The heated debates regarding the ending of Bioshock Infinite have helped to prolong the game’s sales period, creating a social media marketing giant. Video game developers and marketers need to learn Bioshock Infinite’s lesson: The true power of marketing lies in the imagination of the gamer.
Bioshock Infinite’s ending got gamers talking and resulted in excellent social media internet marketing
There is nothing as valuable to sales these days as marketing with social networking. It’s the modern, free version of customer generated marketing.
While game developers may invest millions of dollars into marketing AAA titles, their money cannot match the value of having the gaming world create its own marketing via discussion on forums, websites and word of mouth. Game trailers may excite us, but nothing sells a title quite as well as having the gaming world talking about it.
Bioskhock Infinite knows this all too well. From creating such a complex and thought provoking ending, Bioshock Infinite virtually demands its players to get on forums and sites and start discussing the game. This then creates interest in new gamers, who buy the game, discuss the game and then, once again, perform some much needed customer-generated marketing. Bioshock Infinite’s ending is like a lesson from a social media marketing school.
Where Bioshock Infinite succeeded, most games fail.
Most games these days are written with a linear plot leading towards a single ending that is set in stone, regardless of the player’s actions. Such games revolve around the simple cycle of setting a mission, having the player complete that mission and then providing a definite plot point. This cycle then progresses onwards towards a definite conclusion.
There’s nothing wrong with this format of storytelling in games. After all, stories in all different media have followed the same linear structure for thousands of years. Whether we’re watching a movie, reading a book or out at the theatre, we know that when we experience a story we’re experiencing the one and only version of that story.
By watching the one and only version of a story we know that we are seeing the official version, the version that the screenwriter / author wants us to see. This doesn’t help your efforts in marketing with social networking, thought.. If no questions are left unanswered, if we’ve seen the one and only version of a game and understood it in its entirety, what need do we have to discuss it with others?
Good video games marketing depends on gamers talking, and getting gamers talking depends on leaving them with unanswered questions, just as Bioshock Infinite does.
Video games, in many ways, have an advantage over other story types because of their interactive nature. Games are able to produce different plots and endings dependent on player actions. In many ways, games demand multiple plots and multiple endings. After all, what is the point in two gamers playing a game in different ways if both end up experiencing exactly the same story?
In terms of marketing and in terms of pure video game design, multiple plots and endings is a natural strategy for games. Yet most games still fall back on tradition, linear storytelling.
Perhaps this is no surprise. It is a gargantuan task to create a traditional, linear story. Many writers take years to complete their fiction (myself included). The complexity of the task is only compounded when user interaction and multiple-branching storytelling is taken into account.
Thankfully there is an alternative to creating multiple-branching storylines. That alternative is to leave the interpretation of the game’s story and ending up to the player, something Bioshock Infinite excels in. Bioshock Infinite’s ending ignites the gamer’s imagination and reaps the rewards of customer generated marketing as a result.
Another game which succeeded in this regarded is Final Fantasy VII, and we all know how much social media marketing a title like Final Fantasy 7 acrues.
Final Fantasy 7’s ending is one of the most talked about moment in games = Very healthy social media network marketing!
When players are left with questions, they want answers. Answers demand discussion. Discussion creates customer generated marketing. Customer generated marketing creates sales. And all that is required is a little thought provoking and an open-ended ending.
If you’re a game developer, you’re mad not to leave the ending of your game open and debateable. This is especially true if you are an indie game developer. If you don’t have money to market a game, you need to make sure that every single one of the few gamers who end up playing your game end up talking about it. The best way to do that is by provoking their imagination, and the best way to do that, in turn, is by leaving questions unanswered.