F*cking product placement… How does that work?

November 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

Not like this. (Note: last time I use this meme. Promise.)

Seriously, I could probably do a whole blog on poor product placement.

Offenders: Microsoft and How I Met Your Mother.

CrunchGear very much hits the nail on the head here. But, in essence:

No.

No...

NO.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooo.

For shame, Microsoft, and the producers of HIMYM, for even believing for one second that this would fly.

If this is how far down the show has sunk, I think I’m pretty much done with it. I mean, jeez, even I, Robot wasn’t this bad (though it was also terrible):

Product placement isn’t evil, but as soon as it becomes obvious, it has failed. As soon as people get wind of it, they turn against the product. When done badly, it’s incredibly lame.

Is that really the response you want the consumer to associate with your brand?

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Black Ops Incoming!

November 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

It seems like everyone’s talking about Black Ops at the moment – and I hate to buck a trend. I’m quite looking forward to playing the game, given that I was a fan of Treyarch’s last title in the Call of Duty franchise, World at War. Never really understood the absurd amount of disdain the fanbase had for these guys; nor was I very impressed when Infinity Ward’s community manager at the time, Robert Bowling, publicly attacked Treyarch producer Noah Heller. (Pretty unprofessional, to be honest.)

Since the mass exodus at Infinity Ward, sentiment towards the much maligned studio has shifted significantly. They’re now seen as top dog, where as before they were the annoying little brother tagging along for the ride. It’s good to see them get their dues, and I’m hopeful that this new game will at least equal Infinity Ward’s (RIP) effort in quality.

An anthropomorphised impression of Treyarch.

As with Modern Warfare 2, this is looking to be one of the biggest releases of the year, and the supermarkets have already geared themselves up for a price war against each other and the specialist retailers. Consequently, they’ve been some cool deals popping up here and there. Cheap Arse Gamer has a whole thread dedicated to them, as do several other websites. My current favourite is Tesco’s £25 offer for the game if you also buy a 3-month Xbox LIVE Gold or 2100 MS Points card, which I would probably go for if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m buying the PC version of the game.

Why PC? Well, someone’s got to stick up for the platform – and it is a great platform – but I guess the biggest thing is that Black Ops, unlike its predecessor, includes support for dedicated servers. From my rant last year, you can rightly assume I’m pretty happy about that.

Kinect is released in the US; world sighs relief; I just sigh

November 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking about what to write about today, and truthfully I haven’t seen anything that interesting other than this wacky shit.

Oh, and Kinect came out in the US. And despite a bunch of gaming websites plastered with coverage on the device and its associated games, I really haven’t been paying that much attention to it. From a sales standpoint, and in relation to how well Sony’s Move does, I’m curious, but purely as someone who plays video games, it’s not something I’m at all interested in.

Daaaaaaisy, Daaaaaaaaaaaisy, give me your answer do...

Now, I was blown away when I first saw it at E3 in 2009, because it just seemed so crazy then. I was intrigued by the possibilities around voice recognition and motion-controlled UI navigation, the latter in regards to how it could be utilized in RTS games and on the 360 dashboard. The voice recognition apparently works but the UI navigation appears lacking from what I’ve seen and heard so far. There are also limitations, such as the distance you need to be for Kinect to pick you up properly, the notable latency issue and the lack of fidelity in the way that it can’t, as far as I know, pick up more precise movements. Can’t say I’m blown over by the current software line-up it has either, they being the usual proof of concept demos all gussied up. Regardless of all these misgivings, however, is a larger, more fundamental issue I have with Kinect: I don’t want to be jumping around my living space when playing a game for long periods of time; I want to slouch all the way back in my comfy chair, joypad in hand, and chill the eff out.

That’s just me, though, and I’m well aware of that. I’m well aware of the fact that Kinect wasn’t made for my benefit, wasn’t being targeted towards my gaming demographic, and is trying desperately hard to convert the Xbox 360 into a family-oriented product, directly against the Wii. From a business point of view it makes sense; it’s just that as player who enjoys teh Haloz [sic], Mass Effects and Mortal Kombats of this world, I don’t really care. Although, I do think that if Kinect picks up and becomes a Wii-like phenomenon – and early reports of stock shortages are somewhat encouraging – you can absolutely bet your car, mortgage and significant other that the next console iteration will include all, if not most, of Kinect’s features built-in.

Hey, cool, my article got picked up by Resolution-Magazine!

November 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Check it out here.

Already they’ve been some interesting comments.

Some suggest Enslaved was just not as good as Borderlands, which I’m not really qualified to talk about. From what I’ve played from the demo, I wouldn’t say it comes across as “revolutionary” either, but neither was Borderlands imo. Still, it’s possible the critics got it wrong.

One commenter stated it was because there was too much competition for Enslaved to prevail, mentioning Fable III and Fallout: New Vegas. Quite plausibly a factor, I think.

Another thing that surprised was how much vitriol there was targeted at Ninja Theory, specifically at the way they publicly handled the poor sales they received for their previous game, Heavenly Sword. Was this an influencing purchasing factor? Well, no, I don’t so, because Enslaved sold almost equally as badly on the 360, whose users may not have played Heavenly Sword or felt aggrieved by Ninja Theory’s comments. However, one astute commenter made the point that Ninja Theory’s reputation with its community may have soured any chance of a grass-roots campaign to spread buzz before the game launched, and when launching a new and unusual IP, that certainly could have been a major factor.

Oh, and I almost forgot: I predicted in the article that Enslaved may become a cult classic in the same bracket Psychnauts is now regarded. On that point, I fully admit, I overreached. Whoops. 😛

Anyway, it’s good to see something I wrote get hits and responses. I obviously hit a nerve.

Addendum: Last thing. Someone said that the demo for Enslaved was weak. I actually quite enjoyed the demo, and that’s what got me interested in the game. Makes me wonder, though, whether a bad demo can have a negative impact on sales – or, to be more precise, can a poorly designed demo, not representative of the full game experience, dissuade people from buying? My impulse says that’s a yes.

Addendum to the addendum: although, I’ve also played demos of games, of which previously I had zero interest in, and then decided to buy them at some point based off my experience. So, in that way, a demo may solidify a purchasing decision within the consumer’s mind, but it can easily work both ways.

LOVEFiLM Slam Dunks The Rebound – Boom-Shakalaka!

November 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

Within twenty-four hours of my last post, LOVEFiLM has responded and done pretty much everything I could have hoped for. Here’s what they said:

So, this is very good. They got back to me, apologised and offered to help, and they responded to my responses swiftly. Next thing, they got into contact with me via DM (good standard practice, since they were going to ask me about account information):

And they’ve now given me an extra disc credit. Fantastic, a perfect follow-through!

Conclusion: all-in-all, LOVEFiLM did a great job. They turned a negative experience into a positive one, and I am now sharing that with you guys reading this; hence, they have shown integrity, and because of that, they garnered positive awareness around their service.

There is one last thing I want to mention, and this isn’t a criticism I levy at LOVEFiLM in particular: it’s a shame that more companies don’t have staff working on the weekends to deal with these sorts of customer complaints quicker. Take a look at this research conducted by Sysomos in 2009:

Now, while these statistics are a year old (a long time in social media), if we take them at face value we can see that 25.26% tweets sent out during the week occur during the weekend. That’s a quarter of all total tweets, and yet a lot of companies choose not to have staff working around this time. I think it’s not only a missed opportunity, but on the rarest of occasions it can make a company more susceptible to a PR crisis that could have been prevented. A customer complaint unanswered on a Friday can snowball into a fiasco come Monday – though, as I mentioned before, it’s not the norm.

Not to get too negative, though. LOVEFiLM deserve plaudits for acting as quickly as they did in making their customers feel valued and respected.

I am dissapoint, LOVEFiLM

October 31, 2010 § 2 Comments

You’ve all probably heard of the common idea that a bad customer experience sticks out far more than good one. Well, it’s true, and I’m going to prove it to you right here and now.

A few minutes ago I sent out two fairly irate tweets directed towards @LOVEFiLM on Twitter. I was pissed off. My DVD rental copy of Redbelt had gotten stuck around two-third’s of the way through, rendering an entire scene in the movie unplayable. Sure, to some people it might not be a big deal to miss a scene or two, but to me it’s unacceptable. That one scene could have been key to the motivations of a central character or been the focus of a major plot point. In my mind, it’s ruinous to the whole experience of watching a film.

"Why, LOVEFiLM?! Wherest art thou's CRM strategy? 😥

So, anyway, I started tweeting and got to thinking about just how many unplayable DVDs I’d sent back to LOVEFiLM over the years I’d been with them for. Turns out, they make this rather easy. They archive your history of rentals, and they send out an e-mail every time you report a faulty disc. Now, over time, I’d got to feeling that I must be receiving faulty discs about, oh, a quarter of the time; although, my point is that it had felt like this was happening more and more – like, way too often for comfort.

What did I actually find when I looked through my history and bank of e-mails, though?

Well, first off, I found out that I’ve been a subscriber since around late July 2008.

From that time I have received 211 discs through from LOVEFiLM, which includes mostly film DVDs but also Xbox 360 DVDs, and doesn’t include replacement discs.

I have reported only 11 cases of a DVD being faulty or unplayable.

While I’m no fancy mathematician, even I can work out that that’s a fault rate of around 5% over two years and roughly three months.

While it has to be said that that 5% doesn’t include the times I didn’t bother to report a faulty disc for whatever reason, that statistic is actually much lower than what I had expected it to be. I had the firm belief in my head, beyond almost all doubt, that it would be something closer to at least 25% – but no, I had only been receiving faulty discs close to, and probably just over, one-twentieth of the time. Yet, I was sure – so sure – that it was higher. And not only that, I was very ready and willing to spread that false belief all over the Internet. Inevitably, in my agitation, that’s exactly what I started to do.

Was LOVEFiLM listening to what was being said about them? No, apparently not, because I still haven’t heard from them. Perhaps I wouldn’t have even bothered writing this if they had. They could have apologised, offered me some compensation for the inconvenience, while also providing statistics demonstrating the low frequency of faulty disc reports. That would have been a great bit of customer service, and I may even have ended up relaying that information across to my friends and followers. They could have turned a negative customer experience into a positive one. Did they do that? No, they didn’t.

I guess this is the lesson to learn for businesses, one which they probably all know but that nonetheless bears repeating: your customer is irrational, impatient, quick to anger and, potentially, a risk to your reputation in this ever connected, digital world. That is not to say be afraid of your customer, but at the very least they need to be placated, and they need to feel heard when they’re not happy. When you’re offering a service, your perceived reputation is the difference between adoption and dismissal, between advocating and discouraging. Get your customers onside, keep them happy, and get them working for you, not against you.

(On a side note: from the fifty-five minutes I saw of Redbelt, I think it’s really good. Chiwetel is a criminally under appreciated actor, again delivering a charismatic, subtle performance. And if you’re one of those guys who really digs the nobility of a warrior/samurai code, this is absolutely going to rock your boat.)

Community Shitstorm at the Giant Bomb

September 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

There’s a troubling PR crisis brewing over at Giant Bomb at the moment, one of my favourite gaming websites.

They’ve just revealed a new subscriber option, where for $5 a month or $50 a year you get access to a series of premium features they’re offering, including stuff like HD video, mobile versions for any websites hosted on Whisky Media, some avatar bling and possibly a live Friday show.

The other thing they’re doing, unfortunately, is splitting the Bombcast (their weekly podcast) into two one-hour portions, with the first half being filled with time-sensitive discussion, while the second half is only accessible a week after broadcast for free members. Premium members get access to both halves of the podcast at the time of release; and hence, they don’t have to wait.

The big sticking point here is that the two-hour podcast has been and currently is free to everyone. Now, some form it is being taken away and held ransom until a week passes.

The real issue, however, is that it was heavily implied, if not outright stated, that features weren’t going to be taken away, only added, and that they don’t want to split the community. The reality is, though, that people are now being asked to pay for a feature that was previously free, and considering how the Bombcast is one of main features of the site, there will be a community divide between those who have listened to it, and so can discuss the content, and those don’t have access and turn up a week late to the party when everybody’s moved one.

In straight forward terms: they made promises and didn’t keep them, and now some parts of the community feel betrayed; hence, shitstorm.

Personally, I think content creators absolutely have the right to charge consumers for what they produce. I’m hovering over the idea of paying for the monthly subscription, myself, since I visit the site an awful lot, value the content and opinions of the creators and want a decent browsing experience while navigating on my smartphone. I also quite like Tested, one of their sister sites, for the same reasons.

No, I think this is more about broken promises rather than straight-up Internet-user entitlement syndrome.

So, what I’m really interesting in is their response to this. They’re going to be doing their Big Live Live Show: Live! sometime this afternoon, where I expect they’ll address some of these concerns. The questions is: how? The very worst thing they could do is go into victimisation mode and start calling people cheapskates. The very best thing they could do is to drop the splitting up of the podcast idea and reduce the subscription (maybe to $3 per month and $30 per year), but I think this is idealistic. What they’re going to do – what I would do – and what they should do is this: listen to the fans, don’t persecute them, respond to their accusations and be as honest as possible why you’re doing this and what the business realities are. Ryan, Jeff and Dave actually did a pretty good job of justifying the changes in a podcast they did very recently.  It’s a good start, but this is a message they’re going to have to continually repeat, and they’re still going to need to listen and respond to the concerns of the community on this if they are to maintain their good guy image.

I will be watching eagerly to see how this all unfolds.

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