In retail, marketing is half the battle. Wolfpack knew this, which is why we’ve been subjected to endless Shadowbane hype ever since the game was a mere twinkle in its designers’ eyes. If a game is not properly and forcefully marketed before its release, there is a rather high probability that it will fall flat on its face no matter how good it is.
However, is marketing years before a product is finished really necessary? I must admit, I have yet to play the game, and I’m already tired of hearing about Shadowbane. I suspect, by the time it’s actually released, I’ll be tired of hearing about SW:G as well. I did not hear about Ultima Online until 6 months prior to its public release. I didn’t become excited about the game until about 3 months before it went gold. The lack of endless aggressive marketing eons before release didn’t seem to have damaged the game at its outset.
The next generation of MMOGs is going to be sink or swim venture. Pre-release hype is going to make or break some of these games. With a flooded market, name recognition alone is important. Yet, is name recognition enough? With bad news filtering out of the betas of games like Fallen Age and Anarchy Online, one has to ask “Where’s the marketing department?”
Dev comments are not enough. The fact of the matter is that spin is important. A talented and able marketing department seems notably absent from MMOG companies. Oh, if only every MMOG could have their own private Calandryll. Comments like “We’re working on that,” or “We’ll be adding new features and content,” or even “We’re hoping to have that fixed by release” aren’t reassuring to a rabid playerbase that is hoping these companies learned the lessons of Origin, Verant, and Turbine.
If future games and companies attempt to charge $15, $20, or even $30 a month for their game, they will have to justify that price to the players before the game is released. They will have to hire a professional marketing department that is able infuse that kind of confidence in the game.
Right now, these companies are doing a piss poor job justifying why I should want to pay $10 a month for their games, let alone $15 and up. I’m tired of seeing designers flip flop on what features will be in their games, what kind of content will be present, and what kind of player the game will appeal to.
Basically, my wish for game companies and their designers is this:
Either hire a professional marketing department so players aren’t nervous about your product due to poorly managed comments from the team, or keep quiet unless you can tell the players something about your product with no less than 100% certainty.
Take a page out of Origin’s marketing book of blunders; never release information about features and content if those things won’t be there at release.
Backtracking and poor spin crumbles confidence. A lack of player confidence in a product cripples it before it even hits the shelves.