A synopsis of marketing and business practice in the 21st Century within Virtual Environments.
A synopsis of marketing and business practice in the 21 st Century within Virtual Environments. What does it mean, what are the best practices, and why do we keep getting it so terribly wrong? This is a presentation which seeks to defy conventional wisdom and practice by doing absolutely everything wrong. I'm glad you could attend today, my name is Aeonix Aeon
And while the introduction is a bit long winded, convention would say that I could have just as well given this presentation a quick and catchy name such as Wish You Were Here Which I suppose would sum up this presentation in the respect that I wish that we were all here, on the same page, but unfortunately such a title is easily confused with a wildly popular album of the same name... And quite honestly, the album has a better track record than business in Virtual Environments.
The most famous guy you never heard of </li></ul><ul><li>Former CTO of VR5 Online
Former VP Operations Pulse Point Marketing </li></ul>
But, that does not give you a clear indication of who I really am.
For awhile, I was also the devil's advocate during an internal corporate strategy participation exercise for Atari , whereby it was widely held that rehashing Intellectual Properties such as Asteroids, Millipede, and other classic games on the iPod Touch and iPhone were the wave of the future. Also in this batch of insanity, Atari was quite content in resurrecting an old IP known as Alone in the Dark for next-gen game consoles and the PC market. My recommendation at the time was to the contrary, in that I stated the problem with Atari was simply brand dilution, and that the only way to avoid further damages and backlash was to not resurrect old Intellectual Properties, and instead focus on being innovative once more, going so far as putting a visionary back in charge such as Nolan Bushnell. Unfortunately, many people were fired during this time at Atari. Alone in the Dark continued on schedule despite my warnings that doing so would cost Atari untold millions of dollars in damages and further brand destruction. So what actually happened?
Before this game was released, or even finished, it was leaked to the public whereby a German Gaming Magazine played it, and reviewed it. They gave it a 1 Star rating with the recommendation of never buying it. So what happened back at Atari? During that time, Atari was on the verge of bankruptcy and a stock delisting. This fiasco is what nearly destroyed Atari for good. Of course there were massive layoffs then, as the company struggled to remain afloat, nearly being swallowed up by its parent company Infogrames in Europe.
For years afterward, Atari continued to struggle until they finally gave in and followed at least one remaining piece of advice I had left them a few years earlier. As of April 2010, can you guess who is on the Board of Directors at Atari?
What does this have to do with Virtual Environments?
The previous story was simply to illustrate that companies still try to apply 20 th Century thinking to solve 21 st Century issues. Usually this ends with disastrous results. Take, for instance, a recent announcement by Pillsbury Law in which they state the best way to handle this problem is simply to sue the hell out of everyone. “ Copyright registration is an important part of an overall intellectual property protection strategy for preventing infringement of virtual goods, along with patents, trademarks, trade secrets and terms of service agreements. The benefits of timely filing copyright applications for virtual goods include the ability to file suit in federal district court and collect statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringement, the potential for recovery of legal costs and attorneys' fees and certain legal presumptions regarding ownership and validity. To get some of these benefits however, you must timely file a copyright application, typically before the infringement or misuse of your virtual goods occurs, or within three months of first publication. ” - Copyright Registration for Virtual Goods: The Benefits of Timely Filing
Apparently we too quickly forget that in the digital age, we can cut off one infringer only to find that ten more spring up in their place. Using copyright as a shield will work only as well as it did to stop File Sharing and Bittorrent.
Surely there must be a solution, right? This question has a very interesting answer, and it is an answer which will seem as though we have lost our minds for implementing. In effect, all logic and reason seems to have gone out the door with virtual environments as well as turned copyright on its head. The real question should be: Can we actually stop copyright and intellectual theft with an army of lawyers, multimillion dollar lawsuits, and propaganda? The answer is No.
So if we can't stop the intellectual property from propagating outside of the control of our respective IP holders, and no real amount of lawyers or policing will put an end to it, how exactly are we supposed to curb the intellectual property theft? The obvious answer is that we don't. Instead we should look to beat them at their own game. In this respect, we should instead find the highest quality knockoffs, and as the IP holders, look to work with them. By creating a high quality offering, and officially endorsing it as the IP holder, we effectively make additional low quality IP theft irrelevant and put them out of business.
Does this mean we're letting the inmates run the asylum?
Technically, they already do. But if we ever hope to become the warden, we have to know when to exercise more control or to follow the rabbit hole deeper into Arkham Asylum. In this case, only one high quality vendor will get the endorsement and work with the IP holder. The rest – we then decide if it's worth it to send the army of lawyers or not, risking a hydra effect.
But again, we run into a problem. Can anyone tell me where these independent content creators are to seek counsel and permission? A majority, if not all, major IP holders have a strict “No Solicitation” policy.
And when the public demand creates that which the IP holders refuse to acknowledge and meet, the initial reaction is punishment for not securing the proper rights to create those virtual products.
As we already know... the lunatics are running the asylum. But we should really ask “ Who are the real lunatics? ”
Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting different results. And yet... it never occurs to us to do something radically different.
“ Anyone who uses a word processor for very long inevitably has the experience of putting hours of work into a long document and then losing it because the computer crashes or the power goes out. Until the moment that it disappears from the screen, the document seems every bit as solid and real as if it had been typed out in ink on paper. But in the next moment, without warning, it is completely and irretrievably gone, as if it had never existed. The user is left with a feeling of disorientation (to say nothing of annoyance) stemming from a kind of metaphor shear--you realize that you've been living and thinking inside of a metaphor that is essentially bogus.” In the Beginning Was The Command Line – Neil Stephenson
Metaphor Shear in a broader context, is the interruption of a workflow or expected behavior of immersion with processes which either directly break the layer of metaphor, immersion or expected behavior or serve to impede the level of immersion, metaphor or expected behavior. <ul><li>It means to blatantly ignore accepted protocols and practices in order to draw attention to yourself, while robbing the metaphor layer from the participant. </li></ul><ul><li>When taken in the context of the Web, this is to mean intrusive advertising such as banner advertising. When taken in the context of virtual environments, this is to mean creating a vast island of ego in an overblown campaign to gain attention. </li></ul>Press Any Key to Continue _
In the Virtual Environment , Metaphor Shear is assuming bigger means better. It's building a massive island of advertising for a single brand when all you needed was the products. And clearly we have the products, whether the IP holders want them or not. When Coca-Cola made an island, the residents of Second Life make Coca-Cola vending machines and ignored the island. When Dell made Dell Island, the residents made functional laptops in the virtual world and ignored the corporate island. The supposed inmates are running the asylum, but you should begin to understand that they aren't as crazy as we thought. Indeed, they are actually quite brilliant. It's the IP holders who are the real inmates at the asylum... and they are delusional enough to believe that the wardens are the inmates and not themselves.
Instead of using a system that already exists, and monitoring what the users actually want in branded merchandise, companies like Coca-Cola decided to make their own island and ignore the users. After that was a disaster and Coca Cola pulled out, plans now are made for a separate system. Does anyone think it's odd that Coca-Cola is missing the obvious solution?
It's true. I simply love picking on the big name brands in virtual environments. But I have a very good reason for doing so. They have no official stance on virtual environments, no official channel for independent content creators to submit to, and absolutely refuse to understand the concept of Level of Engagement. To make matters worse, these companies and IP holders are the worst offenders of Metaphor Shear, and are ignorant to the existence of such, wondering why these tactics cause such backlash and brand destruction. The lunatics of the virtual world are actually much more intelligent than the lunatics of the corporate world.
Is this wrong? If you listen to the lunatics from the Intellectual Property side, then yes this is very wrong and the independent content creators need to be punished. Obviously they are breaking copyright laws and causing massive IP infringement. But what if we set that aside just for a moment and look at the bigger picture? The lunatics of the virtual environment understand that brands sell, and are much more likely to endure on the small scale via virtual products than if they were housed in some over budget marketing campaign from the official IP holders. Maybe the lunatics of the virtual environment know more about 21 st Century marketing in virtual environments than the corporations in the real world.
And if these virtual environment lunatics were instead rewarded with official sponsorship from the IP holders to create an entire line with their approval, the potential for viral marketing is astounding. Instead of multimillion dollar failures, we'd begin to see an influx of viral marketing that does not cause Metaphor Shear, uses the existing conduits of distribution, and actually rewards the community for their innovation and skill. All while lowering the overall cost of production, and reaping massive brand recognition with little to no backlash. So the answer is not to sue the hell out of these content creators. The answer... is to engage your community productively and work with them. Marketing in the 21 st Century does not follow the “Bigger is Better” model, but instead it mandates that we work within the system and think smaller for viral impact. Of course “work within the system” was a rule set forth from Chip Morningstar and Randall Farmer in Lessons Learned from Lucasfilm's Habitat in 1990 .
It also means we need to start thinking like the lunatics and less like the “sane” if we are ever going to hope to succeed in the future. This means a willingness to try new things, to listen to our customers, and to open up channels of communication whereby independent content creators in virtual environments can apply for permission. If we're not willing to listen, or give them a chance, then we should not punish them. It is we who are at fault. Take a cue from our friend... don't be so serious.