[MUD-Dev] Marketing Resources?

Mike Rozak Mike at mxac.com.au
Wed May 4 17:51:29 New Zealand Standard Time 2005


I seem to be contradicted, and by people with INFINTELY more VW
marketing experience than I have. I'm not totally conviced,
though...

Jason Smith wrote:

> Not only is it not an early announcement for an MMOG, it's
> imperative. In fact, 6-12 months from release is actually be far
> too /short/ a time to be effective.

My read on your marketing schedule is:

  1) 12-18(?) months before ship, put up a web site to get hard core
  gamers to buy in, since they're IEUs (influentual end-users for
  those not into TLAs) that less technical friends rely upon for
  information.

  2) Dribble information out over time... although perhaps monthly
  at first, and weekly near the end.

  3) Non hard-core gamers are brought in by hard core gamers. This
  creates a positive feedback cycle which is designed to peak at
  launch.

  4) Combine with generous amounts of web interviews, magazine
  interviews (taking into account the 3 month publishing delay),
  web-ads, radio and TV interviews (not common yet), etc.

  5) Use the public beta to generate pre-sales (about 3 months
  before ship?) which can then be used to convince retailers to give
  your MMORPG shelf space.

Does anyone know (or more to the point, will anyone tell me) which
are the most popular MMORPG sites? And how influential online
vs. print is to MMORPG players?

My impression is that game magazines are fairly poor at covering
MMORPGs (at least those magazines that make it to the Australian
outback), and that the best coverage is on the web. The easiest web
site to use seems to be MMORPG.com, so I assume this is one of the
more popular ones... although I don't really know.

MMORPG.com has user-ratings, which I find interesting to watch...

Over the last few weeks, Age of Conan and Granado Espada have been
announced. Age of Conan has about 9 screenshots on its web page, and
is currently ranked as 2nd with a player score of 7.4, behind
DnL. Granado Espada is 22nd with a rank of 7.0, with 5 screenshots
and a very poorly translated and uninformative site. Ogre Island,
which was announced about a month ago, is 4th from the bottom,
probably because its screenshots demonstrate 10-15 year old
technology... Raph Koster noted the importance of eye candy.

Using my programmer's hat, I'd guestimate Ogre Island is the most
real of the three (in beta), followed by Age of Conan (not alpha,
but demoable, probably just movement, no combat, very small world
consisting of a ship next to a shanty town), and Granado Espada is a
bunch of screenshots.

Having watched the MMORPG.com user-based ratings, it seems like a
new game starts out high (unless it has lousy graphics), and slowly
settles down to a slightly lower position over a few months. When a
major announcement hits, the game's rating will zoom up for a month
or so, and gradually settle lower.

I assume that readers of MMORPG.com are more likely to look at the
top-ranked games then the lower-ranked ones. As a marketer, I really
want my game to be in the top-7 upcoming MMORPGs to get it noticed
(since that's how big the window is on the main page).

It seems to me, a winning strategy for MMORPG.com is:

  1) Have really good screenshots, even though those screenshots may
  require a $2000 video card to render. A nice web-page with
  gramatically-correct English is also good. (The WoW articles were
  very well written, although you'd have to rely on hard-core gamers
  to actually read the tomes and produce a one-sentence summary to
  their non-hardcore friends, who gave up after the first paragraph
  and just looked at the pretty pictures... Again, I'm being a bit
  facetious.)

  2) Announce on MMORPG.com.

    2a) Advertise on MMORPG.com so they are more inclined to give
    you interviews and other news-item space. I don't know if
    MMORPG.com works this way, but print media often does.

  3) As the game's hype-meter score starts to fall (in about a
  month), come out with an "earth-shattering" announcement of a
  unique selling point.

  3) Repeat, trying to keep the game's hype-meter up as long as
  possible, since a top-7 game will draw the most clicks, and hence,
  the most potential players.

  4) A VW won't have more than a few "earth-shattering"
  announcements in its arsenal. For example: EQ II's first major
  announcement was its existence. #2 was the DX9 graphics quality
  (USP). #3 was the inclusion of voice-overs (USP). EQII's sharding
  may have been a USP, but it didn't make any impact on me; I'm not
  sure what other users thought at the time.

  5) 3 major announcements one month apart, culminating in a 3-6
  month public beta, would mean starting the PR machinery 6-9 months
  ahead of launch.

  6) If I were a major MMORPG, I'd add another 3 months for FUD
  reasons. (It seems like not everyone understood FUD, so I'll
  explain a bit more. FUD was a term used at Microsoft to describe
  announcements of a product way ahead of scheduled release. The
  purpose of a FUD announcement is to keep users from buying a
  competitor's product while they wait for yours to come out. No-one
  ever admits to using FUD, so FUD may all be one big conspiracy
  theory. FUD was eventually (officially) banned because a) products
  always shipped a year late, making a FUD pre-announce look like an
  intentional lie instead of the result of an over-zealous schedule,
  b) FUD can sometimes backfire and affect your own product sales,
  and c) the FTC and/or other government organizations got
  upset... or so goes the rumor.)

That comes to 9-12 months for a large MMORPG, 6-9 for a small one.

If I were to pre-announce 12-18 (or more) months ahead of time, as
you suggest, my mental marketing model implies that the momentum
from each major announcement would stall long before the next major
announcement.

You have way more experience than I do, so something must be wrong
in my calculations. I know that MMORPG.com is only one of many
channels of marketing, and while it may be similar to other web
channels like MMORPGDot.com, it's radically different from
print. Building a community has already been mentioned, although my
un-marketing mind thinks 9-12 months should be plenty of time. All
the points you mentioned were important, but they don't seem to
require more than 9-12 months (to me.) What am I missing?

Mike Rozak
http://www.mxac.com.au
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