Goofy marketing idea of the day - customized gift games

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by Martoon, Apr 10, 2005.

  1. Martoon

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    Just one of those spur-of-the-moment marketing ideas that probably wouldn't pay out, but thought I'd see if anyone had tried something like this.

    You know how things like mousepads and coffee mugs with a customer-supplied photo printed on them are often marketed as personalized gifts (i.e., a mousepad with a picture of the grandkids for grandma and grandpa)? What about a casual game with customer-supplied pictures and/or text embedded in the content? Obviously, it would be more practical to just provide an interface in the game to let the user change the picture themselves as often as they like, but as a marketing gimmick you might get some special perception of value if you sold the customer a one-of-a-kind customized version made "just for them". You would need a server and a web interface that allowed them to browse for a picture to upload (similar to Cafepress) and enter any custom text fields. The server would then generate a preview screenshot for them. Once they're satisfied and commit, the server would need to put the image/text into a content folder, build an installer using that content, and provide a download link.

    This would involve some work and a fair amount of PHP/CGI wizardry, but for the right product marketed the right way, it might be worth it.
     
  2. Omega

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    Put your face on the spot of the main character.
     
  3. Sillysoft

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    BoardBoss is an example of an application that allows you to use your own images to customize it. It's a board game creation program and not a full-on game.

    If you do it all in the application client side then you wouldn't have to deal with any dynamic installer creation, etc. Just have them drag anf drop an image in or select it from the filesystem.
     
  4. Spaceman Spiff

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    My gut reaction (read: silly wild-ass guess) is that the number of people who would want a "customized" version of your game at the time of purchase would be rather small. Given the possible hassles that'll come back your way if something goes wrong with the customization process, or if the customer decides they don't like the end results, I'd stick with end user customization. This also lets them use trial and error to get to the results they will be happy with.

    Trivia time: I seem to recall that Apollo tried that back in the early 80's with one of their cartridges for the Atari 2600. You could "monogram" an explosion (or something) in the game with your initials. It was said that they sold less than 50 custom games, vs. the 10s of thousands for the normal game. Of course, a hundred bucks for a game was a lot back then...
     
  5. Anthony Flack

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    Not to mention that monogramming an explosion with your initials is a monumentally crap concept. It's hard to imagine anyone thrilling to the sight of their own initials. I don't get any special personal buzz from playing Alien Flux, either.

    The thing that I think Martoon was getting at is that providing someone with a custom game is very different, psychologically, than providing them with a customisable game. Like, uh, the difference between a trophy with your name engraved on it, or a trophy with a little slot you can use to hold a piece of paper with your name on it.
     
  6. Spaceman Spiff

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    You need to remember the times. In those early days of the first wave of console games, everything was new, raw, undefined, and 95% crap. Lots of things were tried for the first (and last) time then.

    I agree with you. The thing I was trying to get across is that though doable, it may not be in the best interests of an indie to do it. We have limited resources, especially of time.

    Actually, I'll modify that. If the customization was in some way integral to the game design, or at least provided an extremely strong attachment to the player, then you may have a unique game that sets itself apart from the crowd (for a month or so, until we all clone it). Hmmm....
     
    #6 Spaceman Spiff, Apr 10, 2005
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2005
  7. Jeremy Alessi

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    I think any scheme with giving a game as a gift online for indies would rule.
     
  8. Diodor Bitan

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    What if the customization includes a lot more personal information about the player, which is then woven into an automatically generated game story culminating with revealing the player as the arch-villain in the final scene?

    :rolleyes:
     
  9. walkal

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    I had an idea of doing this sort of thing as a combined greeting card and word game or puzzle for mobile phones, but I put it on the back-burner because the necessary server processing wouldn't fit in with the systems used by the sites that sell mobile apps.

    The idea was along these lines:

    The customer would go to a web site to buy the game, and as part of the process, would enter some details for customization. A script would build a customized package and store it on the server (using J2ME this could be done with parameters in the JAD file, with no need for recompilation). The customer would get a link, which they could send as a bookmark to the recipient's mobile phone. The recipient would download the app and open it up and see a greeting message addressed to them and would then play a puzzle based on their name - e.g. make at least x words from the letters of your name.

    It probably wouldn't be too hard to set this up if you were happy to provide it at no charge, but to make money from it, you would have to persuade some content distributors to play along, which probably wouldn't be very easy.
     
  10. Martoon

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    Definitely. I always thought having your hi-score initials spelled in 3D blocks on that one level in Crystal Castles was kind of cool, but that's way different than paying (big) money to see your initials on an explosion.
    Does Alien Flux have some personalization feature that I don't know about? (Only played the demo).
    Very apt metaphor! Wish I'd thought of that for my original post.

    And that is my point exactly. Lots of games have customisable features, but what if I, the developer, made an extra-special version of the game just for you?

    There's also the pre-packaged gift factor. Grandma and Grandpa get a gift email with a download link for their Solitaire game. When they download and install it, the backs of all the cards have a photo of their new baby grandchild. And Grandma and Grandpa didn't have to configure or customise anything. Kind of like what walkal described.
     
    #10 Martoon, Apr 10, 2005
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2005
  11. Mickey Crocker

    Mickey Crocker New Member

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    I thought of this very thing a while back. Being in love with old school gaming myself. I thought it would be a cool idea if a site had customizable characters. What I thought of (which I couldn't do for obvious legal reasons) is have old hit games like the original Mario Bros, Space Invaders, PacMan, etc... and allow to customer to send in a picture of their face and have it pasted over the characters... Like Mario's head would now be their's, the spaceship in Space Invaders could now be them, and they could be shooting at a "friend"?

    The reason this thought even crossed my mind was because my girlfriend's birthday was coming up, and at the time I was unemployed and had very little money. So what I did was program an exact clone of PacMan, except for the ghosts, I had photographs of my face (all different colors) and I have her face for PacMan. Also, instead of collecting little blocks (pellets), I used a bunch of hearts, and for the special items that randomly appear like (cherries, apples, etc...) I put in her favorite things instead. Like a four leaf clover, because she loves her Irish heritage.

    Anywho, the birthday gift ended up being a hit, and she played it quite often trying to get the high-score (which I didn't expect). She also showed a lot of people the game, and how cute she thought it was. This made me think their would surely be a market for something like this.
     
  12. Pyabo

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    I think this is a pretty good idea for the right target market. Anyone remember those personalized books where you could have someone's name printed in the story?
     
  13. Anthony Flack

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    Nah, it just happens to have the same initials as I do, see.
     
  14. Yossarian

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    iPoker

    Stumbled across that the other day. Allows users to put in photos and movies of themselves and friends. Not sure how many actually use the features, but it does look like its pretty neat.
     
  15. Fost

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    This has already been done to some extent. I read the director Kevin Smith had a custom game made for Ben Affleck and Jlo on their engagement. I featured Jlo as the main character, and she had to save Ben in the game.

    So, that was money well spent ;)

    Perhaps there's a market for this kind of thing as major gifts, but you'd probably want to be targetting really rich people (and how do you do that?) and having some actual custom art in there.

    Perhaps it would be worth offering it as a service, then leaving it to see if anyone takes you up on the offer.
     
  16. Mark Sheeky

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    The mass market equivalent of customisable games is making games moddable, and that is popular. I'm not sure if it's an attractive business idea to offer customisable games because you'd probably have to charge a lot to make it worth while... probably more than people would want unless you had a really good game, or one that suited itself to personal customisation (wedding tycoon anyone?)

    Mark
     
  17. Curiosoft

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    Hey folks,

    Our games offer a "personalization" feature in the "Gold" version. This personalization feature consists of putting a child's face onto a small doctor/vet bitmap. About 15-20% choose this option.

    If I get the time, I may expand this feature into something more. Now that I have the programming/logic foundation in place, I was thinking of having an option where kids can use faces of their family and paste them onto sick characters in the game...so that the whole game gets personalized.

    For those of you in the States, consider the idea of making a simple personalize-able football/basketball game and then selling copies to high schoolers...that can then customize the game with their characters. Figure out a way to market this customized game to parent; I'm sure parents would buy this as a nice gift/memento.

    Btw, I like the Wedding Tycoon idea. My friends and I were thinking about making a fantasy wedding game. But, we don't have time due to other projects now. Someone should consider this market. From what I hear, the average American wedding costs 20K.

    Take care,
    Curiosoft
     
    #17 Curiosoft, Apr 12, 2005
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2005
  18. cableshaft

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    Jose Ortiz (an awesome animator who runs mindchamber.net once made a Flash game for his girlfriend's kid for Christmas one year, that included the kid's face and voice fighting against evil ferrets. Apparently it was a pretty big hit.
    http://newgrounds.com/portal/view/40353

    Actually, it inspired me to make a flash platforming game for my baby cousins one christmas where Frosty had avoid the evil sun that was trying to melt him and throw snowballs at him to guide him towards the ice blocks blocking your path to melt them. It was mostly completed, but I ran into some problems with the art (i.e. getting the rest of it), and there are a couple big bugs in the game, AND additionally my cousins still are too young to play the game, so it still hasn't seen the light of day. I'm still trying to find the time to polish it off enough to just get it out there.

    I think there is the potential for a huge market for custom games, but I've never pursued it myself.
     

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