Monday, November 23, 2009

Terrible Idea: Corporate Speak

The world is full of corporate speak and euphemisms. Global warming, itself a buzzphrase of great power, has been replaced by “climate change.” People no longer die, they instead  “pass away.” MMOs are “cutting edge” games where “thousands of players” can “adventure” in a “huge immersive world” full of “amazing” sights and sounds.

Go to Alganon’s website and try to find information about the game that is concrete, significant, and useful. Alganon’s marketing department clearly took seriously their courses in saying nothing. Even when they’re talking about key features that would probably interest players, they use vague language and avoid details at all costs.

The game is in beta—I understand that the site won’t be chock full of detail, but it’s remarkably difficult to get excited about a game that seems so unexcited about itself. The bovine stirkus needs to stop. It doesn’t do anyone any good. It’s better to show off what’s great about your game concretely instead of reciting the same platitudes we’ve heard a million times from all of the failed MMOs that clog the internet.

And then read the interview with “visionary” David Allen, who does a “commendable” job of “defending” his MMORPG.

Now go to City of Heroes’ site’s game info section. Behold actual information on display. You can read through this site and gain beyond a basic understanding of how the game works.

I’d rather a game have no information available than for the same canned jargon to be rammed down my throat again.


Anonymous said...

so true. I looked at the alganon website after tobold mentioned it. I was thinking of giving it ago. After investing the bandwidth in downloading Champions and Eve and not really getting to enjoy them (Eve because I couldn't work out what to do at the end of the tutorial and champions because i couldn't get a trial key), I was only going to make the jump if something looked good. The website information was terrible. I was actually turned off by the site. That's marketing fail.

Love the site - keep up the good work. You're moving up my feed reader list all the time.

Bronte said...

First line on the "About Page":
'Alganon is an upcoming fantasy-based MMORPG that allows thousands of people to play together in a virtual world that features a rich history dominated by commanding deities, powerful weapons and armor, deadly magic, epic quests, ancient places to discover, the utilization of detailed tradeskills, and more.'
We also have gay midget porn over the weekend, of course, and other things, many, many many things.

Second line:
'Designed from scratch and based in a uniquely created world, the initial goal in designing Alganon is to provide "Simple Gameplay with Unlimited Growth in a massive world of immersion and interaction".'
Replace 'scratch' with 'a complete rip-off of the most successful MMO on the market' and replace 'uniquely' with 'totally copied', and you can see how one might come up with that statement.

I especially HATE the fact that there buzzwords try to please everyone. Check out the following statement:
'Part of achieving this goal is to create a game that is easy for anyone to play, but also to build the game in so that even the most skilled and hardcore gamer has the potential to grow beyond their expectations.'


Tesh said...

Dilbert has pegged this extremely well. As a consumer, I just ignore it all.

This is part of why I'm a big proponent of "try before you buy" in game design. Marketing weasels actively impede research.

Drevarius said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Drevarius said...

I hate to ruin your faith in humanity, but game sites use marketing buzz words for a reason -they work =/

Unfortunately, the masses are as attracted to vague words like "highly immersive" as the cave man was attracted to shiny rocks.

Game companies are deathly afraid of losing buzz and for a good reason. Statistically, only 20% of games yield a profit and of course profit is the reason why big game companies fund the production of games.

I think the real problem here is simply the industry environment has left everyone taking the 'safe route', copying success formulas rather than take a multi-million dollar risk at innovation and progress. But that is also what has driven so many creative minds to Indie-game companies.

The solution to this problem may very well rest on the the indie developer proving that good ideas make money, not necessarily recycled excrement of the previous industry success.

P.S. Previously posted comments as 'Nathan'. Posts by Nathan made on 11-29-09 were made by me.

evizaer said...

Corporate speak "works" in the same way that saying nothing "works." You can build hype through saying nothing and showing tantalizing screen shots, but that doesn't change the quality of your end product. If you had a good product worth showing, you could give your fans actual details and not be cutting yourself off from sales.

People do have a tacit understanding of this fact. The issue seems to be that people do not think about game design with any degree of depth when they look at MMO websites, so it's all shininess and wishful thinking with no real back-up.

Compare SW:TOR to Alganon. SW:TOR has some detailed information available on what classes can do and how exactly they work. Alganon does not. Alganon is much closer to release, but is not worth mentioning, so it resorts to saying nothing through corporate speak; SW:TOR has hype and some interesting design ideas that they've told us about, so we're excited about something real. SW:TOR's approach works better to generate hype and is less likely to lead to the Kosterian Adoption Curve of Doom.

Drevarius said...

evizaer, with all due respect you seem to have missed my point. Hype terminology, or "Glittering Generalities" works to create buzz, not necessarily to keep it. Granted, it may not work in some circles of people who are prone to analyze and second guess,(like many here) but it will create attention in audiences. Whether or not there is any support to the claim is irrelevant in creating the hype. It is relevant only when trying to sustain the hype after the legitimacy of the claims have come into question. I would like to cite Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule in this matter: "Almost anyone will believe almost anything when properly motivated...either because they fear it to be true or because they want it to be true." People want a fun game to come out.

Also, game devs are usually not responsible for doing the advertising. Advertising is usually done by the publisher, and it is usually seen as an investment. They use certain terminology because previously profitable games have used that terminology in their marketing strategy. The terms often have less substance because the marketting team is often seperate from the dev team.

Games are most definately not alone in this marketing practice. Look at the hype up in a toy advertisement, a car advertisement, a political campaign, or one of those ridiculous body spray adds where they are questionable selling something else... Propoganda is propoganda, and it works.

I am NOT saying that Alganon will be sucessful, but I'm sure it will sell more copies than it is worth.

The only solution: second guess, investigate claims, delay excitement until the claims are supported with details.

evizaer said...

I'm aware that advertising influences people's view of a product and that certain language can prove advantageous even though it is basically meaningless.

My point is that it's better to release no (or very little) information than it is to release generic corporate speak.

If a game is crap, the marketers can't do anything specific. The game will only get hype by pure luck. When the game is released, people may buy it (though not many will, because open betas or leaks will reveal the game's quality) but they most likely won't stay with it.

If a game is good, the marketers SHOULD release specific information. The game will become hyped because it deserves some degree of hype, though the hype will almost always outstrip what is reasonable. If the game only releases corporate speak, it actually hurts its chances--it would be bad marketing to not give specific information. When the game is released, people will see that it is good and buy it and stay with it.

If the game is nothing spectacular but not awful, releasing specifics will probably net you more hype than releasing corporate speak. Why? Because if you release specifics about the parts of your game that you know are solid, you'll hook more people than if you release corporate speak about the entire game.

So clearly it's more often good marketing practice to release specific information about the good parts of your game and only use corporate speak to gloss over the less-interesting parts. By using corporate speak the marketer tells me that there's nothing to see here--the absolute wrong message and certainly a less effective one than pointing out the great parts about the game.

I'm not a marketer, though. I have no expertise in this field. I made this post out of frustration, primarily. I have no problem admitting that corporate speak may be "effective" at persuading people to spend a little more money in the short term, but product quality tends to win-out.

Drevarius said...

evizaer, I agree with what you are saying on the level of principal and that it would great if marketers stopped filling reviews and gameboxes with useless drivvle.

However, I must continue my disagreement- selling specifics of the game even when it is 'blah' will not not yield more sales than selling based on hype and propoganda. Less people would buy the product, but those that do would be less disappointed. In an industry where refunds are NOT issued, this is somewhat irrelevant. Revenue from monthly fees will suffer when the marketers hype, but the initial sale is the point of concern because that is where the publisher recovers loss from funding the project.

Honestly, the publisher/developer relationship needs to be reformed in this industry. Blizzard's special relationship with the publisher is the reason it dominates this market.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree, Evizaer. And contrary to what Drevarius proposes, I'm pretty sure most of those interested in MMOs can see right through the marketing bullshiz; we generally have enough experience to differentiate between what is substantial and what is mere gloss.

With regard to Alganon, the fundamental problem with the marketing strategy there is that it utterly fails to address the basic question that MMO players have: How is Alganon better (more fun) than World of Warcraft? (And you can insert any other MMO here: Aion, Runes of Magic, Age Of Conan, Everquest, Allods Online, Guild Wars, etc.)

As it is, I have no desire whatsoever to play Alganon -- it looks like absolutely just more of the same only not really as good.

Had they written some specific details about how amazing Alganon truly is, then maybe I'd keep an eye on it. As it is, they can go ahead and cancel it -- it won't be missed.

Drevarius said...

xenovre, i respect your point but i'd like to offer you another angle. The current marketing strategy still makes sales, thus the marketers/publisher are less likely to gamble on the assumption that 'most' of their intended audience sees through the hype.

The rise in numbers of younger players may contribute to the use of hype. Younger target groups are known to more readily 'eat the bullshiz'.

Not trying to be an a-hole, just want to show that my pessimistic view still has some merit.