Targeting Your Audience

I was going to write about Steam Curation exclusively but now Target has decided to do a thing and Penny Arcade have been their typical obnoxious fucking selves. This is particularly funny because they are Americans (who are, I am told, pretty good at capitalism), and one of them at least worked in retail (who I have to assume picked up a few things). On the other hand, they are Americans, who love Capitalism the same way they love Jesus – just so long as they don’t have to read any of the related texts.

In all market exchanges, there is a limit to what you can and can’t put out there for people to buy. Sometimes that limit is very simple and tangible: Shelf space is the best example we see in meatspace retail. You have a limit on what you can put out there, and you have to choose what it is you want to present to the public. Therefore, you make choices, and what you choose expresses your values. In most videogames sales fields, that choice is what yields economic gain?

Target decided this week, that one of their products, Grand Theft Auto V, wasn’t going to express what they wanted. Maybe they ran the numbers, maybe they decided that as a family-oriented department store (something they work hard to present), they didn’t want ‘The sex-worker killing game’ next to the Skylander toys that have sold really well. Maybe they considered that GTA5 had its day in the sun last year. They made a decision, and that was it. Something else will get that shelf spot, and, chances are, it will be something that makes them nearly as much money as GTA5 would have done. Target are not a specialist game store here; we’re talking about one product out of a lineup of about fifty. People go to Target looking for a game will usually be disappointed – if not in the product lineup, in the price. Simply put, Target are not a store for core gamers. They’re a store where I can go to pick up Barbie’s Horse Adventures, probably the most recent Call Of Duty, Lego family games, everything Skylanders or Disney Infinity, and Nancy Drew hidden object games.

Target chose to sell products that represented Target’s values. That’s a market in action. Stop being whiny babies, and stop trying to pretend that markets are agnostic, impartial mediators. Of course they’re not. The people who run businesses have values and they aren’t all completely plastic in the face of money.

I’ve more to say on Steam Curation and how it’s the same basic thing with its own shittiness, but another time.

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