While it seems to be gathering a fair amount of praise from the few folks who have had the privilege of actually playing the game, if I was to gauge my excitement about Star Trek Online solely from the publicity materials released on the official website, I’d be pretty much flatlining.
I felt like Cryptic kind of mismanaged the marketing of Champions as well, in the opposite way that Warhammer did. While WAR was an overload of hype and promotion in every format available, Champions’ PR was so low-key as to be a mellow hippie. Likewise with STO, a game that is supposedly launching early next year, Cryptic has been content to limit themselves to a few dev interviews, a sporatic posting of screenshots, sparsely informative posts, and overcomplicated timeline articles. It feeds those already interested, but it doesn’t seem like they’re really working too hard to expand their potential base with any other efforts.
Compare this to BioWare, whose The Old Republic is certainly farther away than STO. While not pushing out new promotional materials on a daily basis, BioWare is nonetheless releasing weekly updates in the form of video timelines, developer blogs (text and video versions), expanding their game database, an online prequel comic book, and community-featuring Fan Fridays. It’s a little of something for everyone in various formats, and it’s working great for their title in raising awareness and generating excitement.
Now, sure, Cryptic doesn’t have the same deep pockets, and publisher Atari hasn’t proven to be the most savvy in terms of marketing past products, but there’s no excuse for the low profile STO has flown, especially now that it’s the next big MMO on deck. This is the time during which Cryptic needs to come out pitching their game hard, loud and often.
Something that BioWare has identified as an essential part of their pre-launch marketing is to bring players up to speed on the background and history of their slice of the Star Wars universe. TOR doesn’t take place in a time period that most people are familiar with, unless they played KOTOR or its sequel, and that means having to hold potential subscribers by the hand and leading them through the story until they feel comfortable in this world.
Likewise, STO is set 30 years after Star Trek: Nemesis, and that chunk of time passing requires them to educate players on how the galaxy has changed and what they should expect. Personally, I tried to muddle through their timeline articles for as long as I could, but they’re the epitome of TL;DR, even for an English major. So it’s great to see them make even baby steps into the realm of video diaries and timelines, such as this one over on GameSpot. Good luck keeping track of all the names, races and places amidst the constant explosions, though!
In a slightly unrelated note, apparently you can go ahead and pre-order the game through Amazon, and ensure that you will have your bridge crew assimilated by the Borg. That’s like pre-ordering Lord of the Rings to get a floating eye of Sauron who will dog your every step through Middle-Earth. Not that I’m complaining. Starfleet deserves to get assimilated at this point.