Who Owns Your Brand Redux: When Fans Go Crazy

15 March, 2012 at 6:15 am

 

After last night’s post about brand ownership, I came across this:

MASS EFFECT 3 Protests Prove Annie Wilkes Is The Patron Saint of Fandom

Fandom’s worst side comes out as gamers rage against the end of MASS EFFECT 3.

[snip]

See, there’s a group of fans – a very group of fans – who hate the ending of the game. That’ll happen; endings are hard and it’s a rare franchise that sticks the landing. These fans have every right to hate the ending, and to complain about the ending and to bitch and moan. It’s how it works – you sell me this game/movie/book and I get to tell you what I thought of it.

But these fans are taking it another step. They’ve launched a campaign to get BioWare, the makers of the Mass Effect games, to change the ending of the game. They’ve started a Facebook page where they have about 30,000 Likes, they’ve gotten a lot of press from the gaming media and they’ve even set up some donation drive to the Child’s Play charity, which has raised $40,000 so far. Called Retake Mass Effect 3, the goal of this movement is to get BioWare to offer new alternate endings that make them happier.

This is simply retarded. Video game fans clamor and cry for games to be considered art. Well guess what, guys? Art is the result of a vision, and the vision is not yours. It’s the vision of the creators of the game. You don’t have to like that vision, but it is what it is.

Here’s the cold, hard reality: Mass Effect doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to the writers and the designers at BioWare. If you don’t like what they did with this story, then feel free to stop consuming their product. But you don’t have the right to demand that they bend to your whims and change the story they wanted to tell because it didn’t make you happy. That’s the ultimate sort of entitled childishness that gives fan communities a bad name.

 

This isn’t what I meant by allowing consumers to co-own the brand. (And no, I didn’t say the words “co-own” but that’s what I was driving at. I should have said it, because it’s an important concept in this discussion.) The thing is, there are varying degrees of brand co-ownership. If someone wants to make a cool Droid or Apple sticker because they’re a fan of your brand, that’s a good thing. If someone posts copyrighted pictures from your site on Pinterest, but it links back to you and drives traffic and you make money, that’s also a good thing. Co-opting, fair-using, and remixing your product is, in my opinion, a boon. Imitation (and reproduction, to an extent) are the sincerest form of flattery.

If, on the other hand, brand fans (“brans”?) think that they should be able to dictate the strategic or artistic direction of your product lines or organization as a whole, that’s crazy talk. That’s where the line should be drawn.

On another note, all of this reminds me that I don’t yet even own a copy of Mass Effect 3. I bought ME2 on the day it was released. I guess I’m working more and gaming less these days. Next thing you know, people will start accuse me of being a grown up.