The first Saturday of every May something interesting happens. ComicBook shops around the world give away stuff for free.
Free ComicBook Day was started back in 2002 by American comic industry as a way to advertise their comics. 10 years later and it’s still going strong, now giving away free comics in over 2000 stores in 30 separate countries.
I as always went down to the local comic store and picked up my free comics, likewise as always I left with far more than just those free comics. I think I did pretty well this year, it only set me back £20 rather than the usual £40.
That I guess pretty much proves the point of the event, as a marketing method its incredibly effective.
When I got back from the comic store I was checking out twitter and talking to a few people when a random tweet caught my eye.
So Free Comic Book Day at Brainstorm was fun, when’s Free Video Game Day?
That was said by the Twitter user @SugarGamers, and is a concept that when you think about it would be an incredible thing too see.
Since then I have thought about it quite a bit and there are a few things that would need to be worked out first but I think it could be done.
If your interested in the idea, unfortunately my thoughts were a bit lengthy so I have had to put a break in here. So click the link to get the full version
This is a difficult one, because unlike comics the gaming store is not necessarily the main source of games for a large portion of the gamers out there. Prior to Portal 2 the other week, I had not previously bought a game from a store for at least 6 months. Usually they are bought online for the convenience of it.
However I guess if this was going to be an event, having a tangible place would be advisable. For that reason I would take a leaf from the guys behind FCBD and allow the stores themselves to get involved and include themselves in the event. Stores would simply have to contact the organisers to include themselves, then they would be put on the list of involved stores for marketing.
That way it would allow for independent stores & chains to both get themselves involved. I’m not saying that there might not be something that online retailers could do, but that would not be the same as I would expect from physical locations.
Obviously one of the main draws for FCBD is the free comics, but how would this work for games? Well this one is actually easier than it might sound.
The comics given out on FCBD are specially printed editions, they are also for the most part advertisers for bigger story-lines. One of the ones I picked up this year was a teaser intro to the upcoming FlashPoint, another was the first part of the ‘Secret Origin’ Green Lantern graphic novel. Basically these are tasters designed to draw you in and make you want to buy the full version.
This is something we can most certainly do with gaming, by resurrecting the lost art of the Demo Disk. If you have listened to the podcast you will have heard on more than one occasion lamenting the loss of the Demo Disk, when you played all the demo’s on those disks because they were the only way to get them.
Obviously time has moved on and we can now get demo’s a lot easier, however what I would propose would be an arrangement with games studios to give exclusive demo’s. Even if they were only exclusive for a week, being able to only get the demo on these disks would draw people to get them and build buzz about the game.
Also I would want to include studios that did not a new game to demo, the ‘Secret Origin’ example, they could make use of the DLC systems out there. A simple bit of DLC such as a special ingame item (valve hats) or pet would be all that was needed. These special items could then be given out as codes in stores to be redeemed later by the user. There could also be people giving away downloadable copies of their back catalogue, who knows, but the options are there.
This is the part of this that has caused me the most thought. The original reason for FCBD to be in may was to tie in with the release of a comic based film. This was the case until 3 years in when the day was moves to June to match one. That third one was not as well received as the ones in May – so after that they were held in may with or without a film to tie in too it. In fact after a couple of years with no tie in, movie companies started releasing films to tie in the other way round. So learning for them we obviously would not want to tie it to a games launch, instead have them link to us.
However that still leave the question of when.
One option would be to find a historically significant event in gaming and re-use that date. Problem is most of the dates I can think of off hand are specific consoles/companies. Trying to not lean such an event towards a certain company would be important in my eyes, the event is to be about gaming on general.
Two I can think of are
– The release date of Pong or Frogger
– A memorial of Gary Gygax & Jerry Lawson
The first are obvious as those are examples of games are so core to the history of gaming they are beyond linking to a company.
The second two names may not be so well known to younger gamers but those two guys are examples of people who have changed gaming so fundamentally that they deserve to be recognised with some form of memorial. Gary Gygax’s work on Dungeons & Dragons have earned him the nickname of the Father of role-playing games, his influence has long affected the gaming industry, table top & video game alike. Jerry Lawson was the father of the cartridge based console,his Channel F was ahead of its time and we all know how much impact console gaming has had on the industry.
I personally would take the second and make the event a memorial as well as an event to celebrate gaming. Both Gary & Jerry left us in early April (different years) meaning that it would be fitting to hold the event on the First Saturday in April each year.
As you can see, there is a bit more to the idea than simply wanting free games. I would want to do something that both helps advertise gaming, helps get people back into games stores and memorialising the people that made gaming what it is today.
However there is still a lot more to think about, as this would need some serious backing to get off the ground. It would need the backing of the developers, the stores and the public to get it off the ground. With out the developers there is nothing to give-away, without the stores there is nowhere for people to go & without the public there is no benefit for the developers & stores.
I will be going away to give this some more thought, as I really do believe this is a good idea. However I would like to hear the opinion of anyone who reads this. What would you do differently?, What do you think would not work?, Would you turn up to such an event?, Do you think I have lost the plot?
So is anyone up for a Free VideoGame Day on the 7th of April 2012?