Disney Tries to Win the Gaming Game

Disney Tries to Win the Gaming Game
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Film marketers such as Disney are increasingly looking to mobile games as a marketing strategy.

Recently, Disney has created mobile games for ‘Frozen’ and ‘Maleficent’.

These games allows Disney to earn revenue in more ways than one by making various aspects of the game addictive and memorable. The ‘Maleficent’ game features soundtracks that were used in the film, including the scene where King Stefan decides to start a war against the Moors. Similarly, the ‘Frozen’ games features sneak-peak of character progression and backgrounds used for the film. In fact, these games are highly reminiscent of many mobile gamers’ favourite game – ‘Candy Crush’. With the addictiveness of ‘Candy Crush’, it entices users to keep playing the game in order to unlock levels and visual features, which encourages in-app purchases. In addition, as users repeatedly play the game, the soundtrack begins to become an ear worm that promotes awareness of the film, and the visual features look that much more amazing with the adrenaline rush of victorious excitement.

Disney only started developing games for mobile quite recently. Film-based games used to be released on bulky gaming platforms such as the PlayStation and Xbox more often. That being said, Disney hasn’t ignored the console gaming market either. After all, they did make ‘Disney Infinity‘. However, whether or not it’s worth Disney’s time and money is questionable. Mobile games could have become the more appealing option for pre-release promotion because they’re cheaper and easier to develop and sell. This can be seen in the cheap price of mobile games compared to the price of console games. Another reason why mobile became the preferred medium is because of the pricing approach for console games, and different expectations between mobile and console gamers.

There will always be a loyal group of gamers who pursue the latest, most innovative game play or graphics, and more likely to spend more than $100 in pre-orders. These consumers are what marketers call early adopters. Pre-orders normally come with exclusive gifts such as action figures, visual graphics books, exclusively designed controllers, or additional game content. Yet, it won’t necessarily be worth the 3-digit price tag, even after combining the costs it take to clone the discs and the gifts. Unless, the gamer chooses to preserve these games in mint condition and sell it many years later.

However, even then, it’s highly unlikely that every game available to pre-order will always be forever popular among enthusiasts. Products from Marvel comics or sci-fi films like Star Wars or Star Trek are constantly referred to in nerdy films like ‘Big Bang Theory‘. More recently, a Spiderman comic book in supposedly mint condition was used in one of the more recent episodes in ‘Modern Family’, where the two gay characters desperately try to raise funds for their marriage ceremony. So, unless a video game gains that kind of eternal popularity, it’s unlikely that products in mint condition will be worth much. This means that pricing console games and bundling them up with exclusive gifts allows game publishers to gain the maximum amount of profit in a short time span, regardless of whether the game gains eternal popularity.

On the other hand, mobile games tend not to include very advanced graphics. Not much can be done in a screen that’s the size of two palms or less. In terms of game-play, film-based video games tend to use pre-existing models. As previously mentioned, Disney used the ‘Candy Crush’ model. This means that those gamers who want the latest developments in graphics or game-play are less likely to spend a lot of money on purchasing film-based video games. As such, developing a low-cost game that can be affordable to the masses was more likely to help Disney gain a return on investment (ROI). Not to mention, once films are out of the cinemas or no longer on shelves, there is less incentive to promote those films. Normally, film publishers want to be able to gain maximum profit via ticket sales while the film is still in the cinemas, when there are less likely to be piracy cases that discourage consumers from buying access to the film afterwards. Provided that Disney would still be making more new animated films after that, they would have to channel their focus on promoting those new films during the film’s pre-release promotion period.

To conclude, although allowing gamers to gain access to more exclusive previews such as character or background designs bears some similarity to exclusive gifts in console game pre-orders, note that the graphics and model of the mobile games developed by Disney are by no means original. This would give the hardcore early adopters little, or even no incentive to pre-order the game at a high price. Will we see a Cinderella game now that Disney is releasing a new live-action version of it?

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