Thursday, October 20, 2011

Blizzard-style Marketing: Now SWTOR is the Master (but only of Evil)?

Blizzard's marketing department is somewhat notorious for attempting to steal other MMOs' thunder - I correctly predicted their Rift launch antics about a month in advance.  I suppose it was only a matter of time before one of their competitors returned the favor. 

With Blizzcon and the presumptive announcement of WoW's Mists of Pandaria expansion less than a day away, EA has dropped a press embargo on the SWTOR beta.  One of Bioware's folks was quick to point out that the drop applies only to press - as Syp points out, bloggers who do not make money on how many page views they get (or do not get) on embargo drop day because they were included (or not) have to stay silent a bit longer. 

Personally, I don't have a problem in principle with the strategy - Blizzard has earned whatever karma they get on this front.  That said, I'm not convinced it will work.  Even with the relatively controlled press audience, Keen reports that the reactions are mixed or even lackluster.  Perhaps there are some people who aren't aware that there is a SWTOR or that it is coming out at the end of the year.  These folks may remain ignorant after the new WoW expansion gets the front page of every news site tomorrow anyway.  I don't know if they're going to make it all the way to the keynote, but even getting to the night before without the full details of the expansion posted on MMO-Champion is a bit of a coup for Blizzard compared to past years. 

At the end of the day, I think the strategy is a bit misguided for the same reasons it is misguided when Blizzard does it to other companies - I don't think most players are making purchasing decisions on games that are out now (or shortly) based on things that may be worth playing in the future (e.g. SWTOR's December release, versus almost certainly 6-12 months for the WoW expansion). If SWTOR doesn't get all the coverage they otherwise would have earned (good or bad) because they got buried under Blizzcon news, well, I guess it's only appropriate since overcoming his old master only worked out so well for Vader. 

P.S. Yes, I still think that the expansion will be Pandas, come back and laugh at me this time tomorrow.  Based on the schedule for an entire panel devoted to talent trees, they're probably messing with that system again.  My guess is that they will re-open the system a bit to cross-spec points, but remove key spec-defining abilities to a separate category based on points spent in the primary tree, akin to Rift's "root" system, to prevent the old cherry picking issues.  In fact, the Crab had suggested allowing the 10 out-of-tree points to be spent anywhere in the other trees, not just in the bottom tiers; we may be looking at a system where tiered "trees" are removed altogether, with the remaining "non-spec-defining" talents freely available based on level (i.e. no wasting points on talents that modify level 60 spells before level 60).


Stabs said...

WoW seems to be aimed at an audience that is younger and younger. The goblin start area, although beautifully crafted, made me feel like I was playing a game aimed at 8 year olds. Pandas? Really. And what about the expansion after that? Teddy Bears? Or just big swirly shapes?

Carson 63000 said...

I stand by my comment in the post you're standing by re pandas. I still think that Blizzard will follow Cataclysm up with a more light-hearted expansion.

Stabs, I never played a goblin, but I certainly didn't get a "younger and younger" feel from the parts of Cataclysm I did experience. I played an alt through the night elf zones post-Cataclysm and found the experience rather dark, picking through the bodies of various NPCs that I remembered from the pre-Cataclysm world.

Carson 63000 said...

High-five for mad panda-predicting skills!