The Case of the Great Game Nobody Saw

We normally think of Evolve PR's Tom Ohle as the man in charge of promoting The Witcher franchise or, if you've been following the industry for awhile, BioWare's earlier titles, but today he's the guy behind a thought-provoking article that highlights the challenges involved with getting video game websites and other outlets to provide exposure for unique, well-conceived games that were developed by virtually unknown studios and don't have a lot of marketing dollars behind them. Anomaly Warzone Earth is the title that's primarily being used as an example, but The Witcher and The Witcher 2 score a few mentions:
As a PR practitioner, it's ultimately my job to ensure that my clients' products are seen. We often know, going in, that a game won't be a hit; we can tell when a game sucks or doesn't have widespread appeal. In those cases it's simply difficult to get traction. Members of the media will shrug off bad games like an undetected fart, and honestly, it's just tough to become passionate about promoting games when we know we're climbing an insurmountable hill of apathy. But when we have a game that immediately strikes us as magical, revolutionary, disruptive or otherwise worthy of consumers' awareness, we rush into action, thrust forward by excitement and the hope that, yes, we can help our client achieve success. Or, more ambitiously, we feel we can make a difference in the industry by shedding light on games that won't benefit from multi-million-dollar ad budgets and flashy press junkets.

It's at this point that reality tends to set in. Convince your cash-strapped clients to fly across the country (or the world) on a press tour, only to face media responses of, (Oh sorry, Publisher X is holding an all-day review event that day) or (I'm too busy) and it's tough not to feel dejected. Certainly, people are busy, but often it's the same writers who can't spare 30 minutes at their very own desk for a demo who end up going to extensive press junkets or all-day preview events for high-profile titles.


Now, this may sound like whining from a PR guy who's been doing this for too long, jaded and lacking sufficient caffeine. I don't have some grand sense of entitlement that tells me I should get top-spot coverage for everything I promote. Hell, I can't even say that the lack of visibility has hurt Anomaly it's doing very well, and it's 11 bit's first game. so surely they're on their way to incredible success in the industry. I'm also benefiting from the opposite effects with The Witcher 2 it feels like we could introduce goofy boot tassles as DLC and get front-page media coverage with that game.

At its core, this is an issue that pervades entertainment and consumerism as a whole. People stick with brands they know. Everyone craps all over themselves (myself included) when a new Rockstar game is announced. That's fine; they make great games. But in an industry that so often complains about derivative sequels, soulless big-budget productions and a lack of risk-taking, isn't it about time we started focusing on quality? Shouldn't those companies looking to push the boundaries of the medium begin to reap the rewards? If things keep going the way they are, we'll never shed the $60 price point, we'll get sequels to major franchises every year, and we'll all keep complaining and wishing things were different.