Awww, there is some Choppa love too

Snafzg over at The Greenskin has got his package from Mythic, and it heavily hints at the Choppa class. So go read up on it over at his blog.

Have heard there’s quite a few bloggers being asked for their addresses, and we heartily approve of such freebie marketing (we love freebies, whoever is getting them!). Go get ’em Mythic!

Keep yourself busy

EA tests new marketing by offering £20k of free petrol at a petrol station in North London to celebrate the launch of Mercenaries 2. Chaos ensues at the petrol station involved – locals whine. Gets reported in The Telegraph’s motoring section. It got a lot of news space, the game was mentioned in each. Free petrol was limited to £40 per car (the game costs £27-£40 depending on platform).  Gets called a smart campaign. We agree – but have spent many happy minutes contemplating a similar-style campaign for WAR where Marble Arch is turned into the Gates of Ekrund and tourists fight Londoners!

Hurrah, Spore finally got released. Cue more Spore articles! While we’re waiting for the sporn to take over the universe and me to figure out the tribal phase, here’s an interview with Will Wright about the launch. And here’s a cute article about the world’s tiniest billboard – advertising Spore, of course.

How to break into the Industry! Any Industry!

US Politics has been in the news a lot over here this week.  Seems there’s some election going on in the US. Not sure who to vote for? Luckily, the Edge has examined the candidates’ gaming credentials. Meanwhile, Daniel O’Brien at cracked.com cuts to the chase because there’s only one issue he thinks Sarah Palin must address.

Tobold is one of our favourite bloggers, and he notes for the record that Mythic (US) have given him a free WAR account. Yay for freebies, and congrats Tobold! I find this amusing because like us, he’s planning to play in the EU anyway because of timezone issues. Naturally, other bloggers have reacted in a variety of ways. Wall of Text wants to know how he can get freebies, and Syp ponders the ethics of freebies/pay for bloggers.

Thanks to PixiePalace for finding this picture of a badass female warrior in fantasy-style heavy armour. She’s right in that it’s quite difficult to find images like that which aren’t showing a lot of skin.

Would friendly fire work in an MMO? I know the people I play with, so am glad there is no friendly fire!

Killed in a Smiling Accident mourns the loss of some secret classes, last seen in the super secret alpha stage of the game; the Scion of Slaanesh, the Dwarf Beer Master, the Orc Negotiator, the High Elf Conscientious Objector, the Dark Elf Emolator, and the Human Bloggerer (thankfully not quite extinct yet.) Kept us smiling, for sure.

Keen and Syp weigh in with thoughts about the chicken mechanic staying on the open-RvR servers. It’s an interesting debate, and apparently Mythic are now surveying feelings on it, via the preview weekend+ players.

The big PR public quest (and competition!!!)

Our group consists of:

  • Tanks: Mark Jacobs representing the USA/Oceanic guild
  • Hybrids: Iain C representing the EU guild (EU got their tank removed, so they need a hybrid)
  • Healers: James@Mythic representing the USA/Oceanic guild, Magnus representing the EU guild – they have some rudimentary crowd control abilities
  • DPS: Paul Barnett, Josh Drescher, Jeff Hickman, Carrie Gouskos representing the USA/Oceanic guild, Mark Jacobs representing the EU guild

Stage 1: PR gets rolling (the EU guild get to design their own stage of this public quest, if it goes well, they get additional contribution bonuses)

  • Announce new and surprising dates for inviting CE pre-orders into closed beta, not just open as planned
  • Announce that SE pre-orders will also get into headstart and open beta, but that CE pre-orders will also get a preview weekend
  • Announce that 50k SE pre-orders can also get into preview weekend alongside their CE pre-order buddies
  • Invite into closed beta, open code entry for preview weekend and open beta
  • Create a play-on-the-net game to drum up further interest

Stage 2: Unstoppable object trundles onto the scene

  • End closed beta with massive preview weekend
  • Drop the “NDA is lifted” cluster bomb
  • Release new trailer, new round of interviews
  • Open beta launches

Stage 3: Ka-boom!

  • Servers open on the same day worldwide, no crashes reported

Rewards (liable to change and representing different levels of contribution):

  • Good reviews throughout the press
  • 1 million subscribers (or more)
  • Fansites and forums happy with release
  • Good reviews in some of the press
  • 750k subscribers
  • Fansites and forums mostly happy with release
  • T-shirt
  • Dress-your-own Paul Barnett doll (Bright Wizard version)
  • Tin of catfood
  • Thread devoted to you on a forum of your choice

Don’t forget, everyone contributes and has the chance of a reward! And once complete you progress to a much bigger public quest – Warhammer: Age of Reckoning. 

NB: this really isn’t meant to upset anyone, I was just half-asleep and and made a passing comment that the pre-release stuff almost felt like a game in itself.

Competition Time!

On the issue of completely fabricated public quests and in the spirit of open competition – we, the authors of the blog, challenge you to come up with a public quest.

It can relate to anything at all (pop culture, gaming, day-to-day life). Email it in to us and the winner/s will get stuff from Games Day (or tins of cat food, as they desire). Can’t announce prizes, cos no idea what we’ll pick up!

Onto dwarfs!

We’ve had Gamespy give us some overview of their gametime, we’ve had Massively telling us about elves vs dark elves, now we have Ten Ton Hammer weighing in on the dwarfs vs greenskins, starting with an overview of the Engineer class.

I think I’ve spied the marketing plan here! Have a different site report on different aspects – and how better to do that than with some handy ‘get out of NDA free’ cards. I think it’s well-planned, and works quite well. So who gets Empire vs Chaos? We’ll see.

Of course, all the bloggers and forums will be full of much more meaty reports once the NDA is lifted, but think of these more as tasters that give you a little more info than you got before.

Waiting.. patiently?

Where is the newsletter???!

I’m normally a fairly chilled person, and I do write blog posts, I really do. But since last week we’ve kind of been saying ‘well, let’s wait till the newsletter and then write some stuff’. And I know they only said early this week, but I’ve been up too long already (woken by hungry cats, not anxiety about the newsletter!), so I’m sitting here.. thinking of things to write, and then coming back to – ‘but where’s the newsletter’.

It reminds me a bit of having a permanent excuse to not do something. Like, ‘I’ll go cycling when the weather is nicer’ when you live where I do. (another excuse that is well-used by me).

So instead of the newsletter, here’s some things that have been on my mind lately that have nothing to do with the beta. Yay.

The Road to War game (yes, the site is currently down, but you can go read about it and see a screenshot from it over at Keen and Graev’s). It’s no surprise to some of you that one of our discarded posts related to things Warhammer Online could learn from certain cult TV shows. I think perhaps this bit of viral marketing is one thing they share in common. At the same time as I play the Road to War game (and no, not playing until I hear about whether there is or isn’t a European alternative, though I suspect I know the answer to this already), I can also be recruited by the Dharma Initiative.

Lost has run a few successful ARGs (alternate reality games) in between seasons with mixed success. The first was a bit fiddly and only really scored with the hard-core fans who then were a bit annoyed at some of the pay-off. The second was the search for Flight 815 and worked quite well because it included mini-games and then used footage that was later incorporated into episode 1 of season 4 of the show. And now we’re being recruited for Dharma between seasons 4 and 5. It’s a fun way to spend the hiatus – a time when fans can be lost or retained.

So, back to the Road to War. It’s a good idea to keep up and build interest in the game in a viral manner (lest we forget, that’s what viral marketing is about). But, everyone taking part should remember that this is (as far as I know), Mythic’s first pass at such a big enterprise. And trust me, this kind of game is a big deal to pull off successfully. Turbine has done something similar with the Mines of Moria, but on a smaller scale – I played it for a week or two, but then went back to my normal stuff.

There will be exploits, the site will go down, there will be people who complain about the rewards – but through all of that, it’s a learning experience, it’s the games company finding a new way to connect with fans and interested parties and you can guarantee there will be more things like it, each learning from the last.

What else?

I’m as confused as anyone about release dates, pre-order stuff and everything. I seriously have no answers. I suggest waiting for the official releases and making Dress-Your-Own Paul Barnett dolls. I found making mine very zen. Now trying to decide whether to take it to Games Day with me! Also, do as Wrenn suggests and go check out the excellent Warhammer Online community out there. We’ve not really even been a part of it that long, and we feel very welcomed by everyone in it. So thanks to all for that.

But most of all:

Where is my newsletter???!

Travel the Road

Syp over at Waaagh and a thread over at Warhammer Alliance pushed me to go look at the Road to WAR site. According to James Nichols (dev posting over at WHA), it’ll be properly announced in this week’s newsletter. Also, in the WHA thread, Mark Jacobs popped in to say:

And no, it’s not the good news I promised. Which, as a gentle reminder, I did say could take weeks. I’m hoping it’s only days but it might take a little longer to work out the details.

I think we’ll have a bunch of good news coming over the next few weeks. 

Good news always sounds good to me.

NB: Not found a specifically European version of this, might be that we hear something in newsletter – currently you can only select regions of the US or Australia though, so looks like this one isn’t really directed at us.

Magic roundabout

[At the time of writing, Warhammer Alliance site went down so I included alternate links to Massively articles on the same topics that summarise the WHA threads.]

I’m sure if you’re here reading this that you also read other Warhammer Online blogs. So, You’ll have noticed the little controversy and hoo-ha over an opinion piece at Warhammer Alliance about Mythic’s marketing (Massively). The article accuses the marketing department of using obfuscation and little tricks to keep attention where it wants it, and I don’t use the word ‘accuse’ lightly. The piece was obviously written to be inflammatory, but stemmed from the author’s concerns about information and its control.

It doesn’t take long for things like that to get around. War Noob posted a thoughtful response on his blog, disagreeing with the original author (Browncoat @ WHA). And Syp over at Waaagh posted a response also, agreeing in part with Browncoat about information flow, commenting on the responses the post had garnered so far. Syp also took at look at responses to criticism and how some people, rather than picking and choosing which bits they agreed with, or not, of Browncoat’s article simply moved into siege mentality, attacking anyone that criticised Mythic or the game at all.

Now Mark Jacobs has added his response (Massively) to the mix by posting on the Warhammer Alliance boards and expressing his disappointment in the whole affair, while telling some home truths about Mythic, including the fact that information flow starts and ends at his desk.

Where do I stand? Well, I already posted my partial opinion over at War Noob. I’m no fan of the original article. Perhaps it’s because I used to work in Marketing :-).

There’s always a danger about releasing information while the beta is still in progress, and not all fans of the game have the common sense to realise things will still change, classes are still being balanced, the game is still being polished. And because of that, the NDA needs to stay in place a while longer, however frustrated we are by that. While marketing departments will have some influence on the release of information, it’s often to explain what the consequences of revealing certain bits of information might be. But honestly, with Mythic in particular, I can’t see the marketing people sitting Paul Barnett down and telling him not to say something he wants to say. Likewise Mark Jacobs or most of the big names we see touting us the information around the place.

Yes, there may be some discussions about it, and some agreements about what can be shared and what can’t. But these guys are professionals, many of whom will have witnessed what’s happened to other games that went too far with pre-order information (Vanguard) and they want Warhammer Online to launch as smoothly as possible and seem to realise that not pissing off the community with over-expectations is a big part of that.

I’m fairly used to the NDA now, and a little terrified yet excited about the information outpouring that’ll come when it’s lifted. Sometimes I wish I had some more information on something, but in the meantime I’m still getting my head around some of the info around there.

ps. anyone still humming the Magic Roundabout theme tune by the end of this article gets a round of applause

Marketing WAR: word of mouse

Syp over at Waaagh asks a fairly important question – how did Massively get such a scoop with all this recent information? How come Mythic isn’t sharing all this with all the press at the same time to get to a wider audience?

I may not have the whole answer to this, but as someone who used to dabble in viral marketing and communications on the internet, I may have a little insight into it.

Massively has an audience of dedicated MMO-players, not those interested in just one title. It’s a more honed in market than the traditional gaming press and general sites such as Gamespot. Which means there will be a fair number of people who play <insert here> MMO, who then can go back to their guilds/friends/neighbours/forums and pass on the information they’ve read about this new, upcoming game called Warhammer Online. There are other sites that could fill this function, but Massively sits well between the super-fans and the more generally-interested readership (from my own views on the site, no concrete evidence). So why the exclusives?

Well, one reasons could be to track the progress of news as it filters through the community. This is something I’ve done before and it’s a really interesting way to map out your community and have some idea who the opinion-makers are, those who can pass judgment on news and filter it through to another audience altogether. It works best with exclusivity and with a large central point to start the information chain off. If so, clever move. It would inform Mythic where other places to target marketing and/or news to reach audiences.

Or it could be because Massively asked nicely – and the information was ready to be spread. Also, because Massively isn’t necessarily one of the big sites people interested in Warhammer might go for this info (for me this would probably be any of the sites we have linked on the right-hand side of the page), so it doesn’t show favouritism. Remember, pre-launch you don’t want to directly piss anyone off!

Plus, Mythic do seem to gather questions for their grab bags from a circulating number of fan forums, and this shows they’re in touch with where large gatherings of fans of the game are hanging out. What they need, is to find where those who might be casually interested in giving it a go are. Or.. those who wrote it off a year or more ago for being a PvP game and to change their opinion with some nicely written easy overviews of the basic tenets of the game.

For whatever reason, I think it was a smart move. And I’ll definitely be interested to see where they take this next.

Beta keys and comic books

It seems Europe is to miss out on a rather funky cross-promotion between a Warhammer comic and Warhammer Online.

Warhammer: Condemned by Fire is a five-issue mini-series from BOOM! Studios which went on sale on 14th May in the US only. It concentrates on the actions of a witch hunter (Magnus Gault) and is written by Dan Abnett and Ian Edginton.

But, for those interested in WAR, the really cool thing about the comic is that it comes with a scratch-off which gives a one in five chance of a beta-key!

It sounds like a great cross-promotion, and I wish we could see something like this in Europe – though I don’t see it happening. GOA were notoriously terrible at marketing DAOC, and we can only hope that they won’t just sit back and let WAR have to market itself based on the IP.

You can read more about the promotion and BOOM! Studios in this article over at Comic Book Resources.