Friday, May 30, 2008

I Am Impressed - Penny Arcade

Many readers here probably don't read game-based webcomics, maybe you think, oh, games, how unserious, or perhaps, oh, webcomics, also unserious, and if you combine the two, it's not even worth thinking of a sentence with which to blow it off, but I ask you to hold off on those assumptions for a moment and trust me to read on (you've trusted me to read this far).

My point will get interesting when I get to the children's charity and the exposition, so, with that little teaser, bear with me.

Two guys, many years ago (1998), started a webcomic, Penny Arcade. It's about games, mostly electronic, but gaming in general. Recently, they actually released a game, On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode One (yes that is supposed to be funny, but it's somewhat of an in-joke: it is intentionally overdone). What is really nice is that it is available not just for Windows (market share) and the Xbox 360 (mine is still choking on GTA IV, btw), but also Mac OSX and Linux. Those are relatively small market share (but really, Windows in corporate offices don't count for market share for games), but the PA guys know that their fans are tech savvy and use Unix-based OSes like OSX and Linux, and making the game available was a concern for them. So they did it. Was it a good ROI on the bottom line? Probably not. Was it a good ROI in terms of externalities and customer loyalty which are so difficult to measure that most people don't even know they exist? Yes, and they knew that.

So that was a really nice gesture.

Beyond that, the PA guys (Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik) also have a charity for children in children's hospitals, Child's Play. Amazing. They didn't have to do that. But they did. (Started in 2003.)

And they started an exposition, Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), a gaming exposition that is focused on the fans and players, not built around the companies (which are present, of course). Having been to comic cons, the Detroit auto show, Mac expos, and even an anime con, the logistics of bringing together an expo must be insane. They didn't have to do that. But they did. (Started in 2004.)

They do what they love, and they love what they do. It's not about branding, and making money is not the main concern (but everyone has to pay the rent, of course). Because of this, they do it well. PAX 2007 had 37,000 attendees. Child's Play 2007 raised $1.3 million US. (Numbers from Wikipedia.) Amazing.

How great is all that? I will tell you! Very great.

Also Wikipedia links:
People even make songs with accompanying videos about them.