Create Buzz by Doing the Unexpected and Being Remarkable (Puzzle Quest Case Study)
A game company called Infinite Interactive have a break-away hit on their hands with a new game called PuzzleQuest. Their success has come from two key differentiators:
- Mashing the puzzle gem (IE: Bejeweled) genre with the old school Japanese RPG (IE: Final Fantasy) genre.
- Releasing a demo for PCs over the Internet even though the game was only available for the Nintendo DS and Playstation Portable handheld consoles
- (and possibly) very limited available at game stores causing scarcity and a lot of buzz around how hard it is to find a copy
The Heath brothers [wikipedia] rate unexpectedness as one of the six rules of sticky, memorable, and interesting ideas. Seth Godin recommends that products be remarkable in his book the Purple Cow [wikipedia]. The qualities of being unexpected and being remarkable are most successful when they are intertwined.
Infinite Interactive has reached a new audience by offering a PC demo of the Puzzle Quest. Demos, or free limited-play sample versions of games, are a tradition in the PC gamer domain, but are relatively new to the console market. The Xbox 360 with its built-in internet connection and hard drive is a perfect marketplace for try-before-you-buy game demos. The Nintendo DS hand-held console has been experimenting with downloading game demos at supported stores, but their severely limited demos still don’t give you a good feel for the game.
PC video gaming is in a slump. Between World of Warcraft and the many choices on the console market, as well as an ever increasing number of HD-TV home theatre setups, console gaming has been taking an ever increasing marketshare away from PC gaming. There just aren’t as many quality computer video games being made anymore. Puzzle Quest recognizes that most console gamers are former PC gamers and that a PC connected to the internet is by far the easiest way to distribute a demo for a handheld console without a hard drive.
Most games are written to work on multiple platforms these days, so offering a PC demo for a console game isn’t as hard to do as you might think. I’m surprised it isn’t done more often.
PuzzleQuest is an excellent gem matching puzzle game AND an excellent RPG. They might not meet the depth of story of a Bioware roleplaying game, but they have solid game mechanics that are quite addictive.
The game has all the features of modern RPGs:
- Branching storyline based on player actions
- All combat is done by solving gem matching puzzles against an opponent AI
- Matching gems builds up mana that lets you cast spells that affect the game board
- Different skills affect how you gain mana, gold and experience during puzzle combat
- Different classes gain skills at different rates and can cast different spells
- Different items give you different modifiers for puzzle combat
- Acquire different companions who help you during combat
- Capture enemies to learn spells from them
- Capture enemies to gain mounts
- Capture runes to craft items
- Capture cities to increase your income
I was really surprised at the depth of activity available, and more importantly how fun it is.
The Proof is in the Pudding
Since being released on the Nintendo DS and PSP, Puzzle Quest has found an ever increasing audience. The buzz that has grown around their game has led to announcements of future releases for Xbox Live Arcade and the PC. The biggest problem I had after playing the was trying to figure out where I could get a copy of the game.
- Found out about it on Penny Arcade (Puzzle Quest comic 1, Puzzle Quest comic 2)
- Hours spent playing PuzzleQuest PC demo (I replayed it three times)
- Spent at least 30 minutes trying to find a torrent for the full PC game… before I realized it was for the Nintendo DS.
- Tried to find it in no less than 8 local game stores (ended up using Amazon)
- Picked up a copy of one of their PC games in the bargain bin (Battlecry 3)
- Got my own Nintendo DS so I’d stop hogging my girlfriend’s
My own experience with Puzzle Quest shows how successful it has been. Infinite Interactive has done an amazing job jumping from the flagging PC game market to handheld games, and I look forward to a day soon when they overcome the distribution issues and the game can be found at your local store. But why wait until then? You can download it and give it a try now.