CIRCA:Games That Sell! - Walker, Mark


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Games That Sell - Walker, Mark


Walker is a journalist, and borrows the term topic from the journalistic discipline to describe games the gaming public are likely to invest in at a given point in history -- some topics are just hotter than others at different times. This is a way of saying that you need to do broader social analysis , not just formal game design analysis, to understand what compels people to play. See also Montfort and Bogost who in Racing the Beam take a similar approach to diagnose the rise of the Atari console and subsequent video game crash of 1983.

Methods used to analyze games:

  • Specific case-studies of games that sold (or should have sold but did not).
  • Industry professionals are interviewed, asked why they think games sell.
  • Survey of players - rather than using these to compile stats he publishes the complete responses of several individual respondents


  • Topic (franchise reputation, genres, fads)

"During the real-time strategy craze of the late 90's, publishers could just about guarantee that a solid real-time strategy game would sell 100,000 units. On the other hand, a turn-based strategy game needed to be marketed, promoted, and designed to perfection to crest that magical 100,000 unit mark" (p.2).

  • Quality (e.g. game is not glitchy, tutorials are well written, appears worth $49)
  • Marketing and public relations
  • Range of appeal (this doesn't rule out niche games, they are just exceptional and it's hard to predict when a niche will be popular enough to be viable. What's important is making a game accessible to a wide enough audience ... it could also mean combining popular genres in a way that is inviting to more than one segment of the market)
  • Cool factor (intangible features that attract players' interest such as a unique game mechanic or a story with a special emotional appeal)
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