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June 19, 2014

What Earns Your Brand Loyalty?

 So, how’s everybody enjoying Ultra Street Fighter 4?

I wasn’t exactly counting down the seconds over its release, but when I first gave it a whirl, I couldn’t help but get swept up into its pace.  Okay, sure, there are only five new characters (four of whom, along with the latest stages, are just carry-overs from the ill-fated Street Fighter X Tekken), but just being able to play as Poison -- don’t judge me -- in a new setting made that first session with the update surprisingly exciting.  We’ll see how long that excitement lasts, but as it stands?  I’m glad that Street Fighter 4: The T. Hawk Is Actually Kinda Good Edition is in our midst.

Though I suppose Capcom has kind of forced gamers’ hands with this one, especially those in the fighting game community.  They pretty much HAD to get the update, because if they didn’t, they’d get locked out of the competitive scene.  And the same applies to more leisurely players like me; anyone who wants to blow off some steam (or build it) online has to buy in or get locked out.  It’s a dirty trick, but I guess we’ve got no choice but to deal.  And we will deal, because even if these constant “new additions” are a pain in the ass to keep up with, the core game has always been worth it.  Worth our time and respect.

Which brings us to the question of the day…however circuitously.  As is my standard.

I’ve done my best to stay away from Watch Dogs (for obvious reasons, least of all because I’ve got better things to play), but I’ve still got it fresh on my mind because it’s looking to be my personal DmC of 2014.  That is, it’s a game that I can constantly look toward and point to as an example of what NOT to do.  The only issue is that this time around, people have bought into the Watch Dogs lifestyle in droves, what with at least four million copies sold.  From what I can gather, the reaction to the game is “it’s good, but not great” and “it’s average” and “it’s not original, but it’ll do”. 

I have to strongly disagree -- and playing apologist for the game doesn’t exactly make the best case -- but that’s not what I want to talk about right now.

I suspect that WD’s success comes from it earning enough goodwill by being an IP to earn a look, but more importantly -- and despite it being the new kid on the block -- it succeeded because it has things from other games.  And plenty of them.  So, for example, if you liked the quasi-tactical gunplay of Splinter Cell, then chances are high that you’re going to like the gunplay in WD.  And Ubisoft knew this.  The game was geared as such, to the point where they could have replaced the “everything is connected” tagline with “IT’S EVERYTHING YOU LIKE!”  And people bought into it.

That’s not exactly what I’d call an ideal approach, but I get it.  And it worked for others.  It earned loyalty to the fresh WD name; I’ve seen those who have acknowledged its faults admit without reservation that they would want to see a sequel that improves on the core game.  In their eyes, WD is what the first Assassin’s Creed was: bold and new, but notably flawed, while its sequel stepped up the game considerably.  Granted the industry is a MUCH different place than when AC1 was first released way back in 2007, and its vision shone through to try and make good on the promise of the then-young seventh generation, but let’s set that aside for now.

WD or otherwise, these franchises exist -- and continue to exist -- because they can reliably count on fans to support them.  Because they have brand loyalty, using whatever means possible to succeed.  That’s a given.  But in this day and age, it feels like there’s a right way to go about earning brand loyalty (with genuine quality and respect for an audience) and a wrong way (“WE’RE WHAT YOU LOVE BECAUSE WE’RE WHAT YOU LOVE!”).  It’s the difference between treating fans like a privilege, and treating them like a right.

By now I’d assume that you know how I feel about the subject, but this isn’t about me, per se.  I want to open the floor so I can get some input on the subject.  I need insights.  I need to see how people with brains that aren’t half-broken think.  And more specifically, I want to see how people respond to the question at hand:

What earns your brand loyalty?  That is, what do products -- games, movies, books, shows, whatever -- do that makes you want to trust in them and support them?  What should they offer, and how?  Is there a right way to earn loyalty?  Is there a wrong way?  What happens when that loyalty gets compromised?

All corollary questions revolving around the central one, to be sure.  But they are points of discussion that could serve to get your juices flowing.  So if you’ve got an opinion, then go ahead and weigh in.  Say what you think needs to be said.

Ready?  Set?  Comment -- so I can taste THE STORM OF YOUR LOYALTY!

I'll watch you someday, Orange-kun.


  1. You know, I wish more games polished itself annually for a reasonable price. $15 bucks for Ultra? Yeah I'd say its worth it. I can't even complain that I've spent close to $100 dollars on SF4 because it's been out for five years. I'd rather that then looking longingly at my copy of UMVC3 and knowing it won't ever see an update. Curse you Disney.

    As an added bonus I like how they let me play every version of the characters so I can really feel the difference. It gives it a Street Fighter Alpha 3 feel without the overly enthusiastic (read crack smoking) announcer. "Can anyone stop this fighting machine?!" "Go for BROKE!"

    I'd probably get the game for poison's theme alone. Now all they have to do is give Morrigan back her MVC1 theme and they could have a swank off (Apologies if that sounds pornographic).

    I can see people passing Ultra off as a cash grab but it is loyalty. The Fighting Game Community lives off this stuff. The Dead Rising 3 DLC made me smile with it's self aware title.

    Hopping genres, another series I love to stay loyal to is Fire Emblem. If you haven't already, look at the animations for the critical hits in that game. One of the fun little details in FE is how they retain the super flash mentality of Street Fighter.


    Fire emblem telegraphs the crits, when you see your character twirling their sword, you know-- KNOW someone's about to get F-ed up. Touches like this breed loyalty. My personal favorite? Look at the way the General (Big armored dude) dispatches someone with an Axe. An axe on a chain.

  2. Just to get out of the way, I will never play Watch Dogs.

    As for brand loyalty, pretty much consistently producing good content wins me over. For example, Squaresoft back in the SNES - PS1 days won my affections over and over by producing great games year after year. I loved Square...but then in the PS2 - present era, they've lost all my respect by doing, what I feel, the opposite and producing bad content consistently.

    I think I only feel brand loyalty to one company and that's Bethesda. I've gotten more on board since playing Fallout 3 for the first time many years ago. But, it does wain considering that I think ES Online FUCKING SUCKS(having played the beta) and I'm just drooling for the next Fallout game(whenever the fuck that might be).

    Other than that, I don't feel loyal to anyone and I keep an open mind to all games(except FPS games...because they're fucking boring, that's right, I said it). Having gotten more into PC games, I really like indie titles as well and tend to purchase those over mainstream games. In fact, I don't think I'll be getting a next gen console, PC is where it is at...then again, I think Arkham Knight is next gen only...and Kevin Conroy really played it up when I talked to him at Denver Comic Con....who the fuck knows, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, brand loyalty. Fuck it.

  3. *follow burnpsy

  4. Y-you actually met Kevin Conroy?! *attempts girlish squeal but fails miserably*

    You wouldn't be the first to decide to make the jump to PC gaming -- and the way things are looking, I doubt you'll be the last. I mean, I look at this past E3 and the PS4, and while it's true that there are plenty of games that are going to come out for it (as the most "stable" or "reliable" of the three consoles right now), there's this feeling of "That's it?" in the back of my mind. Like...I know the Wii U is in a bad place right now and doesn't have as big a library of games, but if the alternative is to get junk that's starting to bleed into one another, then maybe it's okay for Nintendo to be lagging behind in the console race. With its exclusives, they've definitely earned my loyalty.

    But yeah, I feel you on Square. I'd like to think that -- fan or not -- EVERYONE breathed a collective sigh of relief now that the wretched FF13/Lightning Saga is over, because it means that maybe they can go back to making good games. But then you remember that their woes go beyond FF (what the fuck happened to you, Kingdom Hearts?), and it's just like, "Ohhhhhh...awwww..."

    It's like gaming companies these days are gunning for one of two things: blind loyalty, or some kind of hideous nega-loyalty. Not the best of situations, that.

  5. Yeah, Joel Grumpybuns! He's got sonar-beard action!

    But yes, I agree. Trying new things? That's a good way to go, and a good way to keep giving the fans something tasty to digest. Granted it could go horribly, horribly wrong (see: Final Fantasy 13 and its "revolutionary" "gameplay"), but it could also go go oh-so-right (I still think Zelda: Skyward Sword is a fantastic game...though I'd argue that it's pretty much Wind Waker 2.0, but whatever. Baby steps).

    I feel like I should be able to say more about Watch Dogs, but...honestly? It makes me sad and tired. Like, the games industry is better than that, isn't it? It's freaking 2014, and this eighth-generation installment -- what should be the culmination of all the technical knowledge and insight thus far -- can't even get the basics right, gameplay-wise OR story-wise? I just don't understand the strategy here.

    Well, I do, but it's so dirty that I'd prefer to bury my head in the sand.

  6. Power fantasies disturb both of us, it seems. And they disturb us more when they don't come along with a proper sense of setting.

    I'll get into why I like the Assassin's Creed series in the other thread. It has a lot to do with my Mennonite heritage, as weird as that may sound, and the appropriation/restoration of breathing, living space. The AC games always give a rich sense of locale, and that more than the uneven plotting and scripting brings me back. Beyond a rich locale, however, they do it in the right way.

    Are you planning on watching Edge of Tomorrow? If you liked Captain America: Winter Soldier, you'll like it, I think. It's got a sense of humor, the alien invasion mechanics are pretty interesting, the details of war are granular and don't skimp on how horrible it can be, and the main character. . . . The main character is like David before he fights Goliath: he's a coward who turns into a powerful and good man. In a sea of masturbatory power fantasies, his story has a sense of moral despair in wielding power.

  7. Two last notes:

    1) Edge of Tomorrow has a good sense of humor in Groundhog Day style. That's another thing that lends itself to the Captain America relation. Gravitas and light humor rolled into one without breaking tone.

    2) I think video games need to take some tips from board games. I'll elaborate on that later.

  8. Kevin Conroy was awesome. He told us that the next Arkham game will be epic. Tune into Tales of Relevant Thought this Sunday night on www.vtwproductions.com at 7pm EST to hear the full story. Shameless plug delivered. ;)

  9. Shameless plug received. I'll have to see if I can drop by...assuming that I don't forget. Or, alternatively, that I remember that podcasts are a thing that I should have started listening to in earnest about two years ago.

    Well, my brother DID call me a "time hobo" on occasion...I hate it when I prove him right.

  10. To be honest? Edge of Tomorrow was not even on my radar until a week or two ago. Most of the commercials pinned it as some faux-epic war, and I pretty much went "nothankyou.jpg"...that is, until some of the later promos actually implied that it had some humor and spirit to it. And then the MovieBob review offered up its blessing, and...well, let's just say it's piqued my interest. We'll see what happens.

    In any case, I'm in 100% agreement with you on AC's rich sense of locale. I know that's part of what makes the series what it is, but I don't think it can be understated how welcome a unique setting -- even if it is one you can find in an encyclopedia -- means to me. I think I spent more time just running through the cities and reading those snippets of history than I did actually killin' dudez. Or just standing in the middle of a circle and waiting to counter someone. (Seriously, have they fixed that yet? And how did that system ever catch on?)

  11. I don't know if Disqus decided to be a butt and ate my comment, or if I just closed the window before I hit "post", but just to be safe I'll comment again quickly. I take pride in replying to comments here on Cross-Up, you see. <3

    A part of me wonders if it's a good thing that Compile Heart isn't exactly a part of "mainstream gaming". I mean, just look at the industry now -- pretty much everyone's scrambling trying to figure out what to do because the system's totally borked. CH may never be in the center of the crowd (or even on the fringes), but they don't have to be. They've earned their fans by being true to themselves. That's a win if I ever heard one.

    Seriously, I remember several times on Destructoid where the phrase "appeal to a wider audience" appeared when devs were talking about their latest game. It rarely ended well.

    *stares daggers the size of Buster Swords at Resident Evil 6*

  12. Yeah, I had Edge of Tomorrow pegged the same way. My friend gave me the trailer and I blanched. Trust me when I say this isn't a pom-pom delivery to the military. It's still got that Starship Troopers DNA in it, but we're talking the book and not the rancid movie.

    More positively, it leaves Heinlein's politics at the door.

    That counter system is ridiculous, I agree. Indefensible.

  13. To be fair, though, there is one thing I like about the counter system: it's REALLY easy to make fun of. Tension? Challenge? Strategy? Skill? Nah, man. Ain't nobody got time for that.

    Then again, I've been spoiled by fighting and character action games for a while now. So I'm probably not the fairest judge.