One of the most interesting classes that was part of my college business major was a survey of marketing techniques. It wasn’t exhaustive by any means, but the class really did open my eyes to how products and services are sold to people by playing on our weaknesses and manipulating our emotions and perspectives.
I was thinking about that marketing class lately in regard to how MMOs get us to pay attention to them. After all, there are thousands of online titles out there of varying degrees of popularity, polish, and content — if you were in charge of marketing one of them, how would you get the word out? How would you get eyeballs on your product and convince players to spend their time (and hopefully money) on it?
The answer is undoubtedly a multi-faceted approach, but I’ll tell you one thing that works pretty well almost all of the time: giving away free stuff. Man, we like free stuff, don’t we? I’ve seen grown men and women at conventions — people who have lucrative jobs and disposable incomes — go absolutely insane at the prospect of getting a free t-shirt. It doesn’t matter if their wardrobes are completely full, it’s the idea of getting something for free that makes it highly desirable. And companies know this and use the t-shirt like a doggie treat, waving it around as we salivate and do whatever they say to get it.
Giving freebies away as promotions is a great idea for MMOs. Lately I’ve been a sucker for two such promotions. Star Trek Online had several giveaways for its Season 11, which got me to redownload the game and log in a few times. Then this past weekend, Trion gave away free class tokens in Trove for some extended downtime, and even though I wasn’t party to the suffering there, I’ll gladly take advantage of free stuff.
And I know deep down that it’s pretty silly. Most giveaways aren’t really that special and they’re cheap marketing ploys (especially if it’s just something digital that doesn’t cost the studio anything to hand out). But there’s a jolt of excitement that I enjoy, and if it gets my attention on a game that’s actually kind of fun.
It’s why it’s a smart idea to do daily login rewards, because that’s going deeper with the whole notion. Get players hooked on the idea that every single day they’ll get something free if they log in for just one minute. And if they’re logged in, heck, they might just play. At the very least, it keeps the game on their radar.
I know I was logging into Guild Wars 2 for months after regularly playing it just to get the rewards. I finally stopped because I knew I wasn’t going to be using any of them and it was getting a little ridiculous to keep chasing those freebies.
Anyway, free stuff. Does it hook you? And were you really hoping for something free in this post?
Well I’ll tell you what: You got a free article full of entertaining paragraphs and thoughtful analysis of marketing techniques. You’re welcome! I’ll even toss in a virtual hug for nothing.