Other than showing the game to the press, which was handled well by Farhang I think (you can see how he did on the gametrailers footage,) my main purpose at Gamescom was seeking out distribution in retail, so that one day you can actually buy a copy of Dragon Commander in stores. During the conversations I had for that purpose, I quickly realized that even being called the biggest surprise of the show by many a site does not impress some of the dinosaurs of the games industry
“You know, marketing did research on Dragons for one of our own major properties, and they told me positively that there’s no audience. Nobody will buy it.” was a statement I heard from one of the guardians to retail heaven. I had been building up quite some enthousiasm as I was presenting him the game, at least in my head as I was imagining all the cool things we were going do in Dragon Commander, and I honestly couldn’t imagine him not being at least moderately positive this time. I’d presented quite a few games to him in the past with little success, but this time, fresh from the enthousiastic reception I’d been experiencing the previous days, I was sure I’d struck gold. I of course didn’t think about what marketing would have to say – I just wanted to hear if he liked it.
As he politely started explaining to me why Dragon Commander would be a total failure, memories of a similar conversation popped up in my head, where I was equally politely told by the same guy that maybe I should focus on our kids titles because clearly we had nothing to seek in the “real game” space. He didn’t remember that I think, or didn’t want to remember it as the success of the Dragon Knight Saga was too tangible a proof that his predictions had a tendency of being iffy. So as I was waiting for him to tell me that “jetpacks might raise global warming issues among the audience” (which to his credit he didn’t say), I suddenly realized that the best endorsement I could get was this guy telling me that it was going to be a complete and utter failure! Or so I liked to think.
And it continued. I met major publisher after major publisher, meeting completly risk averse people, seemingly brainwashed by their marketing departments and thinking about games as SKUs. I had to look up what a SKU was, so for the equally ill informed, a SKU is a number or code used to identify each unique product or item for sale in a store or other business (at least according to Wikipedia). To be blunt, my feelings about thinking about a game as a SKU can be summarized as - Yuk! Yuk! And Yuk! But that’s just me. It’s cliché to talk about majors like that, but hell, why do they have to honor those clichés ? A little bit of out of the box behavior would make these meetings a lot more fun!