October 26, 2011

Toppled Silo

King of Dragon Pass sold as many units in its first six weeks of release as the game’s desktop incarnation did over its entire lifetime. As Sarah Newton pointed out over on the Twitter:

I guess it just shows the difference in reach once you break out of the "silo" into the global app market.

I think that’s exactly right. Moreover, KoDP serves as an exemplar of a shift in marketing eras. Back in the old-timey mists of 1999, computer games were items primarily sold in brick and mortar stores, packaged in largish cardboard boxes full of nothing. These stores ran on a pay for placement basis, renting out prime endcap space to manufacturers. Glossy magazines provided the main avenue of promotion. To snag coverage, you had to fit within one of four sharply delineated categories. King of Dragon Pass, with its mixture of storytelling and resource management, is and was sui generis. In the era of silos, originality turned out not only to be a minus, but a powerful barrier to entry.

Today we have shifted from the silo era to the recommendation era. Computer games are digital files sold through portals for whom a wide assortment of categories and deep stock are competitive advantages. Through social networking, creators can alert core customers for a niche game like KoDP to the portal, and let it do the rest. The portal provides the opportunity to break out of the niche. New players who have never rolled a d20 and have no idea who Greg Stafford is are now discovering the world of Glorantha.

And not all of them are even Scandinavian.