The ‘future’ of marketing is happening now. Or at least it is for the gaming industry, anyway.
If you are a progressive marketing professional (maybe even one with a touch of idealism) some of your days are spent somewhere between shame and horror.
When I'm having one of those days, I often find there's nothing like a look at the gaming industry for a jolt of optimism.
Gaming is the largest entertainment industry on earth, and it has been pulling away from Hollywood and the music industry for a couple of years now. But it's still being snubbed by mainstream media and (despite BAFTA's embrace) also by the cultural sphere.
It's maybe this ‘outsider mentality’ that makes this industry reach out to its communities in increasingly ingenious ways.
OUYA launched on Kickstarter on 7 July last year with the goal of raising $900,000. It sold 20,0000 units in the first 24 hours. By August 9th, when the Kickstarter fundraising campaign closed, it had raised nearly $9 million. This figure has likely seen significant growth since then due to pre-orders made through their website.
It's an attractive product proposition to begin with. A relatively cheap $99 pre-order price gets you a full HD unit with a wireless controller. Games are downloaded from the net and are largely free to experience. It's also a compact and slick looking product designed by international product design star Yves Béhar.
As for the opportunity - microconsoles may potentially be a bridge between the mobile gaming category and our living room's big screens.
OUYA and its peers appeal to a variety of large, lucrative, communities:
• Casual and mobile gamers wishing to take a more visceral, shareable experience to their living room couch
• Game developers seeking an open, uncomplicated platform to create for
• Console gamers seeking a low-cost top-up that brings their mobile gaming experience in line with the couch and the shared gaming experience they know and love
• PC gamers who want to go back to the living room, lean back in comfort, and play games together with friends, sample the design innovation and quirkiness of the flourishing indie gaming industry, and let's face it - being PC gamers would never let something this interesting pass them by.
So here is OUYA's latest stroke of genius:
Recently, OUYA has announced it will produce short documentary-style videos for the top three most played games on their platform (for the first six weeks of the console's life once it's shipped).
This idea is not just the most clever bit of marketing I've come across in a while, it also brings together many of the things that could be done better in the marketing world nowadays:
• It’s truly beneficial: it motivates developers to "get ready for prime time" and compete with each other to make their games better (they've been working in a closed Beta mode since December), thus directly benefiting both OUYA's first wave of gamers, developers and partners.
• It’s good PR, without hype or spin: While benefiting the key stakeholders, it creates PR about the best first games for the console. Thus, it makes OUYA look good. However, it does not rely on hype or vaporware - it's real content, about real games proven to be good (as they are the most played).
• It makes use of real data: it bases the selection on real-time feedback, making use of the data provided by the digital platform.
• It’s attention-grabbing by taking part in a relevant market dialogues, not by shouting: it courts the attention of gamers who have not bought into the console yet without wasting their time. It creates valuable content for them by giving an engaging answer to the most important question they have about any new console: are the games any good? This will help with any sceptics who were reluctant to pre-order.
• It positions OUYA as a positive steward of its own ecosystem - making it look good to gamers, developers and the media - using OUYA's best early-stage content.
In summary, it's a win-win-win-win-win situation: Gamers, developers, partners, brand, media... Everybody wins. That's Hyper-PR, rather than Hype-PR.
The term ‘ecosystem’ is marched about a lot nowadays. Media products may be an extreme example of ecosystem-driven marketing models, but this is still a stunning example of how a simple marketing idea can orchestrate its ecosystem in near-perfect harmony.
Uri Baruchin is strategy director at The Partners