Creative Roundtable: Flash and Bash

Bucking the HTML-only trend, 2KGames adds sizzle to its site

Given the amazing graphics we see in today's video games (particularly amazing to a writer who was dazzled by Pong back in the day), you'd think that video game publishers would have some of the coolest sites on the Internet. But they don't.

According to Charles Bae, executive creative director and partner at Rokkan, "It's a sea of sameness," he says, noting, "Everyone is doing HTML-based Web sites and making things Apple-esque."

Frankly, didn't exactly have the most dynamic site when Rokkan, a digital creative agency with roots in video game marketing, was hired to redesign and relaunch it. A hybrid Flash and HTML site operating on Rokkan's custom Rokkit CMS, the new seeks to make a bold visual impact as far from Apple-esque as possible, with a black background and a home page displaying colorful, full-screen imagery from games like BioShock 2, Borderlands and Mafia II. "This site is not for Mom and Dad," Bae says. "It's for hard-core gamers with souped-up machines."

There is substance behind all the style: In addition to being fed news and information about 2KGames' titles, gamers also have access to an on-site community and social media tools.

But does the new truly mark an evolution in video game marketing on the Internet, or will OMMA's creative roundtable panelists make like Big Daddy in BioShock 2 and shoot it down? Read on to find out what The SuperGroup's Gabe Aldridge, who, at press time, was itching to get his hands on BioShock 2; RED Interactive Agency's Peter Novosel; and Chris Remo, editor-at-large at, a site for video game developers, had to say.

What do you think about the look of the 2KGames home page with the black background and large images from its various games?
Remo: I like the visual style of it and the design. It's very arresting, and the overall theme is suited to the material.
Novosel: I don't typically use black backgrounds in any of my designs - white on black is quite hard to read. But they've done a really nice job with the big imagery, and it's very simple, and it's very clean. More often than not clients want everything to be on the home page, and they've done a really nice job of stripping that back and presenting you with the bare basics up front, and then letting users find their way.
Aldridge: For a gaming site, a picture speaks a thousand words, and I definitely liked the large graphics. They make some great games, and they have a lot of really cool imagery to work with, so they would be fools not to make it front and center.

How does the new compare to what other video game publishers are doing with their sites?
: It's considerably ahead of what most publishers are doing - particularly in community. The franchise-focused communities are a really strong element. 2K got on the community train earlier than most publishers.
Aldridge: The one thing I like more about the 2KGames site than others is that it isn't information overload. [Electronic Arts], for example, has a lot of text on the page - it almost feels like one of those Greek diners where they have menus that look like a novella. 2KGames does a really good job of keeping it simple.

There is also a blog on the site that will feature entries from people who work at 2KGames. Is that a valuable feature?
: It's a great idea. Gamers are techies, and they love behind-the-scenes stuff. I'm a cinema fan, and I love going behind the scenes. I'll watch the extras on a DVD before I'll watch a movie. I think the same could be said for this audience.
Aldridge: A well-done blog is a place where you can give your company a personality. If they allow their employees to have a free voice, it could be an amazing tool.

Is there anything you would like to see changed or added to this site?
: I wouldn't mind seeing a Twitter aggregator. Their games are the kind that people talk about all the time - I sent a tweet about BioShock 2 earlier today. The best thing you can do is have other people talk about you. I went to their Twitter page, by the way, and I have a compliment: I noticed someone from 2KGames had actually responded to a tweet where a guy had basically said, "Hey, I got treated like crap by your customer-service person on the phone." Someone from 2KGames responded and said, "I'm so sorry. Email me, and I will look into it." Hats off to them for that. That's how you're supposed to use Twitter.
Novosel: The only thing that stood out for me instantly as a negative is the lack of video content up front. I'd love to see a preview up front. Also, they could have added some third-party reviews of their games to say, "Don't take it from us. Listen to the guys who are actually reviewing the games."
Remo: I visited the site on my home computer, and it was fine, but our work computers are not exactly computing beasts, and the front Flash page is kind of buggy from here. It should be optimized for everyone.

But don't gamers pride themselves on having the world's most powerful computers?
Remo: It's not a wrong assumption, in that someone who plays games is certainly more likely to have a better computer than an average consumer, but a lot of people are visiting the site from work during the day. Our audience [at] is similarly gamers, but most of our traffic still comes from people at work, so I would consider that something they should keep in mind.

You all have tweaks you'd make. But, overall, is the new a success?
Novosel: It's a definite success. There's a lot of information on this site, and you can tell they really did their homework, and they spent a lot of time on the interactive side of things in addition to the design.
Remo: I'd say it's very successful. Honestly, my only complaint is that optimization issue I brought up before, but in terms of the actual content and particularly the community, I think it's extremely strong.
Aldridge: I do think it is a success. There are things they could do differently, but again the fact that it isn't information overload is great - that's one of the biggest things I'd like to shake their hand for. So many other gaming sites are information overload, and they've done really well with keeping the copy to the minimum and letting the images from their games speak for themselves.


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