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Five Marketing Campaigns You'll Never See

Editorial By Sanya Weathers on May 12, 2009

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In today's Top Five, I thought it would be amusing to imagine an alternate universe. Five alternate universes, to be exact. In each one of these unexplored loops of time and space, a marketing team has thought up a campaign to advertise a new MMO - and given you, the reader, a look into their reasoning behind the campaign. Sadly, an intrepid team of Vulcan, humans, women, and other aliens have destroyed the wormholes that would have allowed these alternate universes to interact with our own. In other words, these cannot be taken literally, no matter how much we might want to take them literally.

Five awesome systems, not thirty hacked together chunks of derivative mediocrity!

We decided that since we didn't have thirty million dollars or a publisher with a "when it's done" mentality, we would be better off choosing five systems we could execute with originality and style. Those five systems - and only those five - are listed on the back of the game's box. There's no mention of the features we hope to patch in if enough of you buy the freaking thing. In our pre-launch interviews, no one has talked about the features we partially built, but ended up cutting during the prioritization meeting three months before gold master. Finally, all five systems work together and make perfect sense for our story and gameplay.

This product contains no features added solely because someone in our department thought they "sounded sexy."

We were invited to the production team's weekly meetings, because we're really not the enemy, here. We need to know what's being produced in order to sell it properly. Also, we're the ones who did the market research to identify the kind of player who would most enjoy this game, so we have a lot to contribute to the process. Our business is about making things accessible, so the executive producer valued our insight and suggestions.

At the same time, the executive producer's balls are located in his pants, not in the marketing team's mouth, so whenever we said something like "You know, the kids sure do love Feature X from Game Z," he would smile and say firmly, "It works very well in Game Z, but our game isn't designed to work well with that feature." And that was the end of the subject. So, you can rest assured that if it's in the game, it's because experienced designers thought it added value and fun to the game.

So good we didn't need tits in our ads - but we have them anyway!

This game is super fun, and it tested well in multiple demographics. It will sell like hotcakes as soon as word of mouth begins to spread. Word of mouth has already begun to spread, thanks to the beta testers, the community people, and the grassroots marketing campaign. We didn't need to think about the box art at all, because we didn't need to fool some slack jawed adolescent basement dweller into throwing down fifty bucks so we could earn out our box projections. The Collector's Edition is super classy, and we're very proud of it. But we could do anything we wanted to do with the standard packaging, because it was a no lose situation for us. And we really like boobies.

We decided to shoot for derivative mediocrity, and you're going to lap it up.

We kludged together features from WOW, EQ2, EVE, LOTRO, DAOC, POTBS, AC, DOMO, SWG, and we're sending in ninja spies to get features from SWTOR. And rather than waste everyone's time with coy allusions and copied interfaces and broad winks, we figured we'd just say up front where we got our ideas. Frankly, the way you people gobble down regurgitated slop, this approach will probably goose the sales. No, we won't break sales records, and we won't beat out anyone with genuine innovation and clean execution, but frankly, being the number three game in the market will make our publisher rich enough to buy an island. Reaching this island is done via galley ship, and the oarsmen are all the people who tried to innovate and failed. We will be allowed to visit this island as part of the bonus plan. So screw it.

Bug tested, load tested, balanced, and fun to play!

The studio hired a technical lead who clamped down on everyone to ensure that our underlying code was stable, clean, and done in the same style. Maverick geniuses are all well and good, but if their work can't mesh with everyone else's, the consequences to our customers are too painful.

We ramped up our beta process until we had a simultaneous population on one server that exceeded the population cap, and we let it run that way for several weeks.

And instead of hiring some b-school dropout for six figures plus bonus scale to join our team (the largest team at the studio), we suggested the studio head take that one guy's annual salary and put it towards four QA people and an experienced beta test manager. Then the studio head empowered that team to be part of the polish phase, as opposed to treating the lead as though he were available for everyone to climb aboard while shouting "Boy, you got a purty mouth!"

But above all, the game is fun. It's been fun since the earliest builds, and the whole team worked hard to make sure none of the added layers of complexity obscured the fun. We think it's worth your money, and we're not just trying to sell you something.

Sanya Weathers / I''ve been complaining about video games for fifteen years. Fifteen years, people. In internet years, I''m not just old, I''m DEAD.

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