Capcom’s Svensson defends Z-Dub marketing

z-dub.jpgIf there were a causal relationship between critical praise and commercial success, Capcom’s magnificent Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure would have sold a few million copies by now and this wouldn’t even be an issue.

Unfortunately, most Wii owners are ignoring Capcom’s imaginative masterpiece. Despite the fact that Z-Dub has received a continuous stream of universally positive press and is currently the fifth-highest rated game on Wii, surpassing even million-sellers like Super Paper Mario and Guitar Hero III, the game moved a paltry 30,000 copies in its first two weeks on North American shelves and sold even fewer on the increasingly enigmatic island of Japan.

Some affectionate Z-Dub advocates have cried foul on Capcom’s part, alleging a diminutive and negligent advertising campaign doomed the daring new IP to poor sales before it even hit store shelves. But on the company’s official online bulletin board, one Capcom employee has defended the Z-Dub advertising strategy.

Apparently, it was there. Gamers just didn’t notice.

Or so argued Christian Svensson, Capcom’s Vice President of Strategic Planning and Business Development, in an interesting series of answers and rebuttals to one fan’s eloquently stated “Why is Zack & Wiki getting the shaft?” thread.

To allegations that Capcom is not advertising Z-Dub:

“Actually, there’s been a plenty of marketing for Z&W, just not in places necessarily where core gamers would see it (frankly, core gamers know about Z&W from the PR efforts that have been made and the reviews). Our outreach has been largely through “family targeted” vehicles, not core gamer vehicles.”

In regard to word-of-mouth reliance:

“Word of mouth will work for this title, just as it did for Ace Attorney. For a title that’s as “different” but as high quality as Z&W, there is no substitute nor are there any amount of ads we can buy that would do a better job. We’ve done all we can do to foster that word of mouth, largely through our massive PR outreach efforts.”

To questions regarding the game’s commercial reception:

“It’s steadily moving…not setting the world on fire, not disappointing. It’s moving as expected, at least in the US.”

About the lack of US television advertising and Japanese sales:

“Japan had a sizable television campaign at launch (I believe it’s still running). You’ve pointed out the results, so the question is, would spending significantly more (on television ads) here changed the results when it didn’t in Japan? Or would it have impacted profitability, decreasing the chances of a sequel? I leave it to you to decide…”

While Svensson makes some interesting arguments, paralleling the Japanese and American markets, and assuming one can foreshadow the other, seems an alarmingly and increasingly flawed strategy. While television advertising may not have helped Z-Dub cultivate Japanese success, it is important to note that it also didn’t help Super Mario Galaxy or Halo 3 do so, either. Yet both games achieved substantial commercial success in the States and were arguably helped tremendously by aggressive advertising campaigns.

Of course, those are examples of established franchises with millions of pre-installed fans, a sharp contrast to the infant Z-Dub license. But considering the Mario/Halo example from a purely theoretical stance, isn’t it possible that, for some games, advertising in the States can yield more fruitful results than in Japan? And considering that, isn’t it reasonable to suggest that a few weeks of television promotion may have helped Z-Dub reach a larger audience?

Speculation aside, the reality at my apartment could be a microcosm of the market at large. When friends come over for Wii sessions and are introduced to Z-Dub, they are almost always sold instantly. Does this emphasize the need for marketing to make them more aware, or does it validate Svensson’s reliance on word-of-mouth?

Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure released in North America on Oct. 23, 2007. According to, the game has moved roughly 130,000 copies to date worldwide.

34 Responses to Capcom’s Svensson defends Z-Dub marketing

  1. August Glupsk says:

    For the love of god! Could you please, please, please (with sugar on top) stop calling it Z-Dub? It’s makes it sound like a poor man’s Saint’s Row with bling and pimped cars and in your face swearing.

  2. Rob says:

    Picked this up at the weekend. Love it.
    I did happen to spot the advertising over here in the UK. One single poster on a game shop window. Sorted. 😐

  3. droop4 says:

    “it was there. Gamers just didn’t notice.”

    thats not what you’d call a great ad campaign.

  4. waltermh says:

    where did z-dub even come from? it sounds retarded and has nothing to do with the game that i can think of.

  5. DeathChronx says:

    What the heck is a Z-Dub?? Anyways, I own Zack and Wiki, and the game is extremely awesome and fun to play! seriously I think they really needed to get marking sorted out…because even core gamers I know, didn’t know what Zack and Wiki was….

  6. jamie says:

    Here in the UK we’ve been getting so many adverts for this game, it only came out last Friday and on a lot of channels Z&W is advertised upwards of 2 or 3 times in a single hour. I have yet to buy it but I certainly will be at some point within the next couple of months, I still haven’t bought Metroid Prime 3.
    And yeah I’m with the majority, what the … is Z-Dub?!

  7. elmer says:

    He’s on crack.

    We here are the hardcore Wii gamer.

    We here all know about Zak & Wiki (thanks to reviews/industry publications/whatnot).

    We all know about it thanks to word of mouth.

    We here are the 30,000 buying it.

    Apparently ONLY the hardcore gamer heard about it.

    The wider public predominantly hears about games through the TELEVISION.

    Industry publications (which Capcom DID hit and have been harping on the merits of the game) ARE NOT READ BY THE MAJORITY. Word of mouth communicated by their ‘PR Outreach’ does not hit ordinary moms, dads and kids.

    “not in places necessarily where core gamers would see it”

    He’s suggesting that we hardcore gamers DON’T SEE THOSE OTHER METHODS OF ADVERTISING BUT THAT THE PUBLIC AT LARGE DO? That somehow WE don’t watch television?

    I have not seen one billboard, one television add, one cartoon or one guy in a suit pushing the game. How in the FUCK did he expect to hit the public at large? Who the FUCK did he expect to buy the game?

  8. Rob says:

    Jamie what channel have you been watching? I aint seen a single spot on the ad breaks.

  9. David says:

    I haven’t played it yet because there are JUST TOO MANY games I haven’t gotten to on Wii yet.

  10. Myst says:

    If Nintendo only started a demo channel for the Wii quality games would probably get a huge upswing and showelware would probably suffer badly. That there is still no demo channel for the Wii is just stupid and frustrating.
    I thought this would sell well in Japan whilst not so well in the US even with TV commercials since kiddie looks is a lot more accepted in games by the Japanese.

  11. Ralls says:

    Apparently “Z” is for “Zack” and “dub” is “W” as in Wiki. There were other sites calling it this–kind of a nickname, I guess.

  12. Myst says:

    Why is “W” “dub”, is it some play on words or something like that? I come from a non english speaking language so I don’t get what “dub” would have to do with a “W”

  13. Soup says:

    there should be ads on Cartoon Network, pulling kids in. there should be ads on Comedy Central highlighting the humor and/or puzzle deviousness. Ads are always targeted at the people who wouldn’t hear about the game in other channels, but I keep track of those avenues as well, and really there has been next to nothing.

  14. PG says:

    Regarding Z-Dub moniker:

    I think it’s a play on a recent ‘V-Dub” campaign by Volkswagen (VW). As for why W is a ‘dub’ – it’s kind of obvious, isn’t it?

    W == double V. The name of the letter, you know.. The same reason George W. Bush is ‘Dubya’.

    Feel free to fill in other cultural references, these are the ones I came up with. I actually got a chuckle out of it.

  15. hawkeye_a says:

    I heard that this game was hard to find due to low production quantities (according to IGN). I think capcom is making a serious effort to be a premiere publisher for the Wii and i definately intend to buy this game. The style, gameplay and presentation are all very cool. I will be ordering mine off of Amazon where the price is now USD$32.99 (down from $39.99).

  16. sakuragi says:

    Bulls**t!! The game is not even available at most retailers, i had a very rough time getting my copy.

  17. ejamer says:

    Interesting. Zack & Wiki has probably been my favorite game on the Wii so far. It’s not the “best” game, as that title probably belongs to Super Mario Galaxy or Metroid Prime 3, but Zack & Wiki has been an extremely fun experience and remained clever from start to finish.

    The most interesting thing that I noticed in Capcom’s official response was that Zack & Wiki was meeting their sales expectations. If that is true, then maybe the rumor about an eventual sequel isn’t as far out as people think.

    @ Myst
    Agree 100% – although I’m not usually a big fan of free demos, seeing one of the cool puzzles in Zack & Wiki might’ve helped to introduce the game to many more people. Hopefully the positive word of mouth will help to the game to achieve better sales over time anyway.

    @ elmer
    Hey, chill out dude. 🙂 I totally agree with your point, but don’t see the need to get so excited and start swearing on a (generally) family friendly site.

  18. ejamer says:

    “The game is not even available at most retailers, i had a very rough time getting my copy.”

    To buy the game, I had to look in several different stores also. When asking about it, none of the employees had heard of the game or could help very much either (although they seemed to be all PS3/360 centric anyway).

    On the upside, the game was entirely worthwhile after finally finding a copy.

  19. DonWii says:

    The game is hard to find because no stores wanted to stock it, because they didn’t quite understand what it was.

    As long as Capcom is happy about the sales, I have no problem, and THAT is what it sounds like.

  20. DonWii says:

    Also, Z&W TV ads in Europe

    I assume they are doing a final test. If marketing outside of Japan didn’t work, then…

  21. Atlantis1982 says:

    Do realize that people could REALLY careless about the game, like me for instance.

  22. Brian says:


    I will pick it up when I get a chance.

  23. peshue says:

    I actually think this game will come out alright in sales. it won’t set the charts on fire, but it seems like the sort of game that wil have consistent sales over a long time. In a year r two it will probably have done pretty alright.

  24. used cisco says:

    If this game sells like Ace Attorney then it will be a slow and long build leading to good sales over the course of a year. He may be right. Look at games like Elite Beat Agents, they started slow and then started showing up in top 10/20 sales lists months after they were released, all from word of mouth.

  25. fesworks says:

    I never saw any commercials for it. I’ve been reluctant in purchasing it… even with word of mouth and good reviews. I have not been bothered to investigate it beyond hearing “good things”… meaning I have not looked for nor seen videos or pictures of gameplay or advertisements beyond a few indistinct croppings.

    terrible marketing.

  26. srkelley says:

    I got the game at launch, my Gamestop only had one copy and I got it. What was up with that? The two people behind me in line were pissed. Thetre were no copies on the shelves, I had to ask the people at the register about it to get it. Two weeks after I buy the game I see it at a Target selling for $30, $10 cheaper than what I paid for it. WTF? It was definitely money well spent, but I know the game would have sold better if they’d have at least sent out double their shipments. most people who would have boguht it at launch have probably spent that money on another game and have forgotten about Z&W.

  27. Scott Clements says:

    As well as the TV ads in the UK i saw a poster in GAME that had a counter displaying days, hours and minutes til it was released, which shocked me, seems more like a tactic for Halo 3 or something.

    A lot of gamers complain that nothing good comes out early in the year, but now that stuff is* i think a lot of people are still playing the games they got for christmas. i havent finished Galaxy yet, so buying Z&W isn’t my first priority rite now, even though i wanna show support for this game.

    Cause if the PS2 Okami release taught us anything, its that Capcom will shut down its studios when the titles don’t sell

  28. elmer says:

    Sorry ejamer

    Capcom have just been really grinding my gears lately, and the industry’s been bringing my blood to a boil. I’ll try to tone it down.


  29. GradiusFan says:

    I have seen this game everywhere. Wal-Mart has copies of it every time I go in there. It surprises me to hear that people are having a hard time finding it. Maybe I’m just lucky, except I don’t think I’m really interested in buying a point and click adventure game. Can anyone tell me why I aughtta? Maybe I should read the whole review. I get to point and click and I quite reading cause I don’t think I’d be into it. Maybe I’d give it a shot if somebody could explain to me what the big deal is.

  30. Red Mozzie says:

    It’s been said before, but that’s because it needs to be said: “Z-Dub”? *groan*

  31. ejamer says:

    “Can anyone tell me why I aughtta?”

    1. Family friendly – The game is good for anyone of any age, but(despite the cartoon-like graphics) is still challenging and interesting.

    2. Brain burner – You should be able to make progress each time you play, but the game is still long and difficult. The best part of Zack & Wiki is how you end up thinking about the puzzles after shutting down the system, still trying to figure out how the pieces fit together to solve each problem.

    3. Great use of Wii remote – Not many games really take advantage of the Wii’s special features. Zack & Wiki is one of the best out there, forcing you to push/pull/flip/spin… although it could seem gimmicky, it actually makes the game really fun. Especially since you have to experiment with the remote to figure out how to use some items.

    4. Original game that is actually worth playing – Most games are rehashes of other gaming experiences. Not Zack & Wiki. I doubt that most gamers have ever played anything like this. Luckily, Capcom did gamers a favor by making this adventure top-notch from start to finish.

    5. Diversity – From start to finish, each new level is different and forces you to experiment and try new things. There is nothing wrong with doing the same thing over and over and over and over… but why would you want to?

    6. Completionist’s dream – A ton of hidden items to find and collect, and more replay value than you’d expect if trying to get the best possible ratings. If you need to reach that 100% rating, then Zack & Wiki will keep you busy for a long time to come.

    All of that said, Zack & Wiki isn’t the right game for everyone. It’s slow paced and requires you to think. The graphic style makes it accessible for anyone, but might be unappealing to those who are “too cool” to play cartoonish games. Despite it’s appearance, this game may be difficult for younger kids to play on their own.

    Only you can decide if Zack & Wiki is the right game for you. But don’t let the dumb name scare you off – it really is one of the best Wii third-party efforts released on the Wii so far!

  32. Fenrir says:

    Right now, while reading this, I received an email from Nintendo. And guess what? It’s a Zack & Wiki ad. Talk about coincidence..

  33. Amon says:

    I am personally not “too cool” to play cartoonish games, but I have a friend who is an Xbox 360-owner and thinks Wii isn’t really for him. That’s why I’m intend on purchasing only 16+ (Teen for US’ers) and “edgy” games in order to subtly try to persuade him into considering getting a Wii for himself, so we could play online games together; when it’s late at night and buses don’t run (I live in a small town by american standards).

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