Introducing Troy Parker. Troy is our current development intern at Soma. We feel like the fortunate ones to have Troy around. When it comes to learning the ropes of the video game business, Troy is like a sponge. Beyond that he is a tremendous addition to our team. Troy one day plans to have his own game company. In that pursuit we have been giving him the full amount of what is needed to succeed today, from marketing to writing elegant code. 

This post was the result of an assignment Troy was given. The assignment was to read Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin and then apply what was learned to the video game business. Feel free to ask Troy some questions, challenge his approach or comment on your agreement. 


By: Troy W. Parker

Have you ever owned a business? Have you given it much thought? I used to believe that there was a special formula to running a successful business, but recently I read a book called “Meatball Sundae” by Seth Godin that totally tipped my perspective. Now I believe it is an equation that is ever changing and this article will help explain why.

I work at Soma Games as an intern and have come across many questions that I’m sure most companies are faced with. Here is a list of those questions and a formulated answer. I hope you will enjoy this information and that it will inspire and motivate you deeply.

How can the business communicate best with the customer?

One way to effectively communicate is by communicating to those that want to listen. Communication has two parts. Message sent and message received. If a consumer doesn’t want to listen then they will not receive the message.

Customers also like to speak back. A business could set up a way to interact with the customer instead of just talking to them all the time.

One way to do this in today’s world would be to create ads that customers can interact with like a game and then have an area to rate the ad. There could even be a link to give private or public posts in order to allow the user to give feedback.

How does that relate to cell phones? If you got permission to send someone a ad on their phone and send them one that they can relate and interact with they would be more apt to remember your ad.

How can the business amplify its voice?

The key to amplifying the voice of the company is to relate to the customer. In today’s market that means you have to get on the devices that people are using. And also you need to advertise to the people that have interest in your product. At the same time you have to advertise in a way that the customer likes.

How can the customer boost their voice?

The new age customer has access to many different forums and blogs and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. With the customers having such a voice, a company needs to treat every customer like they will be heard by millions across the board.

How can the business boost the customers’ voice?

In relation to games, cell phones and modern technology, a company would fair well to create a way for the customers to communicate with other customers and with the company. Given the information above it would be fair to say that a company that boosts the customers voice inevitably boosts it’s own voice. One way you could go about this would be to make the rating of the ads visible to all the other customers and to allow for the customers to talk about your product. To involve more specifically cell phones, you could give in game rewards for the user sharing information using their cell phone.

What this looks like to me is that in the game there is a way to adjust weather or not the advertisements are turned on. Of course there would be a bonus for this and in doing so they would permit for further in game advertisement. Then if you apply the above you develop ads that are voted on. The type of ads that are voted on with high esteem will show up more often. Also if they decide to leave a comment they will get an extra in game bonus.

What is the story?

Every company has a story, but what is it. I know some parts of a company’s story from how they communicate. In the above example if you had everything in place but not a story then would you sell anybody? NO! At least not a lot of people would be sold. Thus story is very important. To add this to the above ideas, you could have the customer play the role of an executive of the early company and they need to get the product to launch. The only problem is that they keep running into the dilemma that the company had in the beginning. Things like payroll, or getting funded. This would help the player learn about the product and about business. And the company that provided the advertisement in turn gets another customer. See, it is win win!

In some industries the individual products have stories to. In the entertainment industry every product needs to tell some kind of story. A story that is captivating sells more than a game without a story.

It is important to let people know both about your company story and the products story. But also to have a good story line embedded within you production.

How can the company make it short and simple?

In today’s world everyone has a short attention span, so what is a business supposed to do?

For a small game based ad you could just make the game less than five minutes long, but have an awesome start point that pulls the attention of the customer. You would also need to make it interesting, or you will lose their attention right out of the gate.

For a longer game you would need to make the levels or save points close enough together so that the player can walk away at any time. A game that does this really well is Farmville 2. There is no imminent danger so I can leave my farm at any time and not have to worry about any repercussion. Another way to get around this is to allow the player to save at any given point during a game.

What can we do now that we have released?

Well in order to keep the product hot it needs to be talked about. Adding Twitter, G+, and Facebook to any application would help, but what else can you do in the digital age in order to keep your product selling. News is big, but what kind of positive news can you create so that others will talk about your game. The trick here for games is to hold events that are advertised. I see that game competitions are becoming a huge thing. It would be awesome to see more companies holding game competitions for the public to take part in. Of all the competitions I have heard of I have never heard of a mobile competition, or at least not a big one. When you take on a project like this it needs to be well advertised. That way the customers get to hear about your story.

To do this effectively you would need to add in you game an alert system to notify the users of your games when the events will be held. You could also build your game to permit for bonuses for sending friend invites to the game. When your tournament came around then you could change the message that is sent to include the date of the tournaments.

Also after you release you can’t just forget about your product and move to the next. Well you could but it would reflect bad on your company. What would be great for you to do is revisit each project that you release once every year or two. This would allow you to make changes that would make your product even better. In the gaming industry it would be better to visit your release right away after release and then 3 months out and again at 6 months. New technology is always coming out, and your project can always get better.

What can you put on someone else’s plate so that you don’t go overboard?

Outsourcing in the mobile frontier looks like this. You partner with a company that handles part of the job for you. Companies like GREE offer some support in social networking and advertising. In a small company outsourcing is an inevitable. You just can’t do everything. One way that a company could help as an asset — that I searched for, but could not find — is a company that connects the marketers with the designers of a game. The idea is to have in game support that allows a player to receive an in game bonus for being in the company’s store. This would utilize the GPS of the phone and when they are at certain locations (in a store) then they would get the bonus. Unfortunately there is no existing concept. This could be done or brought forth like the in-game advertisement I previously described.

What is the target audience?

You need to know who you are selling to. That way you know what way to market. If you are trying to sell golf balls then perhaps putting ads in sports games is better then putting them in first person shooters. If you are trying to sell attachments for an AR 15 then maybe a first person shooter would be better.

When do you get permission?

Today it is very important to get the permission of the people who view your ads. A great way to get permission is to offer up a reward for them to accept the advertisement. A way to pull this off in a game would be to create a link where the players can turn on and off the ads. When the ads are turned on then the player gets a bonus that makes the game a little more fun.

How do you treat your customers?

In today’s market you need to treat all your customers the same. This is important because a customer wants to know how they will be treated as your customer. There are so many places to look up information about how you treat your customers. One bad experience with a customer could cost you a great deal of new customers, especially if they write a nasty blog about you. Thus it is best to treat all customers like they are going to write a blog about you in the morning.

What makes your product better?

Given the above if you have a garbage product you still have a garbage product. If you come to realize that you product is garbage, just know that it is not a complete failure. It is one more chance for you to evaluate to see what makes your product garbage, so that your next product will be better.

Thomas Edison made almost 1000 light bulb creations before he found one that worked. That is why it is important to revisit your product. You will never make your product any better if you don’t come back to it time and time again.

Do you like to buy things that look good on the outside, but once you get it home you find all this broken stuff on the inside? Well neither do you customers. To prevent this in the gaming industry we test and test and test. The more you test the product the more changes you make to it the better it can get.

In the world today there are so many companies with so many products that it is more important today to have a product that stands out, meats the mark, and that is as close to flawless as you can get.

What is a good starting place?

I know you want that million or billion dollar company today, but how are you going to get there. You can’t start where you want to finish. You have to start at the beginning. What is the next step to get to where I want to be is one of the questions I ask myself regularly. Perhaps it is best to start small to see how things go. If they don’t go good with one product go to the next or improve the one you have. If you throw all your assets into one product and it turns out to be garbage then you’re out big money. It is much better to test the market first then go all in when you know it is getting bigger and better.

Who is an automatic buy?

I know there is no such thing as an automatic buy, but look at your product and see for one instance who will be most likely to need or want your product. Once you know then you know who to market to. The more people you market to that will buy, the least amount of advertising you will have to do, and the least amount of money you will have to spend. A way to bring this into the new era of marketing would be to access the information about what people purchase on there phone and send them related ads to what they actually like. This isn’t realistic though, so the next best thing is to allow the customer to tell you what they like. When they like things they are more likely to buy.

In conclusion my new strategy is to be flexible in my approach on marketing, and evaluate the newest of the technology and devise appropriate plans for marketing. Today I would say it is safe for me to encourage the growth of my company by creating cutting edge advertisement that is distributed to people who have interest in my product, and that have given me permission to do so. I will also keep in mind the newest cell phone technology and try to create innovative ideas to use in my advertisements. I hope that anyone who reads this gets something out of what I wrote. And I hope that it will inspire yet a new age of marketing that is as exciting as the one we are in right now.

1 Comment

  1. Congratulations on your current status. It seems that God has some great things in store for you. You have a good head on your shoulders and are headed in the right direction. It sounds like you have had some great teachers along the way!

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