Chris Shadforth - Business Design Concepts

During last Thursday's class, we were visited by a friend to my lecturer by the name of Chris Shadforth. He visited to talk to us about business design concepts and marketing. I personally found this to be a very useful talk, as it filled in a lot of cracks of questions I've had previously about marketing. In short, the presentations purpose was to reduce the possibility of failure and to build a model of customers. To do this, our main primary rule was "don't bullshit yourself", Something I as non-English speaker learned meant "don't lie to yourself".

The first crack to fill was "what is marketing". I've sort of had an understanding with it during the classes, but never really had a sentence to explain it. But thankfully, Chris's presentation did. The way it was explained was "A process for creating, communicating, delivering and exhanging offerings that have value for customers, clients etc.". This was not the full explanation but unfortunately that's all my notes said. 

The main section of the presentation was all about the 4 P's of marketing. Price, Place, Promotion and Product. I'll go through each of these and talk about what I learned and what it means for my profession.

Price

There was a lot of good stuff to learn about this, considering I haven't charged money for any of my games. The first thing we talked about was "what do competitors charge?" which was interesting to me as often when making a game I don't really see other games as competitors. I make my thing and they make theirs. Of course, when it comes to pricing you really just want to check what they are charging, and then match your game with theirs and see if you can charge the same amount, which is really interesting. I'll try to do this moving forward with the games that I'm making.

Another thing that I learned to keep in mind is expectations at different price points. What people expect at different price points helps you as a content creator to place a price on your product depending on quality and content. For my own practices, I would most likely always place my price slightly below the price of the competitor, unless I am 100% sure that my game is better in some way. 

Other than that, we learnt about common price conventions, bulk discounts and price drops. Common price conventions meaning that most companies make a $5 product $4.99 instead as our brains interpret that as cheaper.

Place

Place was something that we didn't need to talk a lot about as we as game developers know where to sell our products. Mainly itch.io, but there's always Gamejolt and Steam.

Promotion

For promotion we learned some things we already knew and some new things. The first thing is that promotion is not the whole of marketing, however, in my personal opinion it's a big part of it. Of course, marketing is a lot about scoping out your audience and figuring out what they like. 

We were told that visual designers and writers are good to have, and even better if you know some personally, but access to the right audience is better. For example if you know an academic that can write reviews of your games and so on (hinting at the one academic we used to have as a lecturer, Brendan Keogh). We were taught there three different types of promotion. Paid, owned and earned. Paid being of course a service you pay to do promotion, owned being a friend or colleague that does it for you, and earned being the kind of promotion you get from getting a lot of downloads or views on YouTube. While doing promotion it is always important to keep track of trends.

The 4th P of marketing, Product, will return later in this post.

Brand

Next up we were taught about brand, which has two definitions. The unofficial one, is the mental model of your business/product/you.  For example, my brand is the viking themes I keep in my work. I use runes and stone, Nordic mythology and etc. for websites and games. The official definition tend to be limited to symbols of identification. There are personal brands (which is the one i'm using), team brands and product brands.

Risk

We talked a bit about risk management as well, which was a very useful thing to touch on. We should always avoid mental risk, and only take risks where failure would improve us. Through our degree we have been thought that burnout and crunching is never worth it. Crunching being the concept of working to the point where you barely sleep in order to meet a deadline. With risks you also need to minimize leaps of faith, and always look to win over the long run. 

As a game developer I feel like I have been taught risk management in a proper way. Of course, sometimes crunching is unintentional and unavoidable. Research and preparations are also good ways of avoiding leap of faiths, and just taking risks over all.

Observation

Observation in this case means observing your audience in order to find out what types of features they like in your product. The first advice was "go where your audience is", which in our case would be forums like Reddit or social media like YouTube. Then take notes. Take a lot of notes, as opinions are different in different parts of the internet.

It is also important to approach these observations as a stranger, and not as a game developer, and always be careful of participation in discussions and the like. You don't want to have influences or cause influences that may skew your findings.

The Exercise

The rest of the talk that Chris held was tied to a certain exercise that was carried out afterwards. It was a useful exercise that had us dive deep into what customers gains and pains, and what we as developers could do to create those gains or relieve the pains.

Conclusion

This talk was very eye-opening into all the different procedures and processess that go into marketing. It closed a lot of gaps for me in what we have learned so far, and I will take many of the things I learned from the talk into account when moving forward in my career as an indie game developer.

Definitely the main take-away for me was the part about pricing, as I've never put a price on any game I've made ever. If possible I've always had donations or ad-revenue as the main income, and Chris talk taught be a lot about what I can do in order to put the right price on my game that it deserves.

That is all for now! thanks for reading this rather lengthy blog. Until next time, take care