SXSWi 2010: Day 3

Sunday promised to be the day that taught me the most business lessons. Unfortunately that promise wasn’t kept. It was one of those days that makes you think that SXSW is an overhyped waste of time. Well, until it was redeemed by Peter Molyneux.

First up, Social Gaming: Lessons from the Pioneers. A fascinating area but some of the panelists’ seemed blinded by their own genius. That irked me and made it tricky to take in what they were saying. I remember someone making the point that story-driven games aren’t easy to monetise as they don’t tend to scale very well as the story has to end. They speculated that it might be possible to find a way around this to keep the story running ahead.

Merch: The Other White Meat of Monetisation – an odd title and a couple of the panelists seemed surprised to be sat up there. The others knew their stuff well but are operating at a scale far beyond my own. There were some useful lessons though:

  • Think through the various stages of the sale – invoice, email and shipping included – and customise messages where possible
  • Consider outsourcing printing and packaging
  • Give everyone who wants to support your thing as many different avenues to do so as possible
  • Don’t ask people what they want – they’re unreliable
  • Pre-orders are good. Announce a product a couple of weeks in advance and take sales before shipping a new thing.

I’d wanted to go to the Persuasive Design session next but it was packed (I gather there were rumours of freebies) so I went next door to Writing Web Content for a Living which was fine, but a subject I already knew too much about for it to be useful, so I didn’t stay there long.

My SXSW reached a low point in the Interactive Agency Workflow: Design and Development Process session that, judging by the comments in the backchannel and the number of people who left the room, disappointed many who attended. I’d include myself in that – the talk didn’t deliver what I was after but was hardly mis-sold.

A talk titled The Emotion Engine: Can a Video Game Speak to the Heart? may not have seemed very relevant to me but it turned out to be just what I needed. As mentioned previously, the best rule for picking SXSW panels is to choose by speaker, not by panel title. Spotting that the speaker for this was Peter Molyneux, I made a bee-line for it and was pretty well rewarded.

At SXSW there are a lot of people caught up in the early stages of creating something. Their perspective on things makes seeing the bigger picture harder, so it’s good to go and listen to the pontifications of those who’ve been around a little while. Not only that, but Molyneux’s experiments with introducing ethical decisions into his games are very interesting – to the extent of making some of the actions that are possible in Fable 3 seem difficult by playing up their moral abhorrence.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.