The Avengers and the power of momentum
One of my most recurring themes — the thing I say over and over again in blogs, to clients, and in meetings — is that the software business is just like every other business.
A lot of press is generated when a high school kid in his basement makes a website and sells it for millions. But in general, the software industry does not work on lucky breaks. This goes even more for games. A great game can go completely unnoticed if it has no momentum behind it, and especially if it has no marketing behind it.
So what does this have to do with the Avengers?
You probably heard that The Avengers had a record opening weekend. That’s especially crazy in light of the fact that the vast majority of people buying tickets that weekend had very little personal history with The Avengers before a couple years ago. But this film is an example of the exceptional power of momentum.
First, you have a comic book universe with a history reaching back to the early 1960s. People were reading Avengers comics a full decade before I was even born. That’s almost 50 years of audience building.
Second, they wisely introduced the characters to the mass audience in their own films (Iron Man 1 & 2, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor). This is a fantastic example of diversification — if you don’t care for Iron Man or the Hulk, you might like Thor or Captain America. And if you like one of those characters, you will likely be interested in a film that contains all of them.
Third, they slammed all of those characters into a single film, marketed the hell out of it, and let the momentum do its thing. It should come as no surprise that the film broke records.
So how does this apply to selling games? Simple, really. To borrow an annoying, contemporary meme, if you open a store and only sell one product, you’re gonna have a bad time.
A terrific strategy to employ when selling software is to make sure your products are all cross promoting each other, and the overall brand of your company. A great game that reaches a few people allows you to build an audience. It builds awareness of your studio and gives you a group of people to announce your next game to. People will start watching to see what you do next.
Nintendo is another great example. They reuse characters all the time. How many games has Mario been in? They build loyalty to those characters, spin them off into different game genres, and build on prior successes. And then they, too, made their own Avengers mash up with Super Smash Bros.
So while you may get lucky and have that overnight success, you would definitely do well to try to build momentum and have a terrific long term strategy. The game market is crowded as it is, but luckily its crowded with a lot of players without any sort of strategy.