[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Iswear12]
As you may (or more likely may not have noticed), the 80s and 90s wants to make a comeback in the form of the recently announced Intellivision Amico console. The console itself in terms of design and basic principles seems to be simultaneously modern and sleek with its Apple-esque appearance (even the controllers look similar to old ipods!), and white-and-grey color scheme, but also a throwback to the glory days of gaming with a focus on retro games and a desire to stay away from hulking 3D set piece games like Call of Duty or Red Dead Redemption.
They recently had a stream, bringing back together the cast of Earthworm Jim for a reunion to talk about the new Earthworm Jim game being developed for the Amico, as well as the Amico itself.
The stream itself had a lot that the average viewer can criticize it for. It had lingering audio issues, from an obnoxious echo at the start, to a lingering crackling that persisted through nearly the entire stream. The overall unpreparedness of the stream and lack of a clear messaging present throughout it besides “Vague information might be provided about the Amico and the new Earthworm Jim game”. You can give Intellivision a significant benefit of the doubt by pointing to how early in the process they are, but the fact that they had next to no marketing material to show or display was also disappointing. There were a few juicy tidbits that they gave out, but all of it was telling, none was showing.
What I believe Intellivision needs to do to succeed with their console is deceptively simple, yet most companies never seem to do this. Aggressively determine, target, and focus on their audience.
Let’s get some basics out of the way: The Amico will likely not break many millions of units sold. In my estimate, it will almost certainly sell less than the Wii U no matter what they do unless they experience a marketing miracle at the 2020 E3, or something else truly drastic occurs. This is just my own personal assessment based on the metrics their current levels of marketing and interaction are receiving. Their Earthworm Jim reunion stream today was floating around 150-300 viewers for Twitch and Youtube respectively. The Intellivision channel has roughly 3,000 people subscribed to it as of right now. I don’t believe I need to explain to you why those numbers are abysmal. Their Facebook page is comparatively much better, with over 15,000 likes and 16,000 followers, but still low-ish overall. By the end of this all, Intellivision’s efforts will likely result in maybe a few million Amico console units sold, if that.
Let’s also get something else important out of the way: Sales numbers like that aren’t necessarily a bad thing. One important thing to keep in mind in all of this is that Intellivision is much, much smaller than most game companies, period. As a result, they don’t need that many units sold yet. They don’t have the bloat, the excessive costs, and bureaucracy that most corporations deal with. They don’t need nearly as much of an opening splash to make a profit, enjoy success, and most importantly: get their foot in the door for the market. It’s the same principle of why 1-4 million units sold for an AA game would be great for it, such as Persona 5 or Nier Automata, but why the same amount would be disappointing for an AAA game like Battlefield V.
I was thinking about how the Amico could achieve success, and my mind immediately drifted to ComicsGate. While ComicsGate involved a separate industry and games are fundamentally different as a product, the principles that occurred in ComicsGate can easily be applied to the Amico and the video game industry.
Comicsgate has been an incredible, undeniable success for indie comic creators, with Ethan Van Sciver at the helm of it. Ethan Van Sciver is a former DC Comics artist who has turned into an indie comic creator with an incredible business sense, creating the highest crowdfunded comic in history in Cyberfrog, which started out strong and ended up reaching almost a million dollars on IndieGoGo. He’s also known as a “kingmaker” of sorts in Comicsgate. Get his endorsement, and your indie comic will almost certainly succeed on Indiegogo and Indiecron.
The similarities between Ethan Van Sciver and the people at Intellivision are immediately apparent. Tommy Tallarico and Doug Tennapel have a strong, long-lasting pedigree with video games and are industry veterans who want to create their own unique product; so too does Ethan Van Sciver with comics.
The reason I’m bringing up Ethan Van Sciver into this is because of a few profound insights he shared with Minnesota lawyer Nick Rekieta on his stream on April 17.
At around 2:17:13 they discuss that you don’t need multi-million audience distribution to make profit. They referenced that Mike Miller, an indie comic creator, was planning on using the Ben Shapiro show to get an endorsement and EVS suggested that he not even bother because maybe a fraction of a percentage would even be interested in comics from Ben Shapiro’s audience despite it being large overall. EVS instead invited him on his own show, and suggested he build up an audience of his own on YouTube. People who are interested in your product will come, was his message.
To tie this back into Intellivision, they should put their boots to the ground in marketing the Amico. What I mean by this is that Intellivision should go to where people who appreciate retro games are. Find the forums, the blogs, the (niche) media outlets, the subreddits, the smaller, passionate channels who are interested in the Amico or cover retro games are.
This does not mean to go the largest streamers and Youtubers and pay them off to promote the Amico. They likely do not care about the console and its games and as a result will not be attached to it or care about it after the money flow to them runs dry. There are plenty of people willing to cover and promote your product for free, take advantage of that and treat them well and they will reward you. Word of mouth is still considered the most powerful advertising tool, and that should be taken into consideration as well, especially for promoting a console like this.
Intellivision is marketing their product to old school gamers. They’ve stated that they value fun gameplay over mind-blowing graphics. Their marketing should also reflect that. The gamers that want to buy their products likely value substance over style; showing, not telling (or at least more showing than telling). Show us the gameplay that you feel so proud about. Any relevant marketing material that is substantive, showy and relevant. GIFs, trailers, gameplay videos, demos, screenshots, and so on.
Intellivision should also give people the opportunity to support the product above and beyond the simple usual way that video games usually do. Merchandising and additional products would be ideal. Let people show how much of a fan they are for your products. Take a hint from indie crowdfunding projects which allow rewards and products unique to people who are willing to pay more for them. Limited and Collectors editions are fine, but if those are the only thing that Intellivision offers for hardcore fans to show their support then they’re doing it wrong.
I hope that Intellivision takes this criticism and proposed strategy to heart if they see it. This is still early on so they have some benefit of the doubt due to the amount of information they can release and how much effort they can put in. What are your own thoughts? Do you think I’m right, wrong? Do you have a different strategy, or any tweaks you’d propose? Voice them in the comments below.