Camelot Unchained Alpha Footage & MMO Marketing Tips from Keen


I’m still catching up on some news as I get settled back into the captain’s chair (that’s what I call my desk chair).  Just a few days ago, some of the first [public] footage of Camelot Unchained’s alpha made its way to the eyes of the masses, and there’s a few things I want to say regarding both the footage and how it was delivered.

First, the footage. Any DAoC vet will agree that it looks like… DAoC. Zergs? Check. Bolt spells with ridiculous distance? Check. Milegates? Looks like a check. No complaints there (except for zergs but that’ll never stop). Some of the things I liked or at least felt intrigued by were the summoning of blockades, destruction, and of course the ability builder (all of which we knew about already but it’s nice to see publicly). Overall, I love what I’m seeing and the game is still so far away. MJ and his team are on track to make a great game. I can’t wait to share my thoughts from having been in the testing so far!

Okay, now on to a very serious topic: Marketing your MMORPG in 2015.

Utilizing ‘Streamers’ is one of the biggest mistakes you will ever make in marketing a MMORPG. At first glance it may appear like a very basic marketing tactic where companies use influencers to gain exposure for their brand. However, MMORPGs are not like Crest toothpaste. You can give a famous mommy blogger some free toothpaste, pay her $250, and have her write about why her kids love your toothpaste. Try that with an MMO and you’re in for a world of hurt.

There’s more to MMORPG marketing than getting that huge upswing. When a streamer like Cohh, even though he really is one of the more legitimate experienced MMO streamers out there, plays games he does so for an audience. Streamers move on quickly, and when they do they take their following with them. Every single game that someone like Cohh hypes or plays because they’ve been given “special dispensation” ends up being a game they play for 2-3 weeks then move on. Why? Because the next company in line is ready for him to hype their game.

Pop Quiz: Do you want to see big peaks and big valleys in your player base? If you answered ‘NO’ you are correct.

MMOs are all about building that stable foundation — the community. Instead of handing your game out to a few streamers who can hype your game and be your brand champions, why not build an entire community of brand champions? Do you want a handful of people saying “Camelot Unchained looks amazing let’s all get excited!” Or, do you want thousands of brand champions because you’ve marketed your game around building a community from the ground up.

While CSE hasn’t yet gone the route of SOE in this regard, they’ve taken the first step. I strongly caution against this. Please continue doing what you’ve already done by rallying players to your forums, live streaming your office to bring the players into the experience, and communicate yourselves on websites, forums, and streams. You guys should be the ones streaming this footage on your own channels and letting others pick up on it. Yeah, that means streaming to 500 people rather than 5,000, but those 500 people have a much higher chance of being your strong foundation than any of the 5,000.

  • I feel like friendly fire might be the only way to lessen zergs. But I don’t think that would ever fly.

    I think streamers should be a part of the plan, but not the whole plan. Exposure is a good thing, and the big streamers do that well. Sure, most won’t stick. But some will. No reason you can’t use both strategies.

  • I’ve rewritten this comment like 4 times. I think they want money and whatever gets them the most money will be what they go with. I agree an ebb and flow in your hype is not desired.

    I have a feeling they believe they already have their core community based on their kickstarter campaign, and now they feel they are on the road to hype up their game.

  • @Werit: Friendly fire would never fly because people would abuse it. An elitist group doesn’t want someone else to participate? They’d kill them.

    @Yotor: CSE has done a great job building that core community, but they’re still so far from release that it’s too soon to assume anything. In the next year so many things can happen ranging from a new game capturing that core audience’s attention to pure and simple boredom while waiting. Continuing to provide a reason for the community to stay tight, involved, and catered to is paramount. Those are the tenets of a good CM.

  • Some of those people are likely to stay behind and join the community in for the long term. Also of those 5000, 500 will likely be the 500 be community representatives anyhow.

    Also is there market research on this, or are we just projecting theories based how we wished games would grow vs how they actually grow?

  • You eliminate zergs by designing your objectives and zones in such a way as to eliminate the efficiency of a zerg.

    #1 mistake made lately are objectives with timers or artificial timers (high hp gates/walls). Then games compound that by placing most of the reward on capture of objectives, not control. Pule in some ease of fast travel. So you end up with a zerg ball that can be anywhere quickly, and doesn’t have to defend everywhere at once due to timers… And doesn’t need to defend anyhow, cause rewards are tied to capturing.

    You make all objectives in play at once all the time, and you put the rewards on control, not on capture. You peave the logging camp undefended, damn right they can flip it right back. Carve off a piece of your zerg to be the garrison next time.

  • Let me just say how utterly disappointed I was having a streamer show off the pre-alpha video. I was first scratching my head wondering if this was the correct video and then when I realized it was I just slumped over.

    I’m incredibly disappointed now and feel my $$ was just a big waste as this game will be nothing more than the same thing we’ve been seeing for years.

  • Friendly fire could work in an MMO in theory if there were penalties associated with such an action.

    Friendly fire is associated with significant penalties in real life, so one could work from such a precedent.

  • If zerg combat is what this game ends up being about, no thanks. I never really played original DAOC, but zerg combat is frustratingly boring.

    Im starting to think the next best hope for MMOs is a whole new model, at least if you are going to involve PvP. Bring a product like Rust and Reign of the King to a massive server and I’d be there in a second. Of course all the bugs and cheating would need to be eliminated too. Artificial capture points and battlegrounds bore me to death after the first couple weeks. I’m make my own battle plan when and where I want to.

  • I had the same thought as Werit. Why not both strategies? If any of those 5000 stick then there is a few more more long term customers you just gained. Why not reach maximum exposure? Just do not rely completely on the streamers.

  • I’ll say this about streamers, which I’m luke warm about, they really cater to the younger generation of gamers. Gamers in their teen’s and young 20’s consume streaming alot, I’m guessing . So in order to reach that market, going through streamers makes sense. Not sure if going through steamers 12 months out makes sense, unless they are in dire need of more funding, which it seems every crowdfunded game is always in need of…

  • @Topauz: That’s the intelligent question (why not both?) but it requires such a fine balancing act. The pitfall here is that when you hand off your game to an eager beaver streamer who sees dollar signs and audience potential they’ll jump at it. The game gets hyped up and the developers see their numbers and think, “wow we’re doing amazing let’s get us some more streamer-bait!” Before you know it, you completely lose sight of your core group and you have nothing left but the transient playerbase you cultivated by attracting streamers.

    Can both be done? Yes. Has it really been done well before? No.

    @Wufiavelli: This is the type of market research I would be conducting if I worked in the marketing department of a gaming company. I’m currently the director of marketing for a non-gaming company and I look at this exact type of thing on a daily basis. As an outsider looking in, with a marketing background, I see trouble. There are also plenty of trends and a bit of common sense to back it up.

  • Let us be clear that Cohh was not paid for this video. Others might be he was not.

  • @Horrorshow: Right, but the 30k+ views on Youtube, the press he gets from being a source, and the viewers he had during the reveal are a form of payment that really can’t be ignored. You needn’t cut a check to someone to “pay” them off. Sounds worse than I mean it, but to think there was no compensation simply isn’t the case here. Let there be no mistake, streamers like Cohh are doing this for a living — it is their business/job. If they aren’t making money talking about or playing a game, they aren’t going to do it.

  • Zergs were no problem in DAoC due to game mechanics. Mostly CC, interrupt, PBAoEs being by far the highest damage in the game, and last but not least the guard mechanics which made defensive tanks mandatory instead of useless like they are in other MMOs.

    CU seems to have nothing of that from what I’ve seen.

  • @Keen: As I do not know much about the youtube streamers, how much $ does 30k+ viewers on youtube pull in? I was chatting with someone in that business recently and I was just unsure of how big this business is. He was in the process of starting a company that would give streamers access to music that can be used in their streams so they would not have to worry about copyright fees.

  • @Topauz: Youtube monetization is more about partnerships and sponsors based on your subscribers (the people you can reach — your reach) than it is how many views you have. The spread of what you can make on a video is huge; a video with 33k views could make anywhere from $10.00 – $85.00’ish. I had a video with 40k views make $60. As you can see, relying purely on Google Adwords’ youtube video monetization isn’t going to make you rich on one video. on the otherhand… that’s where you make bank. If you look at someone like Lirik who has over 10,000 subscribers, he’s making $2.50 a month for each of them. That’s $25,000 per month — $300k a year. Someone like Cohh might have a thousand or a few thousand subs, and I know he is sponsored. He also makes money on ad revenue for commercials played during his streams. Cohh’s strategy is to play the newest games and have people want to watch him because he’s playing the newest stuff. He also has a big following that basically carries him. So he appears successful in the games he plays despite not really being all that great at them. People gravitate toward success.

    So by having an alpha footage reveal through his channel, he earns subscribers and awareness so more people watch. More people think he’s super special for being given an exclusive, so more people want to be in his guild so they can say, “Omg I’m in Cohh’s guild!” It snowballs from there.

    @Kamuka: To an extent I agree that dispelling zergs was easier in DAoC than any other game I’ve played. However, zerg mechanics still bring a certain type of gameplay. People behave differently in large groups than they do in small groups. Big balls of players rarely charge each other and collide — they dance and lob spells at each other.

  • I wonder if a formation system would be a way to organize zergs a little. I have seen it experimented with in other games.