Learning from a game? No way that is a thing… right?
Released on February 25 this year, video game Elden Ring has dropped a bomb on the gaming industry. The hype around the game before its release was soaring high, as its creator, Japan-based game developer FromSoftware, is well-known for creating top-notch games, such as the Dark Souls series (which changed the gaming industry forever).
Still, it surprised everyone that the game turns out to be just as awesome as expected, considering the fact that a lot of the games recently have been failing to do that. You know the game is going to be good when it has FromSoftware’s name associated with it.
Bandai Namco, a renowned leader in the gaming industry and responsible for the marketing of Elden Ring, had predicted that four million copies of the game would be sold before April (about a month after its release). This would seem reasonable, considering that FromSoftware’s last title, Sekiro, sold two million copies in just ten days. Sekiro taking the crown of Game of The Year back in 2019 definitely boosted the fame of the company. Besides, their description of Elden Ring as their largest game to date in size excites many even more.
Well, FromSoftware just loves to surprise us. In just three weeks after its release, Elden Ring had sold 12 million copies worldwide, with nearly one million concurrent players during the launch week.
Indeed, there are a lot of people in the industry who recognize their efforts and are trying to learn from them. In fact, the gaming industry has an entire genre called Souls-like, which consists of games that are similar in gameplay or atmosphere to their famous Dark Souls series. Perhaps after reading this article, you will gain some insights from them as well.
Business lessons you can learn from Elden Ring
As previously mentioned, their game gained a lot of popularity even before it was released. Unlike Cyberpunk 2077, FromSoftware stays cool about working with big names. Cyberpunk 2077 also generated huge hype before its launch, and it used the name of famous Matrix actor Keanu Reeves for marketing purposes (i.e. by having an avatar of Reeves in the game). It even claimed that Reeves played (which he never did) and liked the game. Unfortunately, the game did not live up to the hype and expectations, as it turned out to be a disappointment.
In contrast, Elden Ring features contributions by the famous Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin. He is involved in the writing of the story’s plot, the history of Elden Ring’s world and the game’s characters. Elden Ring could have utilized his name for advertising. But they did not overly boast about Martin’s involvement. Instead, they just mentioned his name at the beginning of the trailer to recognize his contribution to this game, and that is it.
And neither did they promote this game by claiming that it is the best game you will ever play or something along those lines. With their Dark Souls series winning the Ultimate Game of All Time title last year, they could have utilized its achievement to boost their new release by affirming that Elden Ring is its successor. However, they only emphasized the actual reviews from different critics, which arrived one day before the official release. Other than that, it is purely the community doing the marketing job.
Lesson Learned: The lesson here is that they did not market their game with unattainable expectations. The game is as great as you imagine it. Instead of selling your product as the best or most remarkable in the industry, why not let the people try it and let them advertise for you?
Don’t rush, take your time
There is no problem in being ambitious with your product. You will have to jump out of your comfort zone eventually. And with drastic changes, there will come big challenges. But instead of rushing your work to meet deadlines, you should take your time and ensure that the product is of high quality.
Such is the case for FromSoftware. Compared with their past titles, Elden Ring took a significantly longer time to develop. In the past, it usually took them around one year to publish a game. But with the size of Elden Ring and the company’s limited staff members (332 as of June 2021), there is a three-year gap between the release of Elden Ring (2022) and Sekiro (2019). However, this resulted in fans being desperate to wait for news about the game, as there was basically only dead silence between the announcement trailer back in June 2019 and the gameplay’s revelation in June 2021.
Lesson Learned: Considering the outcome, we can all agree that taking their time to finish the game properly was the right choice to make. There is no point in rushing your product to get the revenue sooner as taking your time to properly finish it can bring you more.
Give people a chance
Talent is everywhere. A random employee in your office might give you new insights that can change your company forever. In the case of FromSoftware, the recruitment of a seemingly nobody has changed the company forever.
Hidetaka Miyazaki, the company’s current director, joined the company in the year 2004. He was 29 back then and had no experience in the gaming industry. No companies wanted to hire him. FromSoftware, being a relatively new company back then, was one of the few companies that were willing to give him a chance.
They had a new title back then, called Demon Souls, but the project was not going well. It was the perfect time for Miyazaki to shine. He took over the project and finished the game. Unfortunately, things did not go smoothly. Having terrible reviews at the Tokyo Game Show (a large event in the gaming industry), Demon Souls only sold 20,000 copies in the week of its release. Then, word started to spread. More and more players started playing the game and started to realize its unique design, and fell in love with it.
Dark Souls was then in development as a spiritual successor (having similar gameplay) to Demon Souls. Miyazaki, the same person who had no experience in the gaming industry and was considered relatively old by Japanese society, was appointed as the project director. The rest is history.
Lesson Learned: The moral of the story here is not how great Miyazaki is, but the fact that FromSoftware was willing to put their faith in a person who had no experience in the gaming industry. In fact, just ten years after joining the company, he was promoted to the director role, which is rarely seen in Japan. Talent is everywhere. You just have to give them the chance to shine.
Whether your business is just starting or you’ve been around for a while, there’s always something to learn from the games we play, as well as from their company. In the case of FromSoftware, one might say it is the dedication and effort the developers put in that resulted in its success, perhaps with a little bit of luck as well.
Nonetheless, they still manage to stand out among the fierce competition in the gaming industry, which proves that their way of running the business is working. It might be the same for your favorite brands—they excel in some way and therefore attract your eyeballs. Now, any names that pop up in your mind?
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Header image courtesy of Elden Ring Official Twitter