[MUD-Dev] Marketing Resources?

Koster, Raph rkoster at soe.sony.com
Sat Apr 30 06:16:53 New Zealand Standard Time 2005



Mike Rozak wrote:
> Michael Hartman wrote:

>> 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.

>> 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.

My current rule of thumb is "do it at alpha." You want to have
enough of the game solid and defined that you have plenty to talk
about, but you want it in advance of your beta testing, of course.

> Is an early announce such a good idea?

>   1) You get a lot of initial buzz when your VW is newly added to
>   MMORPG.com (or whatever), but subsequent updates don't get as
>   much. Your 50'th update of the week is pretty much ignored.

This would be the result of announcing too early.

>   2) When you put a web site up ahead of time, you may make
>   promises (or statements perceived as promises) that you can't
>   keep.

This is the result of not being careful with what you say (a common
flaw of mine, certainly).

>   3) You will get a lot of feedback from users who comment about
>   your MMORPG as they imagine it to be from your limited
>   descriptions. They can't comment on your real MMORPG until you
>   have a public beta. I don't know how valuable such comments are.

They are valuable in that they are mindshare. The users who are
active on your messageboards have made a purchase decision. This
prevents them from buying into other games until yours comes out.

>   4) If you do manage to build and maintain a community long
>   before launch then you get hoards of players trying to log in on
>   the first day, half of which won't be playing in a month. The
>   result is that the servers crash all the time in the first
>   month, not only because they're overloaded, but also because
>   they're new and untested. I think you'd want a slow launch, and
>   only hype things up once things are stable and existing players
>   are happy.

The typical growth trend for the big games now is that day one sales
determine eventual peak size. The adoption curve of every game I
have graphed is an invariant curve except for scale. The only kinks
that develop seem to be because of either major service problems,
holiday sales boosts, expansions, or significant competitor
launches, and even these only "reset" the curve.

All of your press attention and public visibility comes at launch
time.  It's very difficult to get that sort of attention
post-launch.

Don't get me wrong, many games do still grow by word of
mouth--Runescape is the current poster child--but particularly for
something competing in the retail world, the patterns look
increasingly like the movie business.

>   5) Your competitors get to see what your VW looks like 2 years
>   before it's done, or at the very least the get a
>   warning. (Assuming you do the standard MMORPG trick and put up
>   screen shots as soon as you have a single avatar running around
>   in a treeless world with one house.)

So?

>   6) If you put up a web page before your public beta, the main
>   feature you'll be competing on is "my screenshots look better
>   than yours". You can describe your really cool crafting system,
>   but until players can try it out, they'll look at the
>   screenshots instead. (I'm being a bit cynical here.)

If you're not competing on those grounds, you are going to lose
anyway.  For better or for worse, the audience IS significantly
driven by presentation. This is true in pretty much every industry,
not just games.

> There is one very good reason to pre-announce: FUD = Fear,
> uncertainty, and doubt. If a potential player knows that MMORPG A
> is coming out in October, and MMORPG B in December, and they think
> they'll like MMORPG B better, they'll wait until December to buy
> MMORG B. If they don't know MMORPG B is coming out, they might get
> bored in October and might by MMORPG A, despite it not being their
> ideal MMORPG; When MMORPG B comes out they'll still be playing
> MMORPG A and won't buy MMORPG B (for a few months, at least).

You can't overstate the power of locking up a community early in
terms of commitment to purchase. The emotional commitment to a game
is what causes the user to buy it. If they form that emotional
commitment early, they're not likely to "divorce" from their chosen
game unless given massively good reasons to do so. And most of the
massively good reasons to do so come AFTER launch. So I nthe
interim, they won't attach elsewhere.

The weekly unique visitors figure for the SWG forums when the beta
ended translated almost exactly into first weekend sales. In fact,
the trendline of weekly unique visitors lined up exactly with the
trendline for account registrations over the first month.

-Raph
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