[MUD-Dev] Marketing Resources?

Tom Hunter tchunter3 at comcast.net
Fri Apr 29 23:08:48 New Zealand Standard Time 2005


Michael Hartman wrote:
> Tom Hunter wrote:

>> I have not seen good resources collected, I have seen an
>> occasional mention of marketing strategy here and there,
>> sometimes they are good, othertimes not so good.  I recognize
>> good marketing strategy when I see it and can point to some
>> examples.  Mythic had a very good strategy for the launch of DAOC
>> for example, and its been imitated since.  Turbine is doing some
>> innovative marketing as well, even for older products, which is
>> interesting to me because most people in the industry behave as
>> if a game can only be marketed once, but with persistent games I
>> suspect that is not really true.

> Can you elaborate on what you thought Mythic did well with
> marketing the launch of DAoC?

Mythic was the first company that I saw use the beta phase as a
marketing tool.  I think (though I could be wrong) that they were
actaully the first company to do this at all.  That helped generate
a lot of buzz about thier product which in turn helped them get a
really good launch.

For the next part I want to look at two important marketing
concepts:

  Points of Differentiation  (PoDs)
  Points of Parity (PoPs)

Every successful new product has both, when Lexus entered the market
thier PoP was that they were a luxury car equivelant to Mercedes.
Thier PoD was that they cost $10,000 less.  Getting the same luxury
for $10,000 less was very appealing to a lot of car buyers and Lexus
was a success.

When Mythic launched DAOC their PoPs were all about charachter
building, fighting monsters and so on.  If you played UO or EQ you
could walk into DAOC and get up to speed in a very short period of
time.

Thier PoD was 3 realms and the controlled PvP experience.  At the
time this was a very power PoD and it helped them attract a lot of
customers.

Its also important to understand that they must have had at least
two plans and maybe three to support using the beta phase as a
marketing tool.  Obivously they needed a marketing plan.

A little less obviously they needed a technical plan because you
can't use a buggy game as a marketing tool even in beta.  People
will expect and forgive some bugs, but if the game has serious
issues then you will damage your launch.

Finally its very likely they had a customer support plan as well.
During a large beta phase its critical to keep the testers happy
because you want them to convert to paying customers when you go
live.

I will admit that I am making a lot of assumptions about Mythic but
if you talk to them, or they reply to this, I think I will be more
or less on the money.  I don't think they would have been successful
if they had not done these things.

> And also, what has Turbine done lately that impressed you,
> marketing-wise?

Last year Turbine started allowing a download of the Asheron's call
game.  They also launched a campaign to get lapsed players back.  At
the time thier subscriber numbers stablized and then went up a bit.
The important thing here is that it did not cost a lot to do this, I
don't know it for a fact but I would not be suprised if the ROI was
pretty good.  I have not checked up on Turbine in the last 6 months
or so, and they many have done some other things recently.

>> But if you have any specific questions I would be happy to keep
>> typing away on this subject, its fascinating.

> One of the first questions that comes to mind is how to build that
> initial buzz, and how to balance that with not causing people to
> think "huh? That <insert name of game> game isn't out yet?"

Start with PoDs, make a list.  Then if possible test this list with
focus groups, even informal ones will help.

Once you have your PoDs you can create a strategy for using them to
create buz about the game.  This is complex and involves everything
from advertising buys to reviews to fan sites (this is not a
complete list).  One suggestion is to look at the way the movie
business prepares for a blockbuster film release.  I suggest
checking out the marketing for the new Spielberg/Tom Cruise War of
the Worlds film there are fan sites that have documented all the
marketing efforts for the film chronologically so you can see when
they released trailers, when they did interviews, when TV spots
aired and stopped airing, its very interesting to see.  What you are
trying to learn by looking at them is the attention span of your
potential customers, how to get that attention and build buzz.  The
film is due in theaters June 29 so you can see this in process if
you start looking now.

> For example, say you have a game about a year away from
> release. When do you open up the web site with information about
> the game? When do you start soliciting applications for
> alpha/beta?

In addition to the film example above I would look at what other
game companies have done.  Be very careful selecting your alpha
testers since they will find the game killing bugs and you don't
want that list getting out into the world.  By the time you hit beta
you want the game killers gone so that people write about how cool
your game is.  So part of the answer to your question comes back to
how good is my QA.

> Is it wise to open up your web site 6-12 months before release,
> and then every few weeks add a bit more to the site to keep people
> checking back (new race this week! or new class this week!
> etc.). Or does releasing information that far in advance result in
> the game seeming old and passe by the time it actually comes out.

I know some companies do put information up 12 months in advance.
On the other hand the movie business has spent a lot of money trying
to understand the mass market and they seem to think a 6 month time
horizon is best.  If you start a year in advance your going to get
some attention from hardcore fans for a while, and maybe even for a
year.  If you start a bit closer to the release date you may be able
to build more excitement.  A lot depends on those PoDs because they
are the basic ingredient of buz.  If you have a lot of them maybe
you can go for a year releasing new material often enough to keep
people excited.  If you have fewer then less than a year may make
sense.  On the flip side if you release too many PoDs people will
get confused.  I hope its becoming clear that this is actually quite
complex and difficult to do well.

> It seems like building hype and getting the community started
> around a game is a vitally important aspect of having a good
> release. The question then is how best to accomplish that.

Your certainly right about the importance of hype and community, and
I have touched on some of the things needed to accomplish that.  How
best is a really hard question.  Its a trueism but most marketing is
average and to launch a new product you really want marketing that
is way above average.  The question is how to get it, and you start
by looking.

Good luck

Tom Hunter
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