In the first article of my column, I introduced the concept of marketing, as opposed to simple advertising. This week, I'm going to take a look at the vast audience that Funcom has yet to tap and the ways that the company has set about drawing new players into the game.
There are fans that have read the original Robert E. Howard short-stories and poetry, much of which was written between 1932 and 1936 and re-published extensively. Many of the original Howard stories are available to read for FREE online. There are those of us who have followed the "pastiche" writings and books about Conan (non-Howard material), from the likes of Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter, Robert Jordan, Leonard Carpenter, Steve Perry, John Maddox Roberts, and many others.
Then, there are those of us who were raised on the Savage Sword of Conan magazines and Conan the Barbarian comic books of the 1970's and 1980's, those of us who watched Arnold on the big screen in Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Conan the Destroyer (1984). Arnold made a cameo again with Bridgitte Nielson in Red Sonya (1985) and let's not forget the tale of Conan's inspiration Kull the Conqueror (1997) with Kevin Sorbo. We have fans of the Conan the Adventurer animated series (1992-1993 with 64 episodes) and Conan and the Young Warriors animated series (1994). We have fans of the Conan the Adventurer live television series (1997-1998). Dark Horse Comics has since picked up the sword and driven their horse at a frantic pace with a new Conan the Cimmerian comic and re-publication of Savage Sword of Conan and Conan the Barbarian in multiple books of the Omnibus Editions.
Still not convinced that this IP is simply huge and that Funcom has yet to tap its full potential? There is even a third graphic novel series that is based on all the "original" Robert E. Howard short-stories comprised of a half dozen or so books, including "The Frost Giant's Daughter". I have looked at all of these editions at my favorite booksellers, and they are incredible. We also have the Funcom-collaborated novels of the Age of Conan series (2005-2006). Though hard to find, the "Marauders" trilogy, the "Heretic of Stygia" trilogy, the "Legends of Kern" trilogy, and the "Soldier's Quest" trilogy were developed to introduce the cultures (and veiled threats) that were playable at release of the Age of Conan MMORPG. Now, we need to find a way to tie-in these hidden fans and draw them into our world. With these inspirations, they have already briefly stepped forth into our collective consciousness, and we need only bring them the rest of the way.
You can also check out the Age of Conan comic book online.
For veteran players, we are involved in a war for our very survival. This endeavor is further complicated by those individuals who for whatever reason are determined to see that the failings of FunCom and Age of Conan are never forgotten. If you have not played Age of Conan in six to twelve months, or not since release, now is the time to retry it. The game has changed. If the present game had been released in May 2005, many of the playerbase would never have left. Much of the anger at present in this and other forums stems from the sense of betrayal and deception that many former players feel. I will not belittle this; I was there with you.
While some chose to leave the game for good, I decided to take a brief period of inactivity instead and since returning have stuck around. And I'm glad I have. Don't get me wrong, there are still some weaknesses, but they aren't show-stoppers, and at the rate that the Age of Conan developers are improving our alternate reality, we should see more improvements soon.
You don't have to believe me. I'm admittedly a fan of the game, but FunCom has recently stepped up its efforts to bring people back to the game, which is often a sign that the developers feel more confident in a product that even they realize has needed improvement. In August 2009, FunCom made their first attempt at a Re-Evaluation campaign. Many players came back, and some were again lost to the wave of hype associated with Aion and other new releases.
In November 2009, the Re-Evaluation campaign was initiated again. The developers are adding even more content and PvP material for anyone who might feel like content might still be an issue and all veteran players (read: former players) are offered two weeks of FREE play time to come back and with that comes Double Experience for the duration of the re-evaluation.
By restarting your service, players can also claim their choice of six new starter weapons from their Funcom Account page that will help them pass through Tortage more easily; this is also available to all current subscribers, new or experienced avatars.
So, other than free trials, what is Funcom doing to try to boost their player base? Well, they've also placed an increasing series of discounts on their recurrent subscriptions: three months (20% discount), six months (30% discount), and twelve months (45% discount). The rate discounts are nearly double what the multi-month service savings used to be. A twelve month subscription works out to be about $8.25 per month USD. Your Veteran Points are earned upon payment for the duration of your subscription, so you can use them immediately to improve your gaming experience with a variety of social, mount, pet, and enhancement rewards. Shortly after discounting all prices, FunCom decided to sweeten the pot with additional perks that add even more value than money savings, although this deal is only good until December 1st, 2009. Extend your membership for three months and get guaranteed beta access to Funcom's new supernatural MMO "The Secret World". Extend for six months and receive an Epic Nemedian Helm (usable at level 40) for each of your Age of Conan avatars that grants a 10% increase in gained experience while worn. Extend for twelve months and your account will be granted a FREE download of the "Rise of the Godslayer" expansion upon its release sometime in the first half of 2010.