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Panel: Emerging PR Strategies for MMOs

Carolyn Koh Posted:
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AGC Panel: Emerging PR Strategies for MMORPGs

Panel members: Susan Bohle of The Bohle Company, Sean Kauppinen of Kohnke Communications (Moderator), Chris Kramer of Sony Online Entertainment, and Jason Wonacott of Webzen

The panelists agreed that there is a great fragmentation of the industry in the current market place with the ease of setting up website and blogs on the internet. There has been a explosion of sites on the internet and the panelists also agreed that more and more time is required to get their message out.

“Your ROI on small sites can be as much or even more than the traditional large news sites,” said Chris Kramer. Jason Wonacott agreed. “You have to have something really sexy or different to get noticed.” With Susan Bohle concluding that it’s “harder to get your message across and through all the noise.”

In terms of mainstream press, “They still tend to treat us as ‘oh look at those crazy kids with your crazy video game…’ meanwhile, here’s even more info about Tom’s Cruise’s baby!” said Kramer.

According to Wonacott, “The best thing that’s happened to the MMO Games industry from a PR standpoint is WoW. The worst thing that’s happened to the MMO Games industry from a PR is WoW.”

WoW is a double-edged sword in that it got MMO Games noticed in the mainstream press, but then for every other game out there, it’s having to differentiate themselves from WoW.

Kauppinen asked if blogs and the fragmentation of the market has changed the way news is released.

Bohle spoke of getting the message across to audiences outside of the gaming community, but who may be interested in the game; Comic book fan clubs, anime sites, etc. “We have to treat fansites like the press and provide these loyal consumers access to assets for their site.”

Wonacott touched on how Public Relations is no longer communications simply sending out press releases through the traditional channels such as the wire services but has become personal relationships.

“I do a lot of my contact over IM,” said Kramer, supporting the rest of his panelists, “I have established MySpace communities to build communities for upcoming games.”

The conclusion drawn is that social networking sites are hot right now, and where the people are, the PR teams will be.

However, bloggers and fan-sites can turn around and bite the hands that feed them as they are usually run by people passionate about the games they play and often have a loyal following. The one thing that Kramer likes about them is that “They are a two-way street. I can write a comment in rebuttal to a biased post or if the information provided is incorrect.”

What about the video phenomenon we are seeing right now? With the low cost and easy accessibility to high speed bandwidth these days, the panelists agreed that fans love to see video footage of yet-to-come games and expansions. The out-of-focus shaky video that someone took at E3 is often circulated far and wide.

“PR’s vision of what a good screenshot is and that of a Developer’s is very different,” bemoaned Kramer. Telling of dozens of screenshots submitted of which perhaps two could be used. “It’s your baby. Don’t take ugly pictures of your baby!”

He also shared with us the length of time it took to produce good video footage. “It’s like making a commercial for TV. You go through many takes and many hours of video to get the best 12 seconds of it, then you have to match up and edit the sound effects and music.”

In conclusion, Kauppinen zinged the panel casually with “So what sites are ‘musts’ to get your news on?”

Kramer responded, “MMORPG.com… Joystiq…” his eyes widened as he realized what he had fallen for and turned to the rest of the panel. “Jason, help me out here.” To which Wonacott responded, “You’re doing fine by yourself!” The audience dissolved into applause and laughter and Kauppinen laughingly closed the panel.

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Carolyn Koh

Carolyn Koh / Carolyn Koh has been writing for MMORPG.com since 2004 and about the MMO genre since 1999. These days she plays mobile RTS games more, but MMOs will always remain near and dear to her heart.