The hardest sell of all: PvP to non-PvPers

There are three kinds of player who make up the Warhammer Online community right now:

1. Fans of DaoC who trust Mythic to bottle the lightning again

2. Fans of Warhammer who want to try a MMORPG based on a favourite setting

3. Fans of PvP who want to try a game in which PvP was built in right from the start.

(You can add to this the people who are bored and will try any game once, people who will play because they have a friend who wants to play, people who are related to one of the developers, and journalists. But they aren’t the game’s evangelists who are out there trying to drum up some excitement.)

Reviews and word of mouth aside, these are the guys and gals who will try the game when it comes out. But that doesn’t constitute a huge proportion of the gaming population. Oh, don’t get me wrong, as long as the game is fun then this alone will garner Mythic a decent, workable, profitable number of players. But if they really want to succeed big time then the game must sell to people who are more cautious of a hardcore PvP setup.

Yes, I know, PvP is optional. But that’s not really the main selling point of the game. The selling point is that all of the game is fun. The more you do, the more fun you will have. And PvP is the core of the game.

Main Barriers for Potential Players

A lot of these potential players will be familiar with WoW, but no other game. They will assume that when they see ‘PvP’ mentioned, it will be similar to what they have seen in Warcraft. And, most potentially punishing, they will assume that if they don’t like Warcraft PvP then Warhammer won’t be fun for them.

I’m not personally a huge fan of Warcraft PvP. But I do remember how fun PvP was in DaoC. And that’s something I find hard to communicate to my friends who never played it. They think of all those times they got yelled at for zoning into a battleground at level 12. All those times they got lost in Alterac Valley. All those times of being corpse camped by higher levels. All the smack talk on the official forums. These things do not make them think that PvP is fun.

The big challenge in attracting players who aren’t keen on the idea of PvP is making the PvP inviting to newbies and marketing it so that it doesn’t also put off the hardcore. How do you get people to shell out the cash for a game that is based on a type of gameplay they haven’t had good experiences with? This is a topic Jeff Hickman addressed a few weeks back in an interview on bigdownload.com

What would you say to people who are apprehensive about stepping into a game so PvP-oriented?

Jeff: I would say you should come out and give our game a try. There’s no danger when you first enter our game. There’s no RvR unless you choose to enter those areas. It is purely up to you to play through the game how you want to play through it. I can tell you that my wife, who used to not be a PvP player, came into our game and enjoyed the crafting and questing. But because of how our game is designed, she was led near an RvR area, and she could look down into the battlefield to see what was going on. This kind of demystified it for her and she decided to try the RvR. She then spent the next two hours on the keep pouring boiling oil on people and having a great time. There’s no fear in it. Enemies can’t talk, yell or make fun of you. It’s the easiest PvP you’ll ever play, and it’s so much fun.

THIS is the message they need to be giving out. It’s the message we need to be passing on too.

The Raine Test

Jeff’s wife was also used by Mark Jacobs as an example of how they tested their cultivation tradeskill.

I kid Jeff Hickman because his wife Raine is an absolutely fantastic woman and she plays WAR. as well and she saw the cultivation system and fell in love with it. She kept playing it all night. So I said, from now on we have to make sure things pass the Raine test!

I can’t say that I like the stereotype of the non-gamer wife/girlfriend — why does it always have to be a woman who is the example of the non-hardcore gamer? I’m also tired of guys saying “Yeah, my wife really liked it,” without letting her speak for herself. But he gets the point across.

Who is this everywoman? And why does she matter?

Truth is, I have a lot of friends who sound very like her. They are gamers. They like MMORPGs. They are smart people and good players, some are hardcore raiders, others more casual but none have enjoyed their experience of PvP and they avoid it where possible. (They aren’t all female, by the way.) And Jeff’s observations on how his wife was drawn into the game could describe them to a T.

The fact that the designers are aware of this group of players and are really trying to make a game that will draw them in gives me a lot of confidence in the design team. Make no mistake, if the game is engaging for these cautious players, it’ll be fun for everyone else too. Fun is fun. (Unless you are a griefer in which case grief is fun. Followed by a long slow tortuous sojourn in an oubliette to consider your trespasses while listening to uplifting spiritual music.)

So how do you close the deal?

The best way to get people to try the game is to give it to them free. That means free trials. If the game really is engaging then the free trials don’t need to be long. A week would be enough.

Tying the trial to an existing account (ie. free trial codes to give to your friends) means that your triallists will have at least one friend who plays, who will also have a copy of the install discs.

Giving trial CDs out at game stores would get the install code out there, and would let people check how well the game runs on their hardware without having to shell out for it. But there is a problem with this. Once you have the installed game, you don’t need to go buy a box from a retailer and Mythic/GOAs relationship to retailers and distributors is important to them. It may be possible to present a cut down set of areas only as part of the free trial – maybe allow access only to a starting zone and a couple of scenarios. And at least giving CDs away in shops would get people into the shops.

So what I would hope to see is Mythic being generous with the free trials. If they believe in their game, if WE believe in their game, then we have to believe that it will sell itself. Probably the best way to do that initially is free trial passes for fully paid subscribers to give out to friends. And I hope they do this right from the start, not waiting a month or two after the game goes live.

I also hope to see at least one interview with Raine herself explaining what she likes about the game and telling us about her experiences. And maybe how she feels about being used as an example in the interviews.

I hope Mythic are brave enough to try to convert the non-PvPer without worrying that the hardcore will be put off.

I hope we are sensible enough to read between the lines and know that what’s fun for the goose is fun for the gander too. And that having more people to play the game with is a bonus for everyone.

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8 Responses

  1. From Mythic’s standpoint, this really comes down to redefining the PVP experience (i.e. “What PVP should really be!”). Then it comes down to marketing and word of mouth to do the rest. If they can throw in free trials on top of that, even better (but from what I’ve seen, usually free trials come at a much later date, such as months after the launch).

  2. I have to agree with the free trail, hell even go a step further and put it out there that if you don’t love this game after 30 days, you get your money back.

    As for the PvP, I hate PvP 9 from a WoW basis) and thought against this game, until I really looked into the system and found out that it isn’t the same PvP that everyone thinks of.

    Great Article!

  3. I think they need to come out and really market the differences between PvP and RvR because PvP is only part of the experience.

    Generally, the ones who fear PvP are the going to be pretty bad at it, especially at first. Practice makes perfect, but if you weren’t a fan of PvP from the start, then getting stomped on repeatedly will only confirm your original views. This is why I think you need to be able to progress from 1-40 without ever having to participate in PvP if you don’t want to. You may not want to siege the city in stage 1 (PvP) but you might want to participate in the various PQs and king battle (RvR).

    Hopefully, the PvP is visible around them, tempting them to participate, but they can still contribute in RvR without ever having to target an enemy player.

    Finally, I don’t think they should initially offer a free trial. Considering they’re having a limited open beta, I feel they are on board with this. IMHO, they don’t want to give someone a free taste of their game, especially when it costs them oodles to make it available in CD form or over the Internet. That’s kind of the risk you take when buying a game. Will I like it? Maybe not.

    I think anyone sitting on the fence will be more swayed by what the reviews state. If they’re positive, people will get the game. If not, well, maybe they’ll wait a few months for a free trial (once EA Mythic has recovered some – or all – of their original investment in this game).

    PS – I hate that I have to log out of my WordPress account to make comments under my real name. That’s not your fault, it’s a design flaw of WordPress!

  4. The problem with free trials is that they are a license for gold seller spam, and I would expect the RMTers to be out in full force from day one.

    Buddy keys are a better idea, but I’d hope that EA Mythic would be sensible enough to keep a record of which retail key is associated with each buddy key.

  5. “I hate that I have to log out of my WordPress account to make comments under my real name.”

    brainclutter, ya that’s why I left Blogger (even though I like the simplicity of the system), the integrated identity thing got too confusing, especially if you have multiple identities with Google.

  6. Great article. You are absolutely right about more people equating to more fun. Some people don’t want WoW fanboys, but I say bring them on as long as they are enthusiastic about WAR. It’s never bad to have more people to play with, especially if they are passionate about gaming/mmo’s.

  7. Awesome article, very well-written. Although I’m not any of the three categories you mention, but more in a vague fourth category who just finds a lot of WAR’s features, look and goals appealing.

  8. Really enjoyable article. A lot of the people I know have problems with pvp caused by balance issues.

    If this sort of thing isn’t prevalent in war it will go a long way to make people dip their toes in.

    In terms of marketing I think they are going the right way not even calling it pvp. By focusing on the RVR approach it is telling players that fighting other players has a point. It is not just about self gratification but a way of increasing your factions influence and making the game better for you (cities levelling up etc).

    Just the fact that the game has built in and not tagged on pvp should hook in all those players just coming in for new pve content.

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