The Low Hanging Fruit: Why Gamers Shouldn't Become Billboards

Perhaps my friend Dan Golding, over at Crikey, put it best: "The sophistication of Assassin’s Creed III’s “do free advertising for us and we’ll give you more advertising” online campaign is amazing.”

He’s right, it’s truly amazing. In fact… it’s sublime.

In case you missed it — yesterday Ubisoft gave gamers all an important task. It was our responsibility, as fans of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, to spread the word about the Assassin’s Creed 3. Our reward? Access to an all-new gameplay trailer — another piece of marketing which, presumably, we will also be encouraged to share.

“Join in the united effort to reach 1,776,000 posts, tweets and shares to unlock the Assassin’s Creed III World Gameplay Premiere!” announced the webpage. Just 24 hours later the progress par shows the united effort is almost half way there.

And guess what! Well done — pat on the back — we're now well on our way to having another piece of marketing beamed directly to our eyeballs. If we’re lucky, we might even get a chance to see the super cool pre-order bonuses!

Honestly — why do we, as gamers, make it so easy?

Why are we so willing to become conduits for marketing? Why are we so quick to fall hook line and sinker for hype driven campaigns that promise us nothing but more products for us to purchase and consume?

Here is the situation: as a collective, our enthusiasm for a product is being manipulated and masterfully funneled in an attempt to inspire a similar enthusiasm in others; in people who couldn't care less about the new Assassin's Creed III trailer, people who'll behave like normal consumers: they'll either buy the game when it's released (if it interests them) or ignore it (if it doesn't).

We’ve seen everything over the last couple of years — countdowns for countdowns of announcements, gamification for early game unlocks, massive scrambles for pre-order bonuses. Ubisoft is hardly the only offender here — everybody’s at it, and why wouldn’t they be? An engaged audience is a paying audience, and targeted campaigns like the Assassin’s Creed III campaign are like a strange alchemy — they turn social media lead into gold. It's a bold new frontier and it's the job of smart marketing campaigns to embrace and exploit that audience.

It’s difficult to blame Ubisoft for picking the low hanging fruit that is the dedicated gaming consumer.

But I think the important question here is: ‘do we have to hang so low?’ At time of writing almost 1,000,000 gamers have been willing to bother their friends and family — to tweet, post and share essentially nothing, a bland marketing message, duller than dust — all for the alluring promise of yet another marketing message.

What does that say about us as a group?

It probably says that we are probably a little too invested in the video game brands we love. That we’re a little too far gone; that we love our games a little too much, that we’re knee deep in a collective hype. So deep, in fact, that we're willing to shunt that enthusiasm onto others for more of the same.

And I’m part of the problem. Actually, maybe I am the problem. So quick to post new trailers, because I know people want to watch. So quick to inform everyone of the awesome new Art Book you can get if you pre-order Call of Duty/Assassin’s Creed/Bioshock Infinite right now. So quick to get excited, so quick to share that excitement.

Perhaps I’m overreacting, but sometimes I wonder — is our behaviour as a collective that predictable? Are we the all-conquering 18-35 year old male? Eating Domino’s pizza, watching The Avengers at the cinema, guzzling on Mountain Dew in our oversized video game t-shirts, figurines on the shelf, branding inexplicably glued to every aspect of our lives.

I’d like to think we’re capable of more that. We’re older and more savvy. We’re more critical of what we consume and we should expect better — if we’re the low hanging fruit perhaps we should be a little more robust. Maybe we shouldn't allow our passion to be taken for granted.

There's nothing wrong with being excited about new trailers, and there's nothing wrong with being engaged with marketing material — but is it our job, as a group, to spread that advertising message so succinctly? Should we really be allowing our love for video games to be exploited so easily?

I say no. Video games are just another thing we do, something we happen to be engaged with, it shouldn't define us. And it shouldn't be used as marketing collateral.

Ubisoft, kindly present your no doubt well-put-together video for our consumption, sans all this protracted, manufactured nonsense. As consumers, we will then decide if we want to watch it. And if we like the material, we may even decide to share the video with other like minded people. That's how this marketing thing works or, at the very least, that's how it should work.

We are not billboards, and we shouldn't be treated as such.


    I got this in my inbox yesterday, didn't posted it. Was not getting fooled!

      The real answer?

      As much as gamers try to claim that gaming isn't a children's hobby, it actually is. The average age of gamers might be 32, but most of us in our late 20's early 30's are man children anyway.

      Fact is, we're being treated like the children we are. It's why we'll put up with anything, and pay almost any price, and then ask for more. We did it with the latest toy as children, and we're still doing it with our newer toys as man children.

        Not just gamers mate. It's like this with everything, clothing, cars, sports. Most consumer industries are severely exploitive. It's not just gaming.

    Avatar: The Legend of Korra had a similar campaign before the show started.

    Instead of releasing a trailer, they released the first two episodes of the show.

    Can we make that the norm?

      +1 for your general viewing habits.
      Young Justice and Avatar show you as a man of taste!

      And the numbers of viewers the show is getting proves that releasing the episodes online hasn't affected it's tv popularity at all. Hopefully others will learn from Nickelodeon's example.

      I'm curious. Since I lived in Tasmania at the time and only had dial-up (way down in Dover), did they show the first two episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender online? I ask because they showed the first two episodes on Nickelodeon (for around a month or so until they eventually got the third).

    Well said, I also find it somewhat odd why people who are so excited about the game need to see a trailer that's going to spoil some of that experience any way. I get that there's folks still on the fence, but game play footage is only going to give you a sense of deja vu when you inevitably get the game any way... or something... *shrugs*

      dont like it dont watch it i cant wait for the trailer

        Hey guys, let's all miss the point DC was trying to make!

    I think it's interesting to look at this, and compare it to Blizzard's system for Diablo 3(which is essentially the same as what they did for SC2:WoL). On the surface, both have similarities, you do menial tasks to help spread the word, culminating towards a big reveal. The Diablo's in the details, as nobody has ever said. While Blizz encouraged you to post about stuff on Facebook and the like, you weren't required to. It may have made the counter go up faster, but I don't really know. They also had multiple "rewards" at different tiers, and even though each one was essentially just a puff-piece for the game, or some free advertising for them, they were interesting. So, if I were to ever actually post things to my facebook page, I probably would have happily done so for D3, because the reward was satisfactory for the effort. Not so for for this.

      "The Diablo’s in the details, as nobody has ever said."


      Also, in Blizzard's system for Diablo, you could potentially unlock things in-game, without whoring yourself out and sharing everything.
      It actually had the sigil making activity, not just a share-this-page feature.

        Hmm yes, I appear to have failed at conveying that point properly. Derp. I blame that it's the morning. >.>

        But yes, you're completely right.

          In the end, it's the same effect, but gone about it in a completely different (and better imo) way.

            I'm going to say that it's objectively better, and anybody who wants to argue with me can... ummm... suck it?

            Sure, why not.

            Blizzard's method didn't feel like a cheap method of advertising, it felt like community interaction.



    *plows through the wall on the way out*

      On a side note - i never really engage with these things....

      ...unless they offer cool prizes - then i become a consumer whore :S

      PS. Have you played Space Marine yet, Mark?
      If not - go home right now and do so. It's worth losing your job over.

        On a completely unrelated note - Space Marine


          Suffer not the witch to live.

            They shall be my finest warriors, these men who give themselves to me.
            Like clay I shall mould them and in the furnace of war I shall forge them.
            They will be of iron will and steely muscle.
            In great armour shall I clad them and with the mightiest gun shall they be armed.
            They will be untouched by plague or disease, no sickness will blight them.
            They will have tactics, strategies and machines such that no foe will best them in battle.
            They are my bulwark against the terror.
            They are the defenders of Humanity.
            They are my Space Marines...
            ...and they shall know no fear.

      I had the image of the Kool-Aid jug whilst reading that.


      Holy shit, I just sprayed my Coca-Cola all over my screen. Funny as hell.

      Way to go, Loops.

      Space Maureen is my favourite Ikea catalog model, narrowly beating out Convenience Judith and Modern-Living Sarah

    This issue isn't unique to gamers... there are lots of markets that use social media to generate pointless liking and linking. And there are lots of social media users silly enough to do it, whether they're into video games, fashion, music, or anything else...

    They should have just saved it for e3. At this rate we'll have no surprises left, like last year! (with the exception of Luigi's Mansion 2)

    Love it Mark.

    However, this campaign would not exist without the incredible marketing power of Twitter and Facebook. Marketing video games has changed so rapidly that we actually are billboards. We always have been billboards, since the dawn of time. Before the meteoric rise of social media, we were a 2x3 billboard in a dimly lit alleyway behind a brothel in the outer suburbs. Our marketing power as individuals has increased exponentially with social media as companies begin to flesh out the most effective ways to advertise their products. We've become a 20x50 billboard, standing tall above the busiest freeway in the world.

    This isn't exploitation of our love of video games, its exploitation of our love to tell people, friends and a lot of strangers about the things we like via the internet. It's about saying "hey everyone! I like assassins creed three! i like it so much that i want to see the new trailer!" and then some people either think "big deal assassins creed three" and some think "shit! i like assassins creed three too, but no one knows I do... I need to tell people!" = status update/timeline post/tweet.

    It is genius marketing that plays on our love affair with social media. To the consumer it becomes less about advertising a product and more about the pissing contest that takes place on those websites.

      We've been billboards since t shirts could be printed on. It's always baffled me why people pay to wear advertisements.

    The Stath does not approve of this sort of advertisement.

    Go see Safe, in cinemas May 10. It's Statham at his best.

      Is he a Space Marine?

        Nah, He would be something cooler... like a Striking Scorpion.

          I will admit, striking scorpions are pretty rad... but not as rad as Warp Spiders.

          I'm sorry for a moment I thought you said cool...

          Like a Terminator...

          Or a Khorne Berzerker...

          Or a Warpspider...

          Or a Vindicare Assassin....

          But a Striking Scorpion? They ride the friggin shortbus into battle, they're the 'special' squad of the aspects...

            What about the dire avengers?
            Space Smurfs

              Howling Banshees and Dark Reapers are the coolest aspects, obv.

              Dire avengers as space smurfs? Are you forgetting the ultrasmurfs?

            Striking Scorpion bad? You sure you're not talking about Singing Spears?

    Yet everyday this site has to rewrite media releases and the line between journalism and second hand advertiser gets blurrier. I wish we could get more long form writing about games or the people who make them and less about the people that sell and market them.

      That component is always going to be there though, like print magazines could be considered giant catalogues without prices (although some will even state that). A site like Kotaku for me is a central place where I can find all the latest on press releases on upcoming games, new trailers or whatever. It saves me from heading to individual sites (Ubi/EA/THQ, etc) for the specific info I was looking for, plus I might find something of interest I wasn't aware of before (eg: The Unfinished Swan).

      The issue I have is what marketing is turning into, the equivalent for Kotaku would be clicking a story I was interested in, but I wasn't able to read the whole story unless I "Liked/Tweeted/+1" the story along with 1000s of other people, as Mark states in his wrap up, gave us the content upfront and we will consider whether or not it's worth talking about and/or sharing.

    Some time ago I was sitting on my bike in traffic and looking at the cars with (Insert clothing/energy drink company here) logo's plastered across the back windows and the doors and on T-shirts and hats and I wonder "Why?"

    Does the company pay them to tag their car? Do they pay them to wear the t-shirts? No. Chances are the person spent money on the sticker, on the T-shirt.

    And then it dawned on my the potential profit in making people pay for privledge of wearing your advertising.

    Advertising agencies are the devil.

      Also, have you guys heard about SPACE MARINE yet?

        OMG NO1!!!


    I'm going to buy AC3 when it comes out (possibly before!). I don't care about every tiny piece of marketing between now and then... although I did just go look up Space Marine thanks to earlier comments in this thread. Well done, WH40k fans and your not-so-subtle promotion...

      What's that?
      You need to find an affordable copy of the highly underrated, yet critically acclaimed Space Marine, from Relic and THQ??
      Well it's a good thing i have one of these, spare for you!

        Oh, what's that you say? Your love of the Emperor of mankind is challenged only by your love of businesses succeeding in Australia?
        Well take one of these then, my friend!

        Why thank you, kind internet person. I like ozgameshop for my unhurried purchasing requirements.

          game - new $24, used $34. *scratches head*

            That;s because it comes crusty with fan love, which is almost twice as valuable as a virgin copy!

    i wont be supporting ubisoft in this

      You know who would love your support, though?
      The wonderful team that bought us Space Marine!

        They bought us Space Marine? Free games for everyone! WOOP WOOP WOOP WOOP WOOP!

          Maybe that;s why THQ has gone down the drain.. hmmm..

    So don't bloody do it then?

    Once they see their stupid marketing for marketing thing fails, they won't do this stuff any more.

    Look, I've got my Vans, my 501s and a Dope Beastie tee.
    I've got my nipples pierced, and I just got this *sweet* tattoo. Between sips of Coke, I'm typing out this comment, because I think you're all selling out and sucking up.

      *slow clap*

      Well played sir.

    Interesting line of comment to read against a backdrop of 'Safe' skins and ad buyouts. Isn't the real problem that if Ubisoft's plan works, you guys are stuffed?

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