Last November, I was asked to promote Need For Speed Most Wanted in France at the Paris Games Week (a consumer video games show in Paris) : I had never done that before and didn’t really get any training. What I learnt is that press interviews are like job interviews : officially, it’s a discussion between two people who don’t know each other; actually; it’s you trying to sneak your key points in the conversation.
There are two reasons why I was sent there : I’m French and I knew the game very well. That’s it. Speaking the same language helps a lot (no kidding !) as it helps to create a connection with journalists. For example, journalists really like the fact that I was “a french in an international studio” and some journalists can’t really speak well english. So you have someone in your staff speaking a different language, you should send them to those countries to speak about you game.
It’s very important that you know the game as a whole and just one thing in particular : this is the reason why, most of the time, producers or designers go to those events – because they can really talk about what matters, the key points of the game, and not talk about specific features. For example, Most Wanted is all about “being the Most Wanted among your friends”; I had to repeat that all the time – for every single interview. It’s really about hammering those key points and that’s what marketing is all about.
And get ready to talk loud : the Paris Game Week was very noisy, sometimes I felt like I had to scream during an interview. If you can, try to bring the journalists in more quiet zone (they are some press zones, make sure you use them). Also check that they can record you well: some interviews got screw about because the sound wasn’t working.
During an interview, you will have to repeat those key points but don’t be a robot : try to put a little bit of yourself in it. Talking about multiplayer, I was explaining that I was mostly taking down other players, and most of the time tracking those producers. This is the way players will talk about your game : they don’t repeat the “key points” but telling each others stories of what they did. So you should show that you are playing and enjoying your game like they will.
It’s all about adapting yourself to your audience : if you’re talk to your mom about a game, you are not going to explain the asynchronous multiplayer. Do the same with journalists : talk simple with general journalists, details with specialists … For example, I was talking more about the cars in Most Wanted and the fact that they are all available from the start with car magazines – because that’s what people who read want to know. Always remember to adapt yourself. It can be difficult so try to connect with journalists before the interview starts : ask them what they are playing, if they play the game, what they like about it …. I wish I had a business card during the event : if they need to ask more details about something, at least they know how to contact you directly.
So you understand that your job will be then to say those key points over and over. But it’s not only for journalists, as you will have to talk to “demoers” or “speakers” and the staff on the showfloor : those guys don’t know the game (most of them don’t really play games), so you have to make sure that your staff know what they need to know. For example, speakers need to know the global keypoints, but a staff member might need to know how to reset a race or help a player. So you really need to know everything and communicate it to the right people.
And trust your staff : don’t try to come on stage and talk about your game – most of players want to play it, not a commentary. So let the staff do their job : they know how to sell those games – they do it all over the year – and you don’t. My advice on this is to come on stage if you can show our deep your game is. I will always remember the face of some players when I beat their time by 10 seconds !
This experience really helps me to understand how difficult promoting a game can be. It looks nice when your producer says it has been to a cool city and stay in a nice hotel, but actually it’s a lot of work, especially if you are finishing your game or that the design of the game keeps changing at the same time. That’s why I think everyone should do it at least one time : you will understand why games need to be simple to communicate to survive in this strong competitive market. And it’s not worth doing it for showing off or fame . if you want to be famous, there are better and easier ways than making video games !
I was very lucky I had the chance to go to France for Most Wanted : it was going back to your home town to show something you work hard on. My best moment was when I had to do a TV interview I had to do with my friends behind the camera, trying to make me laugh, and they almost did !