Back in the 90s, the console wars were in
full effect. Never again would console wars reach heights
like these again as that sort of marketing were a sign of the times. As Sony asserted its dominance by ridiculing
Microsoft’s E3 DRM announcements, and Nintendo’s fans kept begging for everything ever to be
ported to the Nintendo Swi… Wait. Let’s try that again. As Sega bowed out of the competition, Microsoft
jumped into the new generation incredibly early and got the entire audience… …only burning
them away shortly after, inspired by this Sony unleashed a barbeque, and Nintendo got
made fun of for being casual while the actual casuals bought Wii systems in absurd amou… Alright, hold on. I got this. Videogame companies learned the real power
of how to create a place for yourself on the market by taking the opposite side to your
competition. Coke vs Pepsi, Christina Aguilera vs Britney
Spears, Utada Hikaru vs Hamasaki Ayumi, Marvel vs DC, WCW vs WWF. And Sega vs Nintendo. Looking back on it now, it sounds crazy that
a character like Sonic The Hedgehog could’ve ever been the edgy alternative to something
that had already proven itself a mainstay. Sonic, especially the classic version, is
a cutesy mascot character that despite his main characteristic being the spikes on his
back, still has that soft rounded look to him that makes him cute and safe for kids. But back in the day, compared to the clean
and well behaved image of Mario, he was the rougher, edgier mascot with an attitude. Sega intentionally placed themselves opposite
to what Nintendo was going for, and even made most of their marketing about the difference
between the two. Nintendo, in their turn, had essentially done
the same before this. Long before Sega geared themselves to be the
opposite to Nintendo, Nintendo themselves went to great lengths to prove they were the
opposite of Atari. After Atari crashed the American console market
in the 80s, Nintendo managed to bring that market back through smart marketing, mostly
aimed at store owners to trick them into allowing another videogame system on their shelves,
pretending they were toys. It didn’t take long for that bid to end up
with both store owners and consumers trusting Nintendo, and only Nintendo, as a maker of
videogame platforms worth selling. And it took Sega similar efforts and tricking
to get both store owners and consumers to trust them as an alternative to Nintendo,
getting the man who marketed Barbie to a point of becoming a household name to do the same
for them. This is likely why the NES didn’t take off
to the same extent in a lot of Europe, since all the marketing and the appearance of the
system was based around tricking American stores into thinking they weren’t a videogame
platform. And also why SEGA didn’t struggle to get a
foothold the same way they did in the US. This is probably also why our Super Nintendo
design was basically just the rounded Super Famicon’s design complete with colored buttons
instead of the American Super Nintendo Entertainment System brick with purple buttons. Because that sort of trickery didn’t seem that honest in Europe. I’ve always wondered about the representation
of the European videogame market online because I do remember all the kids had Nintendos when
I was a kid, with one rich kid owning a Genesis. And a CD-I. Nobody here had PCs until much later, and
pretty much all sources I find talking about SEGA’s early European success, Nintendo’s
failure, and the mainstay position of the PC that early comes from England exclusively. Though they do tend to get most of the smaller
releases exclusively while mainland Europe is left out, so it wouldn’t surprise me if
they’re just that big of a cut of the gaming market on their own. Anyway, Marketing a product as a work of quality is
one thing. But when the entire identity of a product
is so encapsulated by another brand’s existence, the marketing around a competitor starts to
become about that competitor and the culture surrounding it. This doesn’t appeal to you? Come over to our side, we aren’t like that. We’re cooler. These days this sort of marketing still exists,
of course. But usually to a much less aggressive extent
than in the past. Unless someone does something so aggressively
stupid you can take a free shot at them to wink at your audience and go “Hey, we want
no part in that, just like you!” like when Microsoft wanted to take the Xbox One online
only with incredibly restrictive DRM for all physical purchases and Sony came swinging
for the fences immediately after. Or when everyone came together to allow their
players to enjoy crossplay with one another except Sony, and both Phil Spencer and Reggie
went, “Dude, what the fuck?” You sometimes still see people misunderstand
the era we’re in and open their marketing on big attacks on the competition while their
competitor is still in a positive spotlight. Like Cliffy B’s dumb statement about Overwatch
while making his own team-based class shooter. Or Randy Pitchford’s dumb competitive marketing
on Twitter towards Overwatch. What if you have no main competitor or rival
to fight for the audience of though? What if you have to fight on your own merrits,
but you don’t have the confidence in your product to claim quality? Or worse, you tried it and that didn’t work
well enough to your liking? There’s a new kind of marketing for that,
it’s been getting more and more popular as time goes on, and it’s not the greatest. In fact, pretty much every use I’ve seen for
this, it ends up tanking the product’s sales almost entirely. And there’s enough cases now where there wasn’t
enough wrong with the games or the positioning on the market surrounding them to blame anything
but the marketing. [Disclaimer, we’re going to to touch on politics. This video is not political in nature. You can Mechamerica Great Again or Pokemon
Go To The Polls all you want. But I want no part of it.] There was a really awkward moment in the recent
E3 where someone from Bethesda, brought up killing nazis and the audience cheered in
such unbridled, open bloodlust, you could see the discomfort on the face of his cohost. Realizing that the marketing of his games
didn’t just instil a level of hype for a piece of entertainment to consume, it sparked a
response in an audience that had trouble keeping the blurry lines between reality and fiction
apart. Now, I’m not going to argue the semantics
between what is and isn’t a nazi as that is besides the point. What I am going to talk about though, is that
the Wolfenstein nazis aren’t the ones the audience was thinking of with that response. Worse yet, Wolfenstein 2 had bombed in terms
of sales. Something that was actually surprising coming
off the success of previous games. Bethesda had sent a lot of good games to die
that year with little to no marketing and most of them sold within the same ballpark
as Wolfenstein 2. Even on launch, despite most early impressions
of the game were fairly positive about it. Why? Because the marketing did the worst thing
possible it could’ve done. It tried to tie itself to modern day politics,
attacking one side of the political spectrum. Now you can argue about attacking the wrong
side of a political spectrum because the other buys more games, but I think that’s besides
the point as we’ll get into later. The way political idealogies are generally
represented within modern day media is through the filter of absolutes. Black and white. Left or right. And by insulting one side, you insult half
the people who hold a political viewpoint, alienate people who don’t want to get involved
with any political viewpoints, and unnerve the people with similar viewpoints as the
ones you favor but aren’t as extreme as you are. It is a form of marketing that stands to lose
more than it gains, and while outlets that favor certain political leanings are more
likely to give you coverage if you openly agree with them all the way, that doesn’t
automatically mean you’re going to convert that attention into sales. In a similar sense you have games that market
themselves using outrage from the same outlets made by edgy developers hoping to make a quick
buck on purchases from people opposed to the viewpoints of news outlets. The news outlets will cover them so they can
be outraged about something, and driving outrage one way or another gets them views to their
site. Most of those games end up not selling that
well. Or if they do, it only takes them so far unless
they actually have something to offer, which the majority don’t. Even just giving people simple match three
games and some lewds is enough, and most developers don’t even offer that much when they openly
play into outrage culture. I’m honestly not sure what there really is
to gain for people to jump onto the political points time and time again when it rarely
leads to sales that otherwise might not have existed. It is hard to argue that a game would’ve sold
as much as it did without bringing itself into the spotlight, but considering the ones
that end up selling well enough tend to at least be crafty enough to get there, I wouldn’t
be surprised if they could find ways to sell without that use. Possibly selling even more. For some it’s a foot in the door in a desperate
competitive market, but for the ones it isn’t, I really have questions as to why they’d attempt
to drag people’s belief systems through the mud to get the attention they already have,
since all it does is get themselves dirty in the process. It’s hard to not see this as a problem of
not having confidence in your product. So you try to align yourself with people who
should purchase your product or else they’re part of THEM. That evil group that you don’t like. People generally don’t buy products just for
that though. They’ll signal boost you, they’ll try to help
you find your audience who is more interested than they are, and they likely will hope for
your success. But they’re not part of your group unless
you deliver them what they want. Because that in the simplest terms is what
the purchase of a game is. Paying a publisher to get the product that
you want for your personal enjoyment. It’s not a passage to political achievement
of fullfilment, and not a completion of your values. It’s a form of entertainment, and one that’s
ill-suited to convey the things these marketing angles try to position them as. I think to some degree people who use these
tactics must know this themselves, and just do it in the hopes of distracting from problems
with their product the actual target audience would quickly find. This audience would still find these issues,
but then get shouted down as part of the opposition that’s been created. The current argument about the new Battlefield
game not being historically accurate is a good example. While yes, there currently are people legitimately
throwing a fit about it, the way that this started feels intentional, calculated, and
directly instigated. EA is currently under a lot of fire regarding
lootboxes, and brought a lot of negative attention towards the entire gaming industry because
of the practices employed in Battlefront, as well as a lot of negative attention within
the gaming circles about similar practices, taken to further extremes, with their sports
games. One of the first things a lot of more die-hard
fans noticed was the shift in the presentation in the new Battlefield, as cosmetics are more
of a thing now than they previously were. As the game is moving away from its previous
(admittedly obnoxious) unlock systems gated by time and money, to a new one locking cosmetics
behind that. At the very least, EA and DICE have responded
to the problems people have with these cosmetics, and they’ve said they’re dialing it back down. So that’s good. Knowing EA though, they’re not going to let
go of a way to make more sales post-game launch, and a system focusing on internal cosmetics
is likely what they’ll still keep moving forward with to some degree, possibly turning it back
up after it’s normalized. Which is why it felt so absolutely calculated
that all marketing materials and trailers focus on a female character in a game that
lets you play as a male or female, as they’d likely expected the initial outrage about
the cosmetics and wanted t oshift the conversation towards something they felt they could control. It’s shitty but it’s the new way marketing works now. We’ll see if Battlefield can become an exception
to the rule, or if, like most attempts to market mostly through political opposition
baited out of people, it just serves to alienate both sides. It’s a shame because a bunch of the gameplay
I’ve seen looked like an alright game. But now it’s covered in the stigma of this
conversation, that it appears they have invited themselves to draw attention away from the
lootbox controversy. What’s even sadder than this, is that recent
statements from higher ups at EA brought up that Battlefront 2 was a mistake and that
their other titles, like the sports ones, have nothing wrong with their format. Even though the sports games are a lot worse
about their inclusion of lootbox systems, implying the problem about Battlefront was
that they got caught. No wonder they’d rather invite a politic media
circus to avoid direct talk about criticism of these monetization schemes in Battlefield. And how is that going? Oh… Yeah…. That’s not looking very good is it? Videogames aren’t exclusive to this either. In the sphere of movies, these kinds of things
were used to try and get people to see the last Ghostbusters movie. Even trying to slander AVGN because he politely
told his audience, who knew how big of a fan he was of the originals and would endlessly
ask him when the review would be, that he wasn’t going to review the movie because he
had no interest in seeing it. Marvel? In terms of comic books, they’re overtly political
because their biggest opposition, DC isn’t doing all that well either so there isn’t
much to rally behind with that rivalry anymore. It’s interesting when you contrast this to
the movies which tend to shy away from political motivations for a safer image most of the
time because the movies are way too succesful to bother with this kind of marketing technique. Now Marvel has always been political in nature,
make no mistake about that, but it used to be more in tune with its own audience, and
have more of a point to it rather than making it feel like the pages are shouting down at
you. It’s even more interesting when put next to
Star Wars, which isn’t doing too hot and immediately started doubling down on making things about
politics. Making it even more unpleasant to talk about
than it already was. At this point the only people who care about
Star Wars are people paid to market their movies, and those creepy clickbaiters on YouTube
who keep putting the face of the woman in charge of the franchise as the thumbnail for
their political rants. Those guys are probably the most loyal crowd
modern Star Wars has gotten out of this. Then… This works better for the companies making
their image about a rival company then, right? At least they saw success from it. But well, it’d be dishonest to say that worked
out all that well for those companies either. When you look at WCW vs WWF. WWF nearly went down in the middle of that
war thanks to WCW’s competition and people wanting something different from them, but
then the rug got pulled out from under WCW when their momentum started to slow down and
their funding got cut. When the rivalry between WCW and WWF wasn’t
enough to draw an audience, WCW created a fake company in nWo to compete against in-brand,
with mostly people representing WWF originally, playing up their rivalry within their own
company and making the nWo the biggest thing ever. It didn’t take too long until this had run
its course with nowhere to go either. Some people believe they would’ve still turned
it around if they kept going, but the company had always been a money sink and only an insane
person would allow it to continue endlessly, as the people in charge were incompetent egomaniacs. If it had kept going, WWF could’ve been completely
whittled away and WCW would have still had the plug pulled sooner or later. The competition didn’t make things sustainable
for either side, even though it drove the attendance records through the roof for both
of them. Wrestling would still exist to this day without
the two, but it’s still strange to think how WCW was legitimately the hottest company on
the face of the planet and then didn’t exist anymore within just a small number of years. Sega VS Nintendo? Just look at where the two are now. There are more factors at play here, but the
shift that really ended it all was a third major competitor entering the market with
Sony. Which is almost sad, because Sega was the
one who encouraged Sony to go all the way with their attempt at getting into the console
market after Nintendo screwed them over by going with Phillips and the CD-I instead. And they were allowed to get into the market because SEGA had opened up the market themselves. Who even knows where things would’ve ended
up if Sega continued their really bad hardware practices alongside Nintendo pushing cartridges
for way too long. But the moment real competition showed up,
Sega bowed out. Britney Spears vs Christina Aguilera? One got dirty while keeping most of her integrity
and audience, releasing one of her most beloved clean pop songs due to being highly affirmative
with Beautiful afterwards. The other shaved her head and had a fall from
grace. But at least her son is Frieza. Hamasaki Ayumi vs Utada Hikaru? Well, one is going fully deaf after having
lost her hearing in one side a long time ago, and the other is mostly known for having a
bunch of her songs in Kingdom Hearts games. I don’t know which one is worse, honestly.