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 Curse.com 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.
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.