Stop Copying from Wikipedia & Screenshots from IBM PS/2 to Market Your Add-on
Some products are welcomed by the community, grateful for high levels of detail, while others are slated for being overpriced or under-finished. Not a matter of a product’s success or failure however, a very prominent theme has been playing on my mind recently; the lack of care and attention from third-party developers in marketing their products, the user. You might ask why should this matter and why should we care?
When developers release a product that users are interested in, one almost always has to ask the question, is it worth buying?
Every passing month presents unique twists and turns in the world of X-Plane pay-ware addons, but one common theme is all too evident, even today. The third-party pay-ware market in flight simulation is largely based on visual quality rather than specific details, and as such, screenshots play a significant role in determining whether we would like to buy a product. It shouldn’t be surprising then that we expect to be able to use the screenshots presented to influence our decisions?
We do see many developers using small screenshots to promote their product. For example, we try our best to source the largest image size possible to use at the top of an article such as this but sometimes, developers just don’t care enough about image quality; and it shows. If you haven't noticed, monitor the front page on a large, high-definition screen for a few days and a blurry image is bound to appear at some point.
Some of the worst that we have found use screenshots to promote their product with a resolution lower than even a VGA format (640x480 pixels). This was a graphics standard that was released in 1986 - the decade when desktop flight simulation was just taking off. Of course, VGA is not necessarily a file format resolution, but this was a monitor resolution thirty-four years ago, and technology has advanced as far enough to be considering full HD (1920x1080) images as a minimum, which are almost seven times larger in size. To illustrate my point, there is a diagram included below, which clearly shows the small sized images still being used today.
It is unclear how a developer expects potential customers to purchase their products when they have to try to interpret what the screenshot is trying to show; such as high-resolution texturing, modelling or whatever else. And yet, what details are being shown can barely be viewed in their full glory. Though for the products that are genuinely poor, I suppose this might be a good thing.
There may be other factors that may also contribute to the small size of screenshots though. One such problem could be the store that products are being sold on; x-plane.org for example allows a maximum file size of 1 MB and needs an external website (Google Photos) to store the rest in high quality. So perhaps in that case, it may be the website a developer is using.
After viewing the screenshots, many users are likely to take to the product's description. I know I certainly do, and sometimes what we see is not just a lack of effort in trying to write one, but an inexcusable use of copy and paste.
JustSim is one such example of a developer who is getting marketing drastically wrong: Gazipaşa-Alanya Airport (LTFG) was released a while ago, but a glance at the two paragraphs that make up the product description makes it all too clear that it was copy and pasted from Wikipedia, which it is:
Verticalsim was even more careless with Sarasota International Airport upon initial release, leaving reference numbers in when copied from Wikipedia. However, indications from users who have purchased the scenery, suggest that the airport lives up to the developer's high standards, but it is difficult to convey the information that it is of an admirable standard to us when just seconds are spent on the airport's description.
What can developers do to rectify the issues we have outlined so far, and why should we care? We aren’t going to reference any particular blog or website that explains how to market a product, because to put it simply, there are endless webpages, blogs, podcasts, tutorials, and more that go into that subject in great detail.
We’ve spoken long enough though about examples of poor product marketing. To see an example of a product page done well, look no further than the IXEG 737 Classic by Take Command! There is a great amount of detail broken up into multiple sections detailing development background, systems and aerodynamics; as well as a number of bullet points outlining additional key features. They don’t rely solely on bullet points to convey their product details like so many do, but rather to bolster details on offer within the products description. It’s a description that doesn't describe the real-life counterpart, but uses exciting adjectives to highlight the best parts of the product itself. A description that places emphasis on certain facts and statistics
At the end of the day, we should be drawn in to buying the product. A description with a rhetorical question or two that should make us think about what we may or may not be missing out on. To borrow a saying common among culinary circles, “the first bite is with the eye,” and while not literal, why should add-on marketing be treated differently?
Threshold encourages informed discussion and debate - though this can only happen if all commenters remain civil when voicing their opinions.