Marketing to MMOG players

I don’t know if I should laugh or cry at this article on Gamasutra. Recapping a talk given at the Montreal International Game Summit last month, Rich Vogel, VP of Product Development at Sony Online Entertainment spoke about marketing directly to players in game, and managing their community outside of the game.

The fact that the industry is now talking about marketing to players within a game makes me want to cry – especially as almost all MMO games are roleplaying. Marketing and advertising take you out of that context. Whether it’s fantasy like World of Warcraft or Everquest (1 or 2), or sci-fi like Eve Online, Anarchy Online or Star Wars Galaxies, market to the players outside of the game – on their forums, fan sites and other gaming websites. Leave it out of the game.

He does have some really good points on managing a MMOG community.

Vogel insisted that separate game-related web sites be run by developers, not marketing or PR personnel, and that the writers try to keep their style very human and accessible, joking now and again, and seeming informal and down to earth. Another piece of small advice that added to the sum: color code the writers of forums to their status, be they player, moderator, or developer. That way, readers of the forum can easily scan the boards for pertinent information from appropriate people. “You need to have clear lines of responsibility,â€? he says, noting that a clearly color-coded community manager on a forum doesn’t have the same powers that a dev has.

Vogel says MMOG owners do well to admit their mistakes. “Win over your community so that they are forgiving of you when you really screw up,â€? he said. He also gave some advice about distracting the players when making a change to the game, not answering controversies that arise, as it just feeds them, and not taking too seriously the forum rants of hardcore players, who don’t represent the silent majority. You can get feedback from the quieter majority, however, by simply administering surveys. However, the hardcore, verbal players are the people who generate word of mouth marketing, Vogel admits, “so keep them happy, too.â€?

Now I don’t know if I agree with the distraction comment above, but I do agree in not catering to the vocal minority. It’s interesting to see where Sony Online Entertainment may be going with their games.

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