10 reasons why TERA’s “MMO-FO” is the worst marketing campaign in the history of the 21st century

I know these have been out a while, but I haven’t been up to date on my TERA stuff because… I don’t care about TERA.  I don’t hate it, I just am not interested.  So while I heard of the eyeball-wrenching awfulness of this MMO-FO marketing campaign, I never checked it out until recently.

SERIOUSLY?  This is what a major MMO studio is attempting to use to lure new players in?  Oh me oh my, let us count the ways this fumbles:

1. This is our hero of the commercials, Bas Rutten, Bad Ass:

If you don’t already want to slap him silly, go back and stare at that picture for a few more seconds.  It’s like the great minds behind Poochie the Dog were hired on to destroy everything that En Masse has worked toward these past couple years.  It gets way, way worse once you see him acting.

Or forget me and buy the line En Masse fed the public: “When we started talking about Bas Rutten as the embodiment of our action combat system, it felt like a natural fit. Bas has a charm and intensity that only a man with lethal fighting skills can project, and that felt like the perfect match for our game.”

2. As a gamer, I guarantee that you will identify with anyone and everyone in these commercials except for Bas.  Unless, of course, you’re a Dutch martial artist who looks like the stereotype of every geek-kicking jock come to life.  To my knowledge, Bas is not known for his extensive experience playing MMOs or doing anything other than putting random people in headlocks and asking why they don’t stop hitting themselves.

3. What does “MMO-FO” stand for?  Well, if you know your acronyms at all, you know “MMO” and probably know “FO”, so by piecing the two together,  you have a marketing campaign that’s telling online RPGs to kindly depart with maximum vulgarity.  Or, hey, just shorten it one M and you have another fun swear word.  You know, for kids!

4. There’s a thin line between self-aggrandizing winkery and just annoying monkey poop-slinging.  This reminds me of what the esteemed lawyer Wayne Jarvis said when he first saw these commercials:

5. It laughs AT its target audience, not WITH them.  There’s a difference here.  I’m all for tongue-in-cheek parodies and funny send-up of tropes, but this series is all about outright mocking its target demographic (RPers, LARPers, MMO gamers, fishermen) and trying to shame them into playing this game.  I’m sure everyone involved in making these thought it was a hoot and would be taken in stride, but you know what?  It’s kind of mean at its core, and that’s hard to ignore even if you slather jokes all over it.

6. There’s a commercial where MMO-FO guy is ripping into the current crop of MMOs as people are playing them, then hijacks their games to force them to play TERA.  Everyone in the commercial goes with it, even though you see intense hatred boiling out of their eyes because he made them DC in the middle of a raid to play an upskirt fantasy title.

7. “TERA is the only game with true action combat!”  Well, MMO-FO, I hate to call you a liar because you obviously know your MMOs, so… I’ll move on.  But I’m sure there are no other action MMOs that have ever been released.  I will take your word for that.

(I mean, c’mon.  Claim that you’re going to be the best action MMO, I can respect that approach.  But to deny that any other games have ever tried action combat?  That’s just stupid.)

8. You’re badmouthing LOTRO.  Well, that totally endears you to me.  I also find it hilarious that in this commercial, he’s ripping on DCUO despite DCUO having, y’know, action combat.

9. Bas’ approach seems to be laughing at whatever games these people are playing, beating them up (because martial arts, that’s why), and then converting them to TERA.  Are they marketing to bullies?  Again, joke or not, why would I watch this and go, “Why yes!  He does make a compelling argument!  I will obey the bald gorilla and play this game!”?  It doesn’t make sense.

10. Here’s what gets me most of all: I’m sure there are plenty of TERA fans who are both eagerly anticipating this game and cringing at these commercials, knowing that they’ll be lumped in with this madness in the eyes of everyone else.  In other words, “He does not speak for us.”  I feel bad for them.


36 thoughts on “10 reasons why TERA’s “MMO-FO” is the worst marketing campaign in the history of the 21st century

  1. Winged Nazgul April 19, 2012 / 9:15 am

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    It makes it look like either nobody at En Masse is a gamer or that nobody at En Masse had the balls to stand up for themselves and shoot this proposed marketing campaign down.

  2. Ravious April 19, 2012 / 9:17 am

    With SWTOR’s free month to the elite and now this, I am wondering about some marketing people. It’s really simple. Does your marketing idea create bitterness? Does it create more positive anything than bitterness? Bitterness spreads ten times as fast and far on the internet.

  3. magnoz April 19, 2012 / 9:52 am

    maybe we should define “action” first. i think it’s pretty subjective. i don’t know many mmos but i know that i didn’t see any that i’d say had real action in their combat. for me it always (talking in generalities makes sentences much shorter) feels like smashing hot keys (a dozen different keys) in predefined order (sadly, sometimes even random order works). i think action is when you have to aim (no target locking please) and can take cover. also when reaction time is important. bonus points if you can do head shots. and i don’t count action animations as making an action mmo (sorry, swtor, i played one lvl 50 bounty hunter and i liked it until i ran out of story). simplifying it even more i’d say it’s not action if you can play it with more than 150ms ping time competitively.
    btw syp, have you tried out battlefield 3? i know it’s not an mmo, but it definitely has action: playing on a huge map with 63 other players, 45ms ping, while tanks are shooting at you, helicopters and other flying thingies shoot your cover to pieces — that’s action, feels like war (and no, i haven’t been in war, and i’m glad for that), even if you’re just crouching towards an objective and the action (!) is happening a few hundred meters away from you.
    maybe you could make this a topic for your next podcast? i’d even listen to it if it’s longer than 30 minutes 😛 i’d like to hear yours and dodge’s thoughts on what is action in an mmo (maybe compared to FPS games), which games you think have it and why (consider technical difficulties). maybe also if it’s even a good thing to have.

  4. rowan April 19, 2012 / 9:58 am

    Yeah, I don’t know who they’re trying to market to, but some asshole beating up a LARPer while talking about a VIDEO game having more action does not make me want to play that game. I am not a LARP enbthusiast, mind you, but the logical nonsequitor boggles the mind. So sitting on your butt in front of a computer screen is more action oriented than running around a park. Outdoors. In the fresh air.

    Just sayin’.

  5. rowan April 19, 2012 / 10:06 am

    On an interesting (to me) side-note, Rutten lives in the L.A. suburb where my high school is, which means his teenage daughter likely attends there.

  6. Feliz April 19, 2012 / 10:06 am

    And what’s worse, the campaign isn’t even close to reality. The action part of combat isn’t to much progress over other MMO’s. Fallen Earth is way ahead on that one. And without the action, the game is nothing special. I’ve seen some beta events, I won’t play.

  7. Gina April 19, 2012 / 10:08 am

    Just what we need. More MMO marketing appealing to manchildren instead of y’know, responsible loving adults. As if the industry wasn’t saturated with them enough.

  8. ScytheNoire (@ScytheNoire) April 19, 2012 / 10:24 am

    I’m a huge MMA fan, been watching since mid-90’s when it first started, and like Bas Rutten. I thought he was great in the GTA4 in-game TV show.

    But when I saw this, all I could think was that he was just doing this for the money. Bas is not an MMO gamer, if even a video gamer at all. He’s all about MMA, not MMO. On letter difference, but a very important difference.

    This is a case of knowing your audience, and they failed huge there. If anything, they turned gamers off of playing the game. To me, Tera just became an even bigger joke.

  9. Moxie April 19, 2012 / 10:38 am

    Wasn’t interested in TERA before. Even less interested in it now.

    It makes me feel like the game is going to be full of people that want to be/identify with this guy, and if that’s the case, I’ll pass.

  10. thade April 19, 2012 / 11:34 am

    I’m not interested in TERA. I think the advert campaign is in bad taste.


    I did enjoy watching a pair of faux WoW execs getting smacked around for committing resources to changing the size of Orc shoulder plates.

    …that was the reason, right? Anyway, I really enjoyed that aspect.

  11. Syp April 19, 2012 / 11:56 am

    That’s another thing — it could’ve been funny, if approached from a slightly different angle. The elements aren’t all bad, just the sum of them become that way.

  12. Syl April 19, 2012 / 12:10 pm

    I dislike TERA actually; but this commercial was so damn funny, I couldn’t stop laughing.
    maybe I have more self-irony in this area than some, but it didn’t offend me. the cosplayers are so over-the-top clichee for one thing and the ‘commercial’ (if you want to call it that) is obviously tongue in cheek, more silly than seriously nasty.
    …or maybe it’s because I actually know Bas from the UFC, anyway am having a generous humor day.

  13. flosch April 19, 2012 / 12:21 pm

    I agree, this is quite possibly the worst ad campaign I have seen in a long time, probably since Evony. And the Evony ads at least didn’t cost as much to produce.

    I just assume they tried to be “so bad it’s good”, and failed short. Stuff like that happens when you try tongue-in-cheek, and you hammer home that tongue so much it shoots right through your cheek and splats icky blood all over your audience’s Sunday dress.

    I should reign in my analogy horses more.

  14. Trippin Ninja April 19, 2012 / 12:40 pm

    Maybe it’s because I’m a mma fan and know Bas’ past but I thought it was funny. Bas has always been a high energy guy so he makes a great marketing tool if you want something over the top with some humor. He got Internet famous with his goofy over the top self defense videos so it only makes sense that he is beating on folks in this. That’s what Bas does best!

    Maybe its because he is an actual lethal martial artist that you are taking this so seriously, I mean would you make the same comments if it was Macho Man Randy Savage in this commercial?

    To me it was more akin to a big brother rough housing with his siblings than an actual beat down on geeks. I mean the guy he made train for war was laughing while Bas messed with him.

  15. pkudude99 April 19, 2012 / 1:31 pm

    You forgot to link Darkfall in your list of action-mmo’s. To me Tera looks most similar in play-style to that. I lasted about 15 minutes in a trial of Darkfall. I’ve downloaded the client for this weekend’s open beta, but based on the *very* little I’ve seen about this game, I’m not terribly interested either, and if the combat’s completely action-oriented, I doubt I’ll make it past 15 minutes before I’m uninstalling.

    I didn’t bother to check out the ad. I don’t know who Bas Rutten is, and don’t care, nor do I care to see an ad for a game I’m fairly sure I won’t be buying.

  16. kiantremayne April 19, 2012 / 1:48 pm

    I would, however, pay good money for the video where Bas Rutten gets The Mittani in a headlock and beats on him whilst yelling “Who’s the bad-ass now?” 🙂

  17. Tramell April 19, 2012 / 1:52 pm

    I know it was meant to be humorous but past En Masse marketing campaigns made it feel juvenile. I was already burnt out by “Big Ass Monsters” and “True-Action Combat” and this piece of marketing just made it worse for me. I would have probably felt different if their marketing campaign had a different feel.

    Shame though, I wonder how people have been turned of by the marketing, the dungeon I participated in with other press made me want to play the game.

  18. turnbullr April 19, 2012 / 2:51 pm

    Haha I posted this a while back. I liked it. Geeks and gamers should be able to laugh at themselves. I’m not getting this because I am just MMO’d out right now. I am playing Amalur (solo RPG) and loving the no stress, take your time feel of it.

  19. saucelah April 19, 2012 / 7:39 pm

    I’m in marketing. This style of advertisement is often called “New Absurdism” — the point of the style is not to create positive or negative associations with the product but to inspire a “what the fuck?” moment that leads to talking about or discussing the commercial with others.

    The marketers that created this ad would consider this blog proof that they have accomplished their goal.

  20. Toxicroach April 20, 2012 / 12:37 am

    I don’t know those other three games, but Age of Conan may have tried “action combat”, but standing in one place firing off 4 keys instead of just one to complete an action… well, that wasn’t really action combat, was it? It’s just a more annoying way of doing the exact same thing. I checked out Tera combat a bit, and I can’t say I’m super impressed, but at least its something.

    Personally I’m a Bas Rutten fan, having listened to him commentate on Japanese MMA shows for years so I suppose I might be prejudiced, but I like the ads. Tera’s trying to differentiate itself from all the other MMOS out there, both in play style and public perception. Given the fate of all the games that try to out WoW WoW I can see why they would try to differentiate themselves. It seems like they are assuring the audience that they are addressing some the major game play problems that make MMO’s objectively terribly in terms of gameplay and that TERA is not just yet another WoW clone. Good for them. I mean, it probably won’t work, but good for them for trying.

  21. seanas April 20, 2012 / 3:18 am

    “upskirt fantasy title”

    perfect description of the game (“Lineage 3” also works).

    If you are not playing TERA in a PC Bang, you’re doing it wrong and should probably reconsider your gaming choices.

  22. Ayane April 20, 2012 / 4:37 am

    Having played the Tera beta I saw exactly the kind of audience that this kind of advertising attracts. Pedophile jokes, homophobic slurs, misogynist comments and “your mom” jokes. When its population proudly proclaims to be “Barrens Chat 2.0” I kindly take my leave.

    My problem with the commercials isn’t so much that they make fun of roleplayers and such. But that they’re promoting beating people up over liking things other than what you like as some kind of ‘cool’ thing.

    Not to mention that the game’s ‘action’ combat is probably the most boring, mind-numbingly uninteresting combat I’ve played in an MMO in a long while. Even TOR feels more action-y than Tera does. Freezing you in place with every. Single. Attack. You. Make. Completely takes out the flow. I don’t consider holding a mouse button pressed and circle-strafing (haltingly) around enemies to be ‘action’.

    I’m sure that it’ll find its audience. That audience just doesn’t include me.

  23. Lenn April 20, 2012 / 11:02 am

    I would like to deeply, abjectly and sincerely apologize for Mr Rutten, on behalf of all Dutch people, our government, our queen and all our exports that do not make us cringe, like Rutger Hauer, Paul Verhoeven and Vincent van Gogh.
    If we could take Mr Rutten back, we would, but we’re rather happy he’s over there and not here.

  24. Utakata April 20, 2012 / 11:15 am

    I hate to say this, but that guy looks a human body with a gonad replaced for it’s head. That is, the least person on the planet that you would see or want to see playing a game like TERA…even if he took the humility route of rolling an Elin.

    The worst thing is, that I wasn’t even paying attention to this campaign…I am interested in playing TERA for other reasons, that required no campaign to peek my interests. Though I suppose En Masse needed something for those who never heard of the title and might be interested. But I have to agree with Syp…this campaign may have destroyed all such interest.

    Note to En Masse: For the future and in the interest of good PR, when advertising for a high fantasy game, stay away from spokespersons who behave and look like they have an embarrassing bad case of steriod abuse. Because people may associate the game negatively with that, instead of what the game has to offer. Just saying.

  25. Thilandril April 21, 2012 / 9:40 am

    I do not now, nor have I ever, had any interest in TERA. I detest the sort of player they seem to be appealing to with this campaign, but am always happy to see someone working hard to gather them all up into one virtual place (where I won’t be…like a grease trap!). I find myself agreeing with most of the comments above.

    And I was snickering as I watched the commercials.

    ~sigh~ I hate myself a little.

  26. wraithe April 21, 2012 / 1:30 pm

    I admit when I first saw this advertising campaign I never put this much thought in to it (and I’m glad you did because it was a funny read) but it struck me as flat out weird. Like, wouldn’t make sense no matter what angle I tried throwing at it kind of weird. In fact, I’m still not really sure what they’re trying to convey with it.

  27. Gabriel Kennedy (@G_Nepenthe) April 22, 2012 / 12:01 am

    I’m enjoying the heck out of the game myself, but I wish EME’s marketing department would lay off the coke. Seriously guys..

    I look at my RP-Light guild, and its estrogen-rich, fantasy novel-loving, not-so-subtle otaku populace and wonder what demographic they’re trying to reach… ’cause as far as I know people that love gorgeous character design and bright colors don’t tend to flock in the direction of bull-necked meathead-lookin dudes, no offense to Mr. Rutten, whom I’m sure is a cool, charming guy IRL.

  28. Tom April 22, 2012 / 11:06 pm

    I think you nailed it perfectly, Syp.
    The TERA commercials were literally painful to watch the first time I did ; and I honestly couldn’t watch it a second time.
    Mr Bass Rutten is portrayed as a bully who hates geeky guys.
    That is to say, the last person on earth who would want to play MMOs.

    As you put it, amongst MMO players, who would identify with an over-muscled jock driven by testosterone ?
    We’re talking about TERA here, the typical Korean game where purple is an overused colour and where you can play with the appearance of a 12-years-old girly girl.

    I was not really interested in TERA and I am even less interested when I see Mr Rutten trying to bully me into buying the game.

    Some people may see this as a humorous campaign, but in my opinion that is just bad humour.

    En Masse is obviously missing the target. Again, this is awfully painful.

    In order to ease the pain, I hope that ArenaNet will have the good idea to use Felicia Day in order promote Guild Wars 2, in a more subtle and enjoyable way.

  29. HarbingerZero April 24, 2012 / 12:54 pm

    You think AoC/DDO is true action combat? That’s…cute. I’m in the minority here, but I enjoyed the commercials, and I did play the snot out of the open beta this weekend, despite having had no previous interest in the game. Yes, even after the commercials, which, while I enjoyed, did not motivate me to go look into the game more. So in that sense at least, the commercials were a failure in my case.

  30. Syp April 24, 2012 / 2:19 pm

    @HarbingerZero – If you had to categorize it, then yes, it’s more action combat than hotbar combat. DDO attacks on mouse click, uses positioning, and has other reactionary skills you can use in the heat of battle. AoC promoted itself the same way TERA is, as an action-combat MMO that would somehow break us out of the stale routine.

  31. HarbingerZero April 25, 2012 / 1:52 pm

    I haven’t had a great deal of experience with DDO, so I’ll let that one go. I agree AoC certainly promoted itself in that way, but I can’t say they delivered in any tangible way, other than adding variation in death animations.

  32. skam May 8, 2012 / 9:08 pm

    Why does anybody said something with the WoW promos with Chuck Norris on it?’ I mean, Chuck Norris is not a real WoW Player… Marketing is war, they can be as agressive as the law allows it…the TERA promos are great, since i have a Marketing Developer point of View. Even great MMo´s like wow had an aggresive promo campaing ass for example “Whta´s your game?”, dont fear the change dudes…MMO new era is coming and for good, so don´t feel angry for spending your entirely life in a game is not in the top 10 anymore, just enjoy with your friends, cheers.

  33. WootWoot August 28, 2012 / 9:30 am

    Game is failing now hilarious. En-Masse staff 20% have been layed off. Dropped from 70 people to 56. EME keeps trying to turn this game into a Blizzard and are FAILING miserably. Time to eat that humble pie.

    So much RNG, pointless content removals and censoring wtf is going on here. Tera is just a game with pretty graphics and half-censored panty-shots. Disgusting how this game is being plundge to death!

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