“People overestimate how exposed games are compared to other forms of media,” says Levine

Tuesday, 24th April 2012 22:24 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Irrational’s Ken Levine feel the amount of publicity games receive compared to other mediums is still relatively small. Speaking with Penny Arcade Report, Levine said its important for the general public to understand what the game is about before asking them to spend $60.

“Compare how games are marketed versus movies. Look at the Hunger Games, a big movie,” said Levine. “And BioShock Infinite, a big game release. Or Call of Duty, look at the extreme examples. How many impressions do you think a Hunger Games gets on the average person versus Call of Duty? How many opportunities are there to tell people about this cool thing?

“We’re not covered in the New York Times in a major way, the way a movie would be. We’re not on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. People overestimate how exposed games are, in comparison to other forms of media. There are maybe a million hardcore games, and Call of Duty is going to sell 25 million copies. You either find ways to reach the other [24 million] in ways you can’t normally, or repeat the imagery enough that when they go to IGN they might come across it.

“We’re asking them to spend a lot of money: $60. That’s a lot of money. It’s our responsibility to give them the information they need to make the purchasing decision. But at the end of the day, the last person you should listening to about making a buying decision about BioShock Infinite is Ken Levine. I’m biased.”

That being said, Levine is of the opinion it’s a balancing act regarding when and how much to market a game. If he had been in charge of the PR for BioShock Infinite, he would have waited until later on in development before announcing it, so as not to overexpose the title for months on end before release; however, with the threat of an inevitable leak looming, it was decided that the go button had to be pushed.

“We probably would have announced it later, but we were worried about it leaking,” he said. “We had a nice unintentional head fake, everyone thought we were working on this X-Com game, but we weren’t. It wasn’t what people expected. Without our presentation, people would have gotten the wrong message about [BioShock Infinite], it would have been confusing.”

“I would have announced it significantly later if I wasn’t worried about that,” Levine added. “We had this external factor.”



  1. DSB

    It’s that terrible moment for all games developers, when you try to pick up a chick in a place that isn’t Comic Con or PAX.

    Don’t worry Ken, you’ll get there buddy.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Telepathic.Geometry

    Irrational’s Ken Levine feel[s]…

    There are maybe a million hardcore game[r]s…

    …the last person you should [be] listening to…

    Come on guys!

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Charlie Sheen

    totally against this

    #3 3 years ago
  4. manamana

    I think they went far too early with their PR. Leakage or not, they could have countered the leak with a professional trailer, informations on the developement and material etc. as its always different to see and hear from the developers than from vague leaked footage stuff. Either way, I trust in Bioshock. They’ll probably get my money as I’m sold since the first Elizabeth trailer….

    #4 3 years ago
  5. TheWulf

    I think the problem is that the games industry is at the tip of the iceberg at the moment, and it’s a bad iceberg. They don’t understand what the film industry learned… oh, half a decade or more back?

    Basically – if you try and target your entertainment at everyone and tie the biggest budget to it, you’ll see financial losses. I mean, one great example? Mass Effect 3. I loved the fuck out of ME3 because it was so unusual and off the beaten track. I was absolutely fucking gobsmacked that EDI was making high-brow jokes that you’d have to be a nerd to get.

    It also had a really abstract plot and ending, it wanted to philosophise with the player about transhumanism. (Something that one of the jarheaded journalists over at RPS even attacked it for.) It wanted to sit and encourage the player to imbibe a questionable substance, whilst it, as the wild-haired storyteller would tell them of things impossible. And what happened? The majority hated the shit out of it. Fucking majority.

    But the point is is that ME3 would have been more of a success if they’d just shot entirely for a high brow niche and used a smaller budget. What films understand at this point is that you have to pick your demographic, you have to put an amount of money into your project suitable to that demographic, and then you have to stick with it to the end.

    That’s the way you get everything from sleeper hits to relatively huge successes. You can’t please everyone.

    Aiming for the lowest common denominator just fucks things up, really. It means that you have to dumb things down in order for people to understand what you’re trying to say to them with a game. I can almost hear the suit-encrusted corporate zombies at EA yelling at Bioware right now for DARING to be artsy-fartsy with their mainstream game.



    The thing is is that we are at the tip of the iceberg though, and people are falling off. The tip isn’t a great place to be. Would you want to sit on the tip of an iceberg? And it’s much nicer down there – warm, clement, and the locals are lovely. Independents, then. They’re already down there. And you’re having ladders setup to make it easier for people to get down from the tip of that iceberge too without the risky plummet, ladders like those of Kickstarter.

    Yes. I know. I’m torturing this metaphor. Shut up.

    The publishers are, however, remaining sat at the top. It’s not very nice up there, and what they’re finding is that they’re making less and less money. And what we’re seeing is that people are trying to find something to blame for this lack of money. Look at Levine here already covering his arse as he feels that his game may not be the grand moneymaker it seems to be. …so yeah, here we are.

    That’s why, within the next five years, things are going to get really exciting. I think that the big publishers are going to get some serious competition as pseudo-publishers (partnership companies which offer funding) start up and we see bigger indie projects, but projects targeted at a niche. And frankly… ?

    “Hrmn. I’m choosing between this game which I know will satisfy my needs – emotionally, intellectually, and as entertainment. Or I can buy that thing there which has a huge budget, guns, sexual objectification, and explosions. THIS IS NOT A HARD CHOICE.”

    I’m already finding that this is the case. How many mainstream games am I actually pleased with of late? Not very fucking many. How many indie games? A lot of them. And look at things like The Doublefine adventure, Wasteland 2, and Shadowrun Returns… there’s been more noise made about them than there has been about many triple-A titles.

    These are exciting times.

    I think they’re going to get even more exciting.

    I think Mr. Levine has an inkling of this too. He knows he’s in a bad situation, I think. AAA titles are costing more all the time and selling less. Poor bastard, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. endgame

    He is right. As usual.

    #6 3 years ago

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