Boris Schneider-Johne, born in 1966, helped shape the early years of games culture in Germany from the mid-eighties onwards for various computer magazines and as a translator of various computer games into German.
As a product manager, he was also responsible for the launch of the Xbox, Xbox 360 and Kinect over the span of ten years. Boris still works at Microsoft, where he has been doing business development with partner companies for cloud solutions for several years.
You have been in the games industry for some time. And you have seen many trends come and go. From the beginning of your career to today: What has changed most positively in the industry, and what bothers you about the current situation?
It is certainly positive that today there are many technical possibilities to develop games and thus to be particularly creative. We had a “democratic” phase in the eighties, where individuals developed games on home computers, but then at the end of the nineties a time when the market was virtually closed off except for shareware on PCs. Today, creative indies can build fantastic games with inexpensive tools and even self-publish on console.
But the big horror is everything in the area of free-2-play, loot boxes and “additional content”. There used to be a clear deal: you give me amount X and get game Y in return. But today, the biggest business is with products that try to pull money out of the user’s pocket for rubbish via psychological tricks. That’s the main reason why I don’t like working in this industry anymore.
Which key learnings in marketing can other industries draw from the games industry?
It can work to hype a product for two years before it even hits the market. That may still be the case with a few movies – but hardly in any other market segment. And of course it’s not universally transferable. But perhaps there are areas where you can really get people hooked on a product long before it comes out. Because, sadly, even if the product isn’t that great, you will have fans who defend it for the manufacturer.
Who are your role models in the industry?
Trip Hawkins and his “Can a computer make you cry?” campaign, in which he portrayed game designers as rock stars and artists.
How did the marketing and promotion of games change in recent years? Where are we headed in games marketing in the next years to come?
Is there still advertising for games at all? Or is it all just “influencers” now? I’m soooo out of the loop.
Which social media channels do you see as key for the games industry?
I can only speak as a private person here and I have retired from social media.
About the current trend on creators and influencer marketing: The trend towards more micro and macro influencers with a smaller reach and less fans, but more authenticity and engagement: How can the Games industry leverage that trend in your opinion?
That is a contradiction in terms: If it’s supposed to be authentic, it can’t be done via marketing. Marketing has never been authentic, at least not on the side of the producers, even if consumers keep believing it.
The media landscape has changed massively in the last ten years. However, PR is still one of the most important communications tools in the games sector. Where do you see PR in the next five years, what will the challenges be?
The attention span of consumers is nearly zero nowadays, media outlets are interchangeable, there is an information overload. I think “word of mouth” and social pressure are the essential aspects in gaming. What is my peer group playing, where do I have to be involved in order not to miss anything? Here, of course, leading media in the area of non-cell phone games still exists, but they have to fight for their readers online every day, because switching to another provider is much too easy – in contrast to canceling a subscription. A key aspect remains the PR coming from the platform provider: What content do Xbox, Playstation and Switch offer in their curated stores?
Bonus question: Which project / topic in your career are you particularly proud of?
The Xbox Live Living Room Tour (with regards to Sabine Reinhart). We paid various students a week’s vacation and then made ourselves comfortable in their apartments with a handful of Xboxes and invited journalists and influencers every evening for pizza, beer, and games. The most-laid-back PR tour ever. A few years later, I won a big award from Microsoft with a similar concept, the PC Life Tour in German shopping malls. Recreating and enhancing the real gaming experience remains a great concept. Don’t rent the Nürburgring and cars for a racing game demo, rent a student apartment, but put Nico Rosberg in there to race against the guests.
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