[MUD-Dev] Marketing Resources?

Mike Rozak Mike at mxac.com.au
Sat Apr 30 11:49:01 New Zealand Standard Time 2005

Raph Koster wrote:

> 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.

"Increasingly like the movie business" - Don't say such depressing
things! Even though they're undoubtedly true.

I suppose your opinion depends upon whether you're a big company or
a small one...

The problem with the movie industry model is that it makes for
extremely expensive MMORPG launches. Many decades ago movies used to
make a few hundred prints (??? right technical term) and distribute
them to major cities. When the major cities had finished, the prints
would go to secondary cities, then towns, etc. They did this because
prints cost a lot to make. Noawadays, a major release requires
several thousand prints that are landfill two months later, when the
movie is a has-been. (Some of the prints are then sent to Australia,
a secondary market.)

If a VW has a big-splash opening it has to do more than just make a
few thousand prints. The company needs to pay for all the servers
and internet infrastructure to handle a huge influx. This is
expensive. The company must hire and train support personel, which
costs money. If the population keeps on growing after the first two
months, that's great, but if it levels out or starts shrinking then
support personel must be laid off, which isn't a fun thing, and is
also a waste of all the work that went into hiring and training
them. And, as I noted in the previous post, the first few months is
when the server code is the least stable.

SWG and WoW handled this by releasing in the US first, followed by
second tier countries/continents. WoW still had lock-out
problems. This is a good solution, but will become increasingly
difficult as the world shrinks. Most MMORPGs won't have reatail
packages, and won't be able to control the tide by limiting
distribution. Small MMORPG companies won't be able to fund a huge
launch, either, which makes bootstrapping from a small player base
more attractive.

>>   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?

Letting competitors see hacked-up visuals isn't an issue, but having
a USP trumped by a competitor is very disheartening. (I know.)
Announcing your USP 2 years before ship enables them to do
this. (Technically, marketing announces the USP one year before
scheduled ship, but the product slips an extra year in that time.)

>>   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.

Another depressing thought. Again, it might be a size
issue... Smaller MMORPGs can't compete on bleeding-edge visuals, and
their niche-market users don't expect them too.

Mike Rozak
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