Overkill, the Walking Dead, and Payday 2 fans

Overkill Software is a Swedish video game developer that’s created a four-player cooperative first person shooter series named Payday. The Payday series is basically one where players can play as a bank robber in highly unrealistic scenarios across Washington, D.C. Thanks to a levelling system and a steady stream of updates, the games is pretty endlessly replayable, and look set to continue as Overkill’s flagship title.

So how did Overkill celebrate the one-year anniversary of Payday 2? Well, it had Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman step in and talk to fans in perhaps the most depressing teaser ever (seriously, it’s a bummer, of course, so is Walking Dead):

Overkill announces it will be developing a new game, and Payday 2 fans got a Walking Dead-inspired baseball bat to fool around with:

Overkill Lucille Banner

Banner for “Lucille” (via Overkill Software)

The reaction from Payday 2 fans was mixed. Some were pissed about getting a glorified stick after expecting something big for the anniversary, others were glad Overkill will be able to work on such a hot property as The Walking Dead.

It seems to me that the problem lies in the relative newness of Overkill Software. Unlike other developers, Overkill has only one series it’s ever developed: Payday. That means that for all intents and purposes, Overkill’s fans are Payday fans. So if Overkill wants to reach its fans, it needs to reach them through channels for the Payday series. So if it teases that it will have a big announcement for the anniversary of Payday 2, fans are going to expect it will be about Payday 2.

Does that mean Overkill has to cater to fan expectations? No, of course not – Payday 2 customers have already paid for their game and received the product. But good marketing requires anticipating how your audience will react. And not angering your most likely base of future customers is a good idea when you’re about to try and sell them on a new property.

It won’t be a problem in the future as Overkill’s identity becomes diverges from the Payday series (and an influx of Walking Dead fans will help with that divergence), but it’s a good reminder that managing expectations is a part of selling games, and Overkill didn’t do a good job of that here.

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