Brand Loyalty (was Re: [MUD-Dev] Requirements for MM (was Complexities of MMOG Servers))

Dubious Advocate dubiousadvocate at hotmail.com
Fri Jan 3 06:31:57 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


From: "Dave Rickey" <daver at mythicentertainment.com>
> From: "Jessica Mulligan" <jessica at mm3d.com>

>> This phenomenon can occasionally lead to a mass defection of an
>> entire guild to a different game, should the micro-community feel
>> they've been badly treated in some way. On occasion, I've also
>> seen M-Cs from games that have closed down transfer to new games.
>> Several from AD&D: NeverWinter Nights on AOL managed to stay
>> together for years in the game and then transfer to Meridian 59
>> and UO after AOL closed the game in 1997, for example.

> This seems to be my week for "Me Too" posts.  Yes, organized,
> cohesive guilds with a strong sense of group identity can and do
> move en masse.  The DAoC "Guild Beta" was a deliberate effort to
> draw the leadership of pre-existing guilds into DAoC, on the
> theory that if the leaders defected the membership would follow.
> It was fairly successful, although a few of those guilds later
> drifted back to their old games or moved on to new ones, the vast
> majority stuck.

This exact exchange underscores why fanatical game loyalty is a
misleading assumption by developers.  And as the old BTO standard
goes, "You ain't seen nothing yet".  It leads to a mental block:
"because I have a handful of screaming fanatical fans I must not be
losing customers nor blowing my conversion rate.  I'm safe!".

Taking Dave's case he underscores an immediate erosion.  His
particular product succeeded so well due mainly to the good timing
of the launch: no new effective competitors.  Since his product was
finetuned to "correct" weaknesses in the established competitors he
enjoyed only a partial erosion.  The lesson is that good market
timing is a significant element in business planning.

That lesson/opportunity shrinks dramatically from here on out.
There are more competitors coming online.  They too are finetuning
their products to "correct" weaknesses in established offerings.
The player audience is going to have far more choices so it's
dangerous to assume that the events of a more immature phase of the
industry are still ironclad expectation in the maturing (ahem,
shakeout) phase.

Brand loyalty is missing in this industry because publishers haven't
yet understood how it really works or even accepted it as a need.
In short ours is an immature industry.  There is still a pervasive
sense among many game developers that somehow their industry is
different, and they are different, than every business model that
came before.  (in this context I include hobbyists - if we're
interested in creating communities among people who were otherwise
strangers, we follow the same rules)

And this assumption is wrong.  Crafting a product that meets
people's expectations and is adopted into their psyche/life is the
same whether it's an entertainment service or shrinkwrapped
commodity.  All that changes is the wording of the design
document/business plan, not the actual processes and execution.

No one claims anymore that internet marketing somehow changed the
fundamental rules of business.  It was a painful reminder, but
e-Tulips was not an unprecendented mania.

> "Want a community for an online game?  Steal it."  It works a
> *lot* better than bootstrapping it into existence from scratch.
> It takes months, sometimes years for a community to become
> coherent but they are somewhat "holographic", a large enough chunk
> of an existing one is fully functional if less detailed.

Agreed.  This upcoming year will be a valuable demonstration of how
to survive the shakeout stage of an industry.  Hint to would-be
competitors: learn from others, question traditional game industry
assumptions.

-----
Dave Scheffer
"Questions are a burden to others, answers a prison for oneself"


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