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In My Understanding

An old school gamer discusses the challenges facing the MMORPG community and it's leaders.

Author: jesad

ESO Marketing. Dumb Luck? Calculated Genius? Or Deadric Influence?

Posted by jesad Wednesday March 5 2014 at 3:29AM
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You know I've been watching this whole Elder Scrolls Online marketing campaign for a while now and I don't know whether it's been calculated genius, dumb luck, or Deadric influence that has been guiding the decision making of its marketing department.  One thing for sure though?  Someone has a horseshoe the size of Kansas firmly lodged in their posterior area and they are milking it for all its got.


Subscription vs Free to Play

In a market saturated with so-called "Free to Play" games, these guys come out with a subscription plan game riiiiight around the time that people, present company included, are beginning to notice the lack of true substance in the "Free to Play" model.

The result?  Well it could have easily gone either way but so far it seems like quite a few of the quieter denizens of these forums have spoken up in defense of the subscription plan and have put the full girth of their massive, lurkerish, girth behind the subscription plan.

Then there was the weekend beta key giveaway.  For a stress test no less.  Where they sent a potential of five hundred thousand people towards one web site at pretty much the same time in order to get what they thought would be free beta keys for the upcoming weekend beta. 

Of course with the most hardcore of these people got to said website, which was of course way earlier than most. the first thing that they found out was that the first round of these keys were going to be given away to the paid subscribers of said website first.  A marketing ploy for if ever there was one.  And, coincidentally, the perfect place for many ESO subscribers to be in the future when some of the first Add-on's, that I am sure the folks at Curse already have well underway, are released.

THAT shit could have gone either way.  It even almost did as a lot of people immediately began to spam how the whole key giveaway was a sham and how Zenimax/Bethesda/ESO was already grabbing for money, etc....

But it didn't. 

In fact it worked out fabulously!  Curse got a bunch of new subscribers, both paid whales who couldn't wait to test their luck, and patient persons of interest, again like yours truly, who were willing to hang out until the truly free keys were put up for grabs, as well as a bunch of other dummy accounts made in the name of friends that may or may not pan out to end up being actual users of the site.  Meanwhile the game itself had a very successful beta weekend, even under the conditions of a stress test, and left players chomping at the bit for the next round, which coincidentally they made us wait for two weeks to get.

(Ed Lover Voice) C'mon Son!!  Seriously?  Could someone BE that smart to have planned all of that out or is all of this some weird result of Zenimax's QA department all sitting around a dark cubicle praying to Boethiah, the Daedric Prince of Plots?

Member of Zenimax's Marketing Department

No seriously.  Roll with me for a minute here.  So not only does this Beta weekend turn out great, but it furthermore causes the negative reviews of many members of the press, who were let in earlier and introduced to server that were not nearly as populated as those that were seen by the masses, and who based many of their reviews on the already assaulted "F2P vs Subscription" argument or the "Depth vs Random Idiotic Fun" (otherwise known as the Old School vs the New School) argument, to not only fall on deaf ears, but to actually be raged against by many of the fans that these very people sought to appease by taking these stances.  Thus facilitating many reviews and those who had written them as common hacks against the onslaught of overwhelming player opinion which was, for all intents and purposes, positive in regards to the game!!!!

What in the world?  No really!  What in the freaking world?

But it goes on.

So then we are at the SECOND beta weekend, which comes after a few very well planned thematic releases of PVP battles, keep sieges, and crafting instances, and Wildstar, it's only real till EQ Next comes out next year, a game that looks like World of Warcraft, that is even being created by people who helped create World of Warcraft, who have even lamented publicly in regards to possibly making World of Warcraft "too easy" and who have promised this upcoming title to be more in-depth and challenging for those players of World of Warcraft who are ready for something deeper, is not even getting half the publicity or forum action that the Elder Scrolls Online, a subscription based, first person, complicated, and by many reviews "boring" game is getting.

Elder Scrolls Crafting Article

Elder Scrolls Keep Siege Video

Of course in the interim time many of the reviewers, faced with the wave of shenanigan calls and so on for having release such limited and biased reviews, have began back-pedalling towards, "Oh, after a second look the game does not seem that bad." But nobody is even listening to them anymore.  Other titles, in order to offset the heroin-like jones that has been produced by the previous weekend, are getting a look but nobody is really investing in anything.  And the min/maxers, powerlevellers, and roleplayers alike are all releasing so much information that it's almost impossible to even think about anything else.

And then we all hit level 10.  Perfectly.  On the second weekend. 

As if someone had literally sat down and said, "Well, let's see?  In three days the average player "might" make it to around level 8 or so.  The advanced player might make it to 10 or 11 but they won't really have anyone to play with until the bulk of the server gets to where they are, so by the second weekend we should have a pretty massive army of pvp'ers making their way into Cyrodill and that should be enough to bury the needle MUHAHAHAHA!!! If it hasn't already been buried!!"

And just like that, that is exactly what happens.

For every person who got a beta key on that first stress test weekend, a buddy key is offered.  Word of mouth is now into play and the newbie zones have been made "optional" for those who have studied the variety of build charts, racial benefits, and spell descriptions that have been made public and want to return to the lands of Nirn "born again hard."

Crafting instances are discovered.  PVP is discovered on a mass server basis.  And all of a sudden it is no longer about IF people are going to play the game but WHEN people will be able to play the game again.

And that's where we come to the real crazy part of this entire tale.  The Pre-Order Package.

See, when I first got news of the pre-order package, being the all around geek type that I am, I couldn't help but notice that the day of release was weirdly coincidental to the day that another heavily anticipated geek production was also due to be release.

Captain America - The Winter Soldier, looks like its going to be as good a Marvel film production as any of its predecessors.  Even more so because of appearances by such cult heroes as The Falcon, and crazy plot twist villains such as The Winter Soldier himself.

Now you would think that a solid marketing guy would look into what else was going to happen on the day that the game he was promoting was going to release.  I mean, who would release a geek, cult, phenomenon such as "Curling - The Video Game" on the same day as they knew the nationwide "Ugly Cardigan Convention" was going to take place? 

That just doesn't make sense.........Unless.

Unless there is an option to do one or the other one of those things a couple of days early, such as the early entry feature of the pre-order package of The Elder Scrolls Online.

That's right kids!  If you pre-order ESO now, you will not only get to play the game, but you will get to play it early enough to also see Captain America - The Winter Soldier when it opens without fear of falling behind your various non-pre-ordering friends!!

I got five words for how crazy that all works out in Zenimax's favor.  GTFOH!!

And so it all comes down to the simple question of, what will you be doing on April 4th?  Will you be going to see the kickassed new Captain America Movie?  Will you be playing Elder Scrolls Online?  Or will you be doing both?

I am sure that there are those of you out there who are going to pick neither, or have something snappy to say in response to this whole web of conspiracy that I have just woven, but that's ok, no one believes you anyway.  The Deadric Princes have seen to it!

At least that is how it seems in my understanding.

Assertion - If Socrates worked for the MMORPG industry he would be a marketer.

Posted by jesad Monday March 3 2014 at 5:16AM
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I come up with the dumbest things sometimes.  So here goes.

Assertion - If Socrates worked for the MMORPG industry he would have been a marketer. 

Proof - I submit to you the Allegory of the Cave.

To make a very long story short.  Socrates believed that in the perfect state the enlightened person was duty bound to enlighten others.

In his "Allegory of the Cave" he tells the story of a person, formerly of a group of people who have been held captive for their entire lives in a cave facing a wall upon which only shadows had been cast, being released and taken up into the real world and shown the reality of things.

In his story Socrates states that it would be preferable to the master of said individual, if the goal of the master was to have a perfect situation where he could rule over a smarter class of captive, to have this released captive return to his fellow captives, whether he liked it or not, whether it was safe to or not, and enlighten those other captives with the knowledge that he, the primary captive, had been enlightened with.

That was kinda deep huh?  Yeah, ole Socks was like that.

My question though is how would that theory assure me dominance in a situation where my ability to learn is the only thing that sets me apart from everyone else?

You get where I'm going with this yet?

See, in an MMORPG it is usually the smartest guy who gets to be the most powerful.

Sure, sure, there are legions of folks who, upon being enlightened by the smarter guys, will be able to see a lot of things.  But at the end of the day, all things being equal, at the very best they are only following.

It is true in every game you play.  There are people who get into the game and figure things out and then there are people who, 5 minutes after installing the game onto their machine (if they even wait that long), immediately rush to the very first website they can find and look up the best way to get things done, these so-called "best ways" usually having been written by the exact same guys who figured them out.  Namely QA testers, Developers, Beta Testers, and of course Marketers.

Why then, among all of these different roles would I apply the role of Marketer to Socrates then?

Here's why.  Because of all of the other titles, QA tester, Developer, Beta Tester, and Marketer, only the marketer has a vested interest in making sure that the folks who aren't smart enough to recognize what a great product the game that said marketer is marketing is.  The QA tester gets paid whether the game does well or fails.  Of course if the game fails they may not continue to get paid, but most QA testers are nowhere near as involved with the future to be thinking this deeply from day to day as they are, a lot of the time, in caves of their own waiting for someone to come and enlighten them.

No, the QA tester will instead take the knowledge that they have gleaned from their exposure to the sun and use that to "own" people or build great empires within the games that they have tested.  That is if they can even stand to look at the thing for one more second after it is released.  More often than not though the QA tester will just be happy that said game is out the door and that they will get to look at something new for the next 6 months to a year of their lives, even if that new thing is just an update to the old thing.

So no.  Socrates allegory of the cave does not fit the QA tester.

The developer.   Well yes, he has a vested interest in enlightening people to how cool his or her game is.  But they aren't going to do anything about it.  I mean come on, even God has Angels and Prophets and stuff right?  Who has time to create the world and sell it too?

No, Developers spend more of their time doing the exact opposite of enlightening people to how cool their game is.  See, Developers are on some whole different kind of stuff.  Where they know that the more you know about their game equates to the less time you will put into figuring out there game.  So instead of hipping you to the ins and out of how to play the game, which in turn might show you how cool and in-depth the game really is, the developer spends most of their time breaking the things that the enlightened person has enlightened you with, thus facilitating the captivity of all audiences both enlightened and those still sitting in the dark.

The Beta-Tester comes closest but not so much because they are vested but more because Beta-Testers love to show other Beta-Testers how much smarter they are than the other. 

In this way the Beta-Tester becomes the "tool" of the marketer by disseminating the information put forth by said marketer much in the way that the guy who used to be chained to his friends in the basement comes back down and tells those same friends how messed up it is that they have been chained up in the basement this whole time.

The test of this truth relating directly to how the Beta-Tester is received when attempting to tell his fellow captives .....I mean Beta-Testers that the game is cool in spite of said fellow beta testers own assertions, because they do not understand the game, that the game sucks.

In the Allegory of the cave the captives decide, because the guy who comes back down to enlighten them, because his eyes are no longer adjusted to the darkness of the cave, can no longer name the shadows on the wall that they have all been looking at for their entire lives, that the guy has somehow been weakened by his trip to the surface, and not only choose to ignore his enlightening words, but actually get pretty nasty about the whole thing and threaten to put to death anyone who attempts to untie another captive and subject them to such a fate.


So no, Socrates would not be a Beta - Tester.

A marketer though!  A marketer has a vested interest in making sure that everyone, smart, dumb, old, young, male, female, whoever, thinks that their game is the best thing since ......well since sliced bread!

You thought I was gonna say WOW didn't you?  Gotcha!

The marketer then has the task of taking any information that might have been bled down from development or discovered by QA or the Beta -Tester and making sure that EVERYONE knows it!

The marketer does not care if this means that the Beta-Tester or that one or two highly disturbed QA testers won't be able to get a jump on the rest of the players on opening day because the marketer probably isn't even going to PLAY that game.

Long after the dissemination of every bit of information that would have made the game a mystery to behold has been leaked, put out via manipulation, interviewed out of developers, or just plain outright released in Adobe.PDF format for mass consumption, the marketer will still be marketing some other game, while the entire population of the game in question will still be struggling to find some form of differentiation in a world where everyone starts out, plays through, and ends up equal.

This is the purpose of the Marketer much like it was the purpose behind Socrates insistence that those who had been brought up from the cave and shown the light be made to return to that cave, even under the threat of death, to enlighten others because that's how they would be more willing to remain the poor slaves of a rich master instead of having to return to the life of a captive in a cave full of shadows.

And that's what you call your e-peen.  It is the badge of honor that you wear that proves that, even though you are still a total MMORPG addict in some way, shape, or form, you at least know your stuff and can stand among other MMORPG addicts and hold a conversation.

And all that is because Socrates is all up in your body like Scotty back when Scotty was just a Star Trek based name for a drug.

So in conclusion.

I believe that if Socrates worked for the MMORPG industry he would have been a marketer.  I believe that I have proven this fact by A. Presenting a belief of Socrates, in his own words, that reinforces this fact.  B. By elaborating on the ways in which I feel this belief reinforces that fact.  C. By demonstrating how this belief does not apply to other members of the MMORPG industry. And finally by D. Proving that, in the end, much like the Philosopher Kings of Plato's Republic, it is the marketer, not the publisher, who gets to laugh all the way to the bank while all of the others operate at some level of investment and/or risk.

At least, that is how it is in my understanding.

(Man, what in the world is this dude's problem? /pointing at self)

See you in the games.



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