Quality as an USP

I recently gave my first impressions on PopCap games latest casual title Plants vs Zombies. It’s a really fun game that has very little in common with the other hit titles from PopCap except for one thing: quality. All of PopCaps games are genuine quality products with little if any glitches and no flimsy art that cramps their style. Well so what? It’s simple, quality is lacking in a lot of big titles. And quality is the ultimate deal breaker with entertainment. Let’s explore why:

Most games are quality products that have bugs, glitches or unfinished parts due to last minute feature additions or late night crunching to ship the title. This is all well and good. We seem to be selling a lot of games. But looking at the numbers in another light we also see that individual titles seem to sell less from year to year. This decline can’t be solely based on one factor of course; competition, piracy mega hits like World of Warcraft have very clear effects on the sales of games. But quality is a factor that has been overlooked for a very long time from the developers point of view. Quality over a certain “it works dammit” threshold just isn’t cost efficient enough.

Before I give a few examples of why this is not necessarily true let me just define what I mean with quality:

Quality doesn’t mean that the game is good. It means that whatever your game or product does it does good.

You never see a Ferrari with a wobbly steering wheel. That would devastate the drivers experience of the Ferrari. Likewise you seldom see cartoon characters in real world sitcoms. Or a pinkish plastic cover, that falls off, on your new MacBook. So why is it we find crashes, graphical glitches, strange sounds and missing textures in AAA games?

Because quality was not an issue for the developer. The features were.

Look again at PopCap games, do they have the features of other casual titles? In some cases yes, in others no. Apple’s iPhone isn’t close to cheaper smart phones in terms of features and power. Yet it outsells them ten to one. The list goes on. But the point is that production companies might want to start looking into quality instead of features.

Maybe you don’t need to be able to customize everything in the game. Maybe it just needs to look great from the start.