Push him around! Tell him what to do!
Koei Tecmo Europe recently tweeted, and its North American branch chimed in, that the company isn't sure about bringing Yoru no Nai Kuni overseas. On the surface, this looks harmless, or perhaps even like good business. They are, after all, asking their customers if something appeals to them. There are some warning signs about this, however.
One small flaw would be the obvious sampling error. A company's customer base is generally several times bigger than its social media follower pool. For example, Koei Tecmo America has 18,100 Twitter followers, though if a brand new console game only sells that many copies, it's a huge dud that puts whole studios on notice (unless it had an impossibly small budget). They're not actually polling anywhere near their full customer base on this. They're aware of this, it can still skew the findings.
The only responses you're going to get are from people who are dedicated enough to follow you on social media. That's one of the flaws with the type of research that comes from fan polls or, back in the day, those little questionnaires that used to come inside instruction booklets. Remember those? You'd write down what systems you have and where you bought the game and why, and stuff like that? Yeah. They're helpful, they provide some insight, but not the whole picture. Yet we see so many localization groups saying in so many words that a game's localization all depends on how many Facebook and Twitter bites a game gets.
Moreover, the people saying "yes" are going to be the dominant majority. If you log on and see Heathsoft asking "Would you like me to localize Super Blow Shit Up 3?" and it doesn't interest you, you probably won't actually say, "Count me out." The common user, if he/she even sees the post, would more likely be counted out in silence. Meanwhile, the "yes" vote might dominate and paint an inaccurate picture. This could lead to games being localized and not actually meeting sales expectations. It's a shitty scenario, but one that's bound to happen when your market testing relies too heavily on Twitter.
But there's a bigger problem: one of faith.
A studio should have a firm belief in its products. While localizing a game based on tweets and faceblogs and other forms of fan demand is admirable, I want the game company to have some fucking confidence. Can they not just — you know — play the game, see if they think it's good and then create a marketing strategy based around showing us just how fucking good it is?
So to Temco Koei, I say this: follow your heart. Listen to your gut. Channel your inner gamer.
Play the game, think critically about whether or not you think it's good enough to serve up to the market, whether your team can do a good job localizing it, and whether you can hit some high numbers with it.
If you're talking to your social media followers, tell them honestly if you like a game. You're making it look like you've never touched this game before. It looks like you don't actually play games, but you ended up with this job somehow. Customers like to buy from studios that seem like they have a passion for what they do — who have a vision and a commitment to follow that vision.
I should say that Koei Tecmo isn't the only publisher that has done this, as let's-see-if-we-can-make-them-beg approach to marketing has become more popular with the changing times. Why play a game and try to hype it up yourself when you can let active volunteers do it for you, after all? But all things work best in a balance.
So get your hands on the game itself, play it, and then you decide, game publishers. Show us that you have some actual faith in your games.
Go with what you know, my friends.