X-Plane’s Marketing Strategy Needs Work!

So X-Plane 11 has been announced. In one of the most minute ways possible. It just sort of happened. Now I missed the announcement because I was busy dealing with a Hurricane, but once the storm past and power was back on, I sign onto Reddit and what do I see? X-Plane 11 announced! In the form of a Trailer and a presentation that’s roughly an hour long. And honestly, this has got to be the worst way I’ve ever seen to market a game. Yeah I said it! Flight Simming is a game like it or not. Now I don’t want to bash X-Plane around. The stuff they shown was really good. X-Plane 11 looks like it will be good. I want to point out the Marketing Strategy, or lack thereof. This presentation was really hard to watch. I actually could not bring myself to watch the whole thing, I skipped around to get the main points. I sat through the PC gaming conference at E3 2015. In the comfort of my own home watching a live stream. I found it unbearably boring. But even it was better than the X-Plane 11 presentation.

There are a lot of things wrong with the presentation. For one it’s a slide show, as opposed to having trailers and footage on display. Its recorded from a camera by someone who attended the event. Its recorded at an odd angle, and the sound recording is even worse than the video. Oh and my favorite part, someone keeps walking in front of the screen. The whole things screams amature hour. This here is the thing I want to talk about. Laminar research has terrible Marketing. This little presentation was poorly put together, poorly presented, and is just poor. It looks as though Laminar Research does not care about marketing their product.

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A recent screenshot of Xplane 11 featuring the Citation X

“Marketing is the Essence of Differentiation.” That was Spoken by Brett Wilson, a Canadian businessman and investment banker. Marketing is how you distinguish yourself from the competition. What makes you better than the other guy. Who is X-Planes Competition? Well it was Microsoft, but now its Dovetail. Dovetail Games is the current proprietor of FSX, Flight school, and a Flight sim of their own that at time of writing is not out yet. When you ask Flight simmers what they want from a sim, or what they want fixed in the next version of a sim. You hear things like stability, 64Bit, ease of use, good flight dynamics, and good visuals. Now X-Plane, delivers three out of five of those. And looking at the trailer they released; X-Plane 11 should bring that score to four out of five. But during the research phase of writing this article I found something. FSX is still the market leader. After a decade, even with objectively better simulators out there. FSX was still king of the mountain. In most cases I found it was beating out P3D by a very large margin. Even more surprisingly, FS9 was beating out X-Plane! Why? X-Plane answers three of the five big wants that flight simmers have. Why is it still losing out?

The answer is. There is no answer, well not one answer anyway. The FS franchise has been around longer than X-Plane, the pedigree behind it was higher, the budget was bigger. It simply had more going for it. Now this is an opinion here, but I don’t think people give X-Plane a fair shot. All too often I see someone say something alluding to “My FSX looks just as good as Xplane.” My counter to that is, How many addons do you have? Almost always they are forgetting the Hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars worth of addons they have shoved into FSX. Not realizing that X-Plane looks as good as your FSX. but looks that way out of the box! Now that I have said that, I will say this. X-Plane does not give us much of a reason to give it a fair shot. I look at how poor the presentation of X-Plane 11’s promotional material is. What comes to my mind is this. You clearly don’t care about marketing your product at all, why should I care to give you a chance? Why should I throw you sixty of my hard earned dollars based on lack luster promotion? What if I don’t like it? There’s no “Shut up and take my money.” It’s “shut up and earn my money!”

I’ve harped on the presentation. Just how bad was it? Well it was a power point slide show. Worst part is it was not put on youtube by Laminar Research. Its on there courtesy of 63 Degrees Right; A youtube channel dedicated to X-Plane News, Reviews, and opinions. We also don’t see the Slideshow itself.  We see a recording of a projection of the Slideshow. The cinematography is poor, but honestly there’s not much to look at anyway. If X-Plane cared at all about how they present themselves to the market, they would have the demo footage on screen. I can’t see what they are talking about. I see a few pixels get slightly darker. Fifty percent of good marketing is just looking good. If you can’t get us to look at you, or hold our attention long enough to listen to you. We’re not going to care about what you’re trying to sell. We won’t listen or pay attention to any of your bullet points.

So X-Plane needs better marketing. Dovetail Games has a marketing department by the way. Even though the games they make have been lacking in content as of late, I’ve never been able to say they have bad marketing. Comical marketing maybe. But not bad. And if Laminar Research doesn’t step up its game. We will just see a repeat of the way things have been for the past decade. The Flight Sim franchise dominates, while X-Plane is the footnote.

You know I don’t expect much. I know Laminar research probably can’t afford to have a brand ambassador or a whole marketing staff. But that doesn’t excuse this display. I don’t expect them to get someone like Aisha Tyler on stage saying how awesome X-Plane is (All though that would be pretty cool). So what exactly do I expect. Well let’s look at what could have been done differently. Instead of PowerPoint You could have Austin Meyer get on stage and talk a bit, then play a showcase video. The Video could be nice and long (but not too long) and show off the main features of the game. What are your five selling points? Better yet you could even have the developers on screen explaining (with brevity) what these features are. After the video Austin or someone else gets back on stage to talk about some of the more minor improvements. Then closing comments about release date, Day one sales, Day one DLC, Special deals, ETC. Close with the short teaser trailer. The moment the Show is done, both the showcase video and trailer get published on  X-Plane’s YouTube channel. As this is happening Laminar Research puts out a press release on their website with the five main selling points. This gives reporters something to cite in their reports. Tweets and post on Social Media won’t hurt either. Basically make something people want to share. No one wants to share an ordeal!

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Aisha Tyler host the Ubisoft Press Conference at E3 2016.

That is the bare minimum you can do to at the very least look presentable. To reiterate I don’t think Xplane is bad. On the contrary I believe Xplane is very good. And it’s a strong contender for my next simulator. It is getting about time for me to switch sims. But their marketing is non-existent. I have nothing to look forward to with this. Or at least not anything that another sim doesn’t offer. How do you expect to get a bigger market share, when you don’t even try?

Written  for FSElite by: Timothy Thomas

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The X-Plane 11 Presentation (Part 1)

X-Plane 11 Press release/Teaser trailer

Brett Wilson on Why Marketing is important

8 Examples of Marketing done right

Dovetail Games Showcase video mentioning their upcoming game ‘Train Sim World’ (Dovetail has a marketing department, and they are good at their job)

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8 Comments

  • Tom

    14th October 2016

    Ide have to agree with this article. The whole release announcement was a let down, not because the product is bad but how they presented the product.
    Its nice to see that they update the website though, but its poorly formatted like everything else.

    Reply
  • Steve M,

    15th October 2016

    I agree as well. Austin needs to give up the talking to someone younger and more into his brand management. I would love the job but am too busy developing…

    Reply
  • x-shit

    15th October 2016

    Oh, too bad no one wants to buy the X-plane. Or maybe because he sucks …

    Reply
  • DevisAdvo

    24th October 2016

    Can you point me to the amazing P3D or FSX or DTG product live announcement that is so amazing?

    Reply
  • Marcel Alesi

    24th October 2016

    I think you are forgetting one thing. Usually choosing one brand means choosing one ecosystem. You wrote it yourself people spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars in addons that keeps people in their ecosystem and why the transition to p3d happend.

    It doesn’t matter if a samsung phone is better than an iPhone, once you have iTunes songs and apps and data with apple you will stay with apple. The same goes for Samsung. That’s why they are so keen to bind you to their ecosystem. The threshold to change needs to be really high, and even then not everybody will change. You can observe this here aswell. That’s why laminar go the intelligent route of x-plane mobile to get new customers for their ecosystem.

    That being said, Austin is Austin and while I agree with your observations about marketing, each release of x-plane was more successful than the previous one, so who am I to judge what they are doing wrong.

    Reply
  • Dan

    24th October 2016

    I agree with a general idea of the article. Also, I agree that the video does not do justice to the presentation and the atmosphere that was at the hall.
    The video was recorded by a person attending the presentation not affiliated with Laminar Research.

    They should have used own professional equipment for sure.

    Reply
  • Tom C

    24th October 2016

    I agree with the article. X-Plane’s marketing is a bit like their efforts in the past. They seem to be happy to be carried along on a loyal fan base. Austin seems to have gotten back in the game after a period where he just sort of disappeared.
    I have purchased X-Plane 9 and 10, but I could never fall in love with them. Apart from bizarre default planes and slightly cartoonish plane colors and scenery, it just seemed like it wasn’t quite finished and was a geeks dream. I’ve been with MSFS since Bruce Artwick days and enjoyed them all. FSX was the big daddy, except for its erratic behavior (crashing) and constant need for tweaking. FSX SE (DTG) was a small improvement. And P3D made another jump. But the FSX based franchises like these still did not address the constant tweaking and fooling around you have to do to keep the things running. It almost seems like the MSFS platform is not robust enough to meet the demands of all the planes and scenery you can now purchase, never mind make good use of the processing power of 64 bit multicore systems. We did have a glimmer of hope when DTG announced their two new offerings, but DTG Flight School was a bust. What were they thinking? I hope their new Sim which is supposed to be out “soon” will be better, but I’m not holding breath.

    To be honest, I will buy X-Plane 11. I hate the amount of tweaking and rolling around I have to do to maintain P3D. I want to give something else a shot. I will miss the several hundred dollars of Orbx scenery I have purchased. It is one of the best. But when it counts, in really interesting places, if brings a lot of machines to their knees, good machines, not poor ones. And I do not look forward to the possibility of shelling out more dough for X-Plane compatible scenery. But if it’s a solid platform and doesn’t whack out on me like MSFS, I may be a convert. But one thing’s for sure. It better work out of the box with my hardware. There are only two serious commercial hardware (controls and panels I mean) vendors. CH and Saitek. Lord knows what’s going on with Saitek. But at least there is an installed base. So X-Plane, Laminar, please, please acid test your new sim with all their devices. There are not that many.

    Reply

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