I know what you’re thinking, “inviZimals? Really? Who in the world would want to play that?” I’ll admit, I picked up inviZimals when it debuted back on the PSP in 2009 and I was far from impressed. Still, I’m a guy in his mid 20′s and this is a franchise geared towards kids. I’m not supposed to like it and chances are, neither are most of you reading this (more power to you if you do). PlayStation’s monster collecting and fighting game, a la Pokemon, has struggled to rise from the ashes, but with two new installments on the horizon, Sony can unleash the beasts within and benefit in the long run.
If we look at history though pop culture, hot gadgets, and new trends, there are two constants that are almost always present – youths and marketing. Whether it’s kids, pre-teens, or teens, these are the ones who influence the consumer market when it comes down to a ton of entertainment and trends. What’s more, when a company markets an item right, even a brick can be the next iPhone. Sony has set itself up with various pieces of a puzzle, which, if they join them together, can make both inviZimals and the PlayStation Vita a big hit with the kids. There are a few things that need to be done and these are what Sony should consider:
Believe it or not, inviZimals is a fairly popular series in Europe. The problem is, Sony has completely neglected the series in the biggest gaming market in the globe: North America. Also, one should never discount the influence of Japan as they are handheld crazy over there.
Right now, the series is set to have future installments released in Europe and other PAL territories, but there is no word on a release outside. What’s more, a key factor in the possible success of the franchise, a brand new interactive TV show, has no plans of a release outside those territories for now either.
Of course, just releasing games and TV shows in more territories isn’t enough, more is needed and that “more” is marketing.
Pokemon didn’t become a massive hit based on the games alone. Outside of its origin in Japan, Nintendo did an all-out marketing blitz to ensure the success of the franchise. We got an anime, a popular trading card game, toys, and so much more. Enticing TV commercials for the games and all other parts of the franchise were played several times every half hour on networks that counted. Fast food restaurants were involved in the marketing which I’m sure we can all agree on from personal experience, is a huge influence on kids. Nintendo did it with Pokemon. Activision did it with Skylanders. Sony can do it with inviZimals. Now, inviZimals will never be the juggernaut that Pokemon has become, but it can still find its own success.
Along with releasing the games and TV show outside of Europe, marketing is a key factor and a weak point that Sony has struggled with over the years. A marketing bonanza is needed to push this franchise to success. Kids like collecting monsters and fighting them with their friends and they will get their parents to purchase your product for them if you tell them to, if you surround them with it, if you constantly show it to them. You may have heard me say this before in other pieces and I am adamant with my stance, if Sony partnered with a large fast food restaurant like McDonald’s or Burger King (please leave Subway alone, Sony), put an awesome inviZimals toy in each kids meal, marketed the games, Vita, and PlayStation 3 all over the bags, you can bet kids will not only become more aware of the series, but they’ll want to play it too.
TV commercials on networks during shows that matter should be a prime focus too. Yeah, I’m in my 20′s, but I have no shame in admitting that I still watch Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, and Nickelodeon. However, I almost never see PlayStation commercials during the daytime hours. If there is ever one, it’s usually at night during Adult Swim, or some other more mature show schedule and they are few and far between. Nintendo on the other hand, man, you see commercials for Wii U and 3DS games constantly and at the very least, the 3DS’ success keeps climbing.
What about action figures and a card battle game on the side? These too could push the franchise in a forward motion.
No doubt, there are other factors to consider when talking about making a game franchise a success. First of all, the game has to be good. It has to be fun to play. This is something that Nintendo gets right with so many of their franchises, including Pokemon. They are appealing because they are enjoyable. AR games, which inviZimals is primarily, are not especially appealing to all kids. They can be fun for a moment, but as I have seen with younger family members, and children of friends, they can also be tedious and make kids lose their focus. I applaud Sony for making an action game for inviZimals on the PlayStation 3, it looks fun, and hopefully that type of gameplay carries over to the Vita as well.
Other factors include the price of the Vita and marketing the system itself along with other games. Make enticing bundles.
The fact of the matter is, games sell systems and popular franchises sell systems even more. With a long-term goal in view, Sony could turn inviZimals into a popular franchise that could help sell systems for years to come.