Why no marketing?

In yesterday’s post I made a flip comment about my night elf hunter falling prey to a marketing influence. It was just a joke, but it started me to thinking. I realized that, except just prior to a new release, I hardly ever see any advertising for World of Warcraft any more.

Why is that? It seems to me that a way to stop the decline in subscriptions, especially during the predictable cycles between expansions, would be to advertise the game in a way that would bring in new players. I am not a marketing professional, but I know for a fact that slick advertising works. Just ask Apple.

Activision Blizzard seems to be advertising everything but WoW these days. I mean, you can hardly visit any game-related web site without seeing over-the-top ads for Hearthstone, which, let’s admit it, is a card game! So why no WoW ads?

Actually, now that I come to think of it, even back when Blizz was running the ads featuring Mr. T, Ozzy Osbourne, William Shatner, et al., the ads seemed less targeted to a new group of potential players than they did towards keeping the ones they had and possibly getting people who already played online games to try WoW. I mean, really, Shatner saying “I’m a shaman,” doesn’t do much to entice new players who have no idea what a shaman is, right? I don’t think I have ever seen a WoW ad targeting people who don’t already love online games. This is not to say Blizz has not made them, just that I have never seen one, so if they have made them they are not in any media that I frequent, except for the pre-expansion Super Bowl ads every couple of years. And even that venue is arguably skewed towards those who already love computer games.

When subscriptions are down, why not pump up an advertising campaign designed to bring in a whole new crop of players, people who would be happy leveling through old content and who would not be continually whining about being bored? People for whom playing an MMO is a new experience? The period between expansions, in fact, would seem to be an ideal time for such a campaign. Why not put an ad in People magazine, or Better Homes and Gardens, or the Washington Post Sunday supplement? Or a short TV/streaming video spot in one of the reality series that are popular?

(Okay, okay, I know you are rolling your eyes at the Better Homes and Gardens example, but the point is to try some venues that are not frequented by veteran gamers.)

I could go all tinfoil hat here and speculate that Blizz has always not-so-secretly considered their flagship game to be for elite gamers only, and that any concessions to mass markets was only done in order to get operating capital for the “real” game and “true” players. Which would kind of explain the all-raiding all the time mentality we have now. But of course tinfoil hat theories are far beneath me *coughbullhockeycough*.

If I were the kind of lowlife that indulged in wild speculation, I might advance the theory that Activision Blizzard knows that WoW is on its way out, and that they do not want to bring in a whole new crop of players, because that becomes problematic when it comes time to pull the plug on the game. It could be a  media nightmare to suddenly axe a game that you have recently made hugely popular with a whole new generation of players.

But I am not that kind of lowlife. If I were, I might go even further and speculate that Blizz is saving its advertising budget for markets in China and the Far East, because those are more lucrative these days than the Americas and Europe.

But as I said, I am not that type of lowlife.

Still, it is puzzling as to why, especially when subscriptions are in significant decline, Blizz does not deign to advertise to bring in new players.

(Short post today, as I am sitting at the dealer waiting for my car’s service to be done and it is about ready. Not to mention it is reset day, and I need to get home and grind out my LFRs while there is a chance at some decent groups.)

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

3 Responses to Why no marketing?

  1. Grumsta says:

    >>I could …. speculate that Blizz has always not-so-secretly considered their flagship game to be for elite gamers only<<

    Maybe not l33t, but certainly experienced. I found it a massive, steep, daunting learning curve when levelling my first character, and I'd played Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, HalfLife, Morrowind and Oblivion before I was persuaded to set foot in WoW. If this had been my first ever such game I doubt if I'd have reached level 10 before throwing my hands up in exasperation.

    You need a pretty decent PC to play it: that by definition means existing gamer.

    The interface is dated and painfully unintuitive, relying on 90s style TYPED command codes *rollseyes*. The story line is a mess because you now start after the Cataclysm. I had to idea who I was, why I was there, or what to do next. Other fantasy games I'd played (MW, Obliv) had a clear breadcrumb trail of a core storyline to follow, but let you deviate at will. WoW drops you in, says "good luck", and titters at you as you flail around. Well, that's how it felt to me anyway.

    Even the triviality of death took some getting used to. Monsters die and stay dead (but then re-swawn), but I can just die and rez at will, no penalty. Wut? I found that immersion-breaking and totally illogical, but accepted it as necessary gameplay after a while. I also loathed the over-reliance on loot, and still do. It's the single biggest flaw in the game. Monty Haul. Yuk. Anyway, I digress, sorry.

    The best way to get new players into the game is the same way I got in: Recruit a Friend. Having someone in game to show me around and explain things kept me playing. A traditional advertising campaign would probably get the free trial downloaded, installed and then uninstalled very shortly afterwards. Very few extra subs would come of it.

    Other than one advert for WoD that appeared before a Hobbit film at the cinema, I have never seen an advert for any Blizz game in the UK and yet it continues to thrive here.

    Blizz have a new xpac and a movie coming next year. I would expect some marketing effort for the movie, and that should drive people to try WoW. I'm curious to see what impact that has on the game. I'm thinking it'll be every bit as good as LFR was in MoP after all the new players boosted straight to level 90, but I'm a cynical old git and I'm sure it'll be lovely and friendly and unicorns and rainbows we'll all get on…….

  2. Fiannor says:

    You make a very interesting point about the game being daunting to a brand new player. I started just a week or so before Wrath went live, which seems like medieval times now. I, too, was recruited by a friend, but he pretty much abandoned me to my own devices once he got his goodies reward. I don’t remember being confused by the game, but I think that was because I didn’t know enough to be confused. I had played some solo computer games (Master of Orion was my favorite), but WoW was my first MMO. For the first six months or so, I thought bopping around doing quests haphazardly by yourself was all there was to the game.

    You are right that just enticing new players to the game with a free trial is likely to be an exercise in frustration, especially this late in its life span, when its intricacies are governed more by chaos theory than story line or progression paths. Which makes me wonder if there is any way, at this point, that the player base can be expanded, or if that is even one of Blizz’s goals.

    Thanks for giving me some food for thought!

  3. Roo ! says:

    Ozzy did a WOW commercial? Cool, I need to find that one.

%d bloggers like this: