Many of you would know that I have been following EA Sports’ game development/marketing strategy - specifically around the Madden NFL and NCAA Football titles.
First, a little background. The versions of those games on current generation of consoles (Xbox 360 and Playstation 3) has not lived up to expectations. This has caused great debate amongst the tribe members, EA Executives, and the development teams on how future iterations of the two games should be developed.
For better or for worse, the two titles have gone in opposite directions in terms of strategy. One only needs to look at fan sites such as Operation Sports to see the difference.
- Philosophy: No gimmicks: “Everything You See on Sunday”
- Target: Core gamers, football fans - The Tribe.
- Community interaction: Very high
- Developers are constantly interacting on 3rd party sites, EA Sports blog, etc.
- Several high ranking people within the tribe were invited to their studios to work on an early build of the game. Changes were made that day
- Purposefully Develop content -> Release to the tribe -> Allow tribe to react -> Modify
- Modifications of certain parts of the game were made after the developers released screenshots/videos of the game. Example: Ben Roethlisberger looked too small in one of the early screenshots; the community reacted to the picture and gave their response. The development team fixed it.
- Additions to the game: Focused on giving the game an authentic feel while playing the game.
- Major improvements in aesthetics, game play and CPU intelligence
- Philosophy: A little bit of everything
- Target: Casual gamers, people who love college football - Mass audience
- Community interaction: Moderate
- Developers are sporadic with their interaction. They are hesitant to answer the tough questions
- Minor issues that are brought up by the community are often shelved for next year’s release - i.e. no urgency to fix issues for this year’s version
- Additions to the game: Focused on adding gimmicks that appeal to casual gamers
- Season Showdown - earn virtual points for playing the game
- Minor updates to presentation, gameplay and CPU intelligence
As expected, the reaction from the tribe has been quite different for each title.
Madden fans love the interaction with the developers, changes to the development philosophy and addition of features that make the game realistic. But will casual gamers enjoy this title? Will sales volume drop due to lack of features that appeal to casual gamers?
NCAA fans are starting to feel as if the development team is completely ignoring them. Features that make the game realistic have not been added (despite several tribe members bringing it to the developer’s attention). Gimmicks such as Season Showdown are being laughed at by the tribe. But will these additions make more casual buyers pick up the title? Will sales volume increase due to the addition of features that appeal to casual gamers? What is the impact of leaving the tribe out?
We are yet to see what actually happens, NCAA Football is released mid-July while Madden is released in mid-August.
So the question is what should your brand do? Should you focus on making your product/service for your tribe OR for the audience at large?
As you may have guessed, our philosophy is to focus on your tribe and let them bring others in the fold.