Humble Bundles. Not a month ago I spent around $50 on 11 games in the Steam Fall Sale. By the time the next Steam Holiday Sale rolls into town I will be lucky if I have played half of these games. I have a problem. I am a Compulsive Collector. And after 1,400 gamers took my recent survey on their game-buying habits, I know that I am not alone.

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Failing fast and hard

It’s the Jewish New Year and I’ve taken a brief break from the two week old Enhanced Wars Kickstarter campaign to attend services. I check the time on my phone and see the notification that we have had two new backers. Despite my best intentions, I cannot help but open up my email to check the details. I recognize both names. At that moment, I know that Quarter Spiral is finished.

We’ve crawled over the 20% funding mark past which 4 out of 5 projects are successful. But with a platform wide backer average of $25, we will need to attract over 1,500 new backers to the project in two weeks. In the past 36 hours the small number of new backers are friends and family. Despite the common wisdom that many projects get funded in the final 48 hours it feels impossible.
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The value of bad publicity

Yesterday morning during the Enhanced Wars stand up we realized something fishy was going on. It was 9am on the west coast and already we had 10x the normal amount of email sign-ups for early access to our game. I have been in charge of outreach efforts on Enhanced Wars as we have built up an early audience in preparation for our Kickstarter campaign, and we were already having one of our best days yet. And I had not done a thing.

Who was talking about Enhanced Wars? I had not put out any new media; I was too busy writing copy, fixing bugs and editing video in the mad dash to go live. I was on the lookout for a preview from a major media outlet after doing an interview almost two weeks earlier, but it was not live yet. Ten minutes of Google searching later and I found it: a hot article on Kotaku analyzing a talk I had given as part of the “Evil Game Design Challenge” at the recent Casual Connect.

Article headline from Kotaku
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Dragon Age Legends Road to 100k Likes



Here are the slides from my GDC Online 2011 talk, “Dragon Age Legends Road to 100k Likes”. Talk description from the the program guide:

We live in a new world where borders between game developers and their players have broken down, where a Like can be more valuable then an ad campaign and where your fans can literally reach you 24 hours a day. In this metrics driven talk, Dragon Age Legends’ producer Ethan Levy explains the successes and failures of the game’s innovative pre & post launch social marketing strategy. From its MMO style Closed Beta program, to its fully animated trailer, to getting a Facebook game front paged on IGN, Dragon Age Legends was a game of firsts in the social gaming space.

Dragon Age Legends at GDC Online

In October of 2011, I gave a talk at Game Developers Conference Online entitled “Dragon Age Legends’ Road to 100k Likes”.  You can watch the talk for free at the GDC Vault.  Here is the description of the talk, which was presented in both the business and customer experience track:

We live in a new world where borders between game developers and their players have broken down, where a Like can be more valuable then an ad campaign and where your fans can literally reach you 24 hours a day. In this metrics driven talk, Dragon Age Legends’ producer Ethan Levy explains the successes and failures of the game’s innovative pre & post launch social marketing strategy. From its MMO style Closed Beta program, to its fully animated trailer, to getting a Facebook game front paged on IGN, Dragon Age Legends was a game of firsts in the social gaming space.

I plan on posting up the slides sometime soon for more convenient digestion.