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What’s in a Name: Intentional Confusion to Sell a Game

Published on August 18, 2011 by in editorial

Recently we have seen publisher reaching into their backlogs to create “remakes” of older titles.  This trend in gaming is not exclusive interactive entertainment.  We see this all the time in the film industry as well.  But, when a company does try and remake a game, what is the goal?  To get the consumer to try and remember the older version and still make this new version profitable.  With some genres losing popularity throughout the market, a publisher and developer are not only remaking that title, but basically creating a whole new product to see to the newer generation.

I am not going into detail about why this is the case, the goal of a developer/publisher is to make money, but what interests me more is the way they just use the same name.  Thus trying to trigger that part of our gaming memory to say, “Hey, I remember this thing, it was badass!”  That short statement is exactly what an executive or marketer wants to hear.  The most critical of these cases is, by far, 2K Marin’s upcoming reinterpretation of the beloved X-COM series.  Of course, named X-COM.  Seriously, that is it.

What was once a tactical strategy game is now a first person shooter, why you ask?  Not to cater to fans of the series, but to bring the product to the “now” generation, the one that is absolutely in love with the first person shooter genre.  I am not pointing a finger at 2K Games for this fact, again, they are out to make the shareholders happy and creating a top down tactical strategy game that isn’t from Eastern Europe or made by Blizzard would be financial heresy.

Take for example the recently announced FIFA Street from Electronic Arts.  Technically speaking, this is the fourth entry into the series, but why the name change?  Of course, this is a “new version” of the game featuring entirely licensed players.  Now think of the confusion on the retail level.  Well, this is the “next-gen” version, so it is an entirely new experience, but what if I did not like the older games in the series?  Is this a smart decision for EA?  I am not sure, but we will see.  Does the amount of players who enjoyed the older FIFA Street games outweigh the ones who disliked it?

From my slightly knowledgeable chair, I can share this insight.  The FIFA “sim series” has sold very, very well for the publisher, so they are looking for a way to capitalize on this; hence, another title with a very similar name.  Theoretically, it would be the marketing department’s job to keep us informed about the differences, but of course, that is out of the hands of the average game purchases in this day and age.

Without trying to piss off to many folks, I will leave you with the following conclusions.  A publisher is out to make a profit, especially the ones that are publicly traded.  They are going to continue to reach into their massive catalogues and remake older titles.  Just be aware, that confusion in naming a game is somewhat nefarious.  But how do we fix this problem you ask?  It is not possible, but being knowledgeable about the products you buy will always help you not feel like you wasted money in the end.

What is promising is the growth in the indie sector through Steam, PSN and XBLA.  This shows a willingness to not pump out the same stuff like the film industry, but evolve.  That is the reason that the video game industry will continue to grow, even with a bit of confusion thrown into it.

 
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1 Comment  comments 
  • .chip

    Sounds like a topic to discuss on an upcoming show