Saturday, February 2, 2013

Am I The Only One Who Thinks This Is Just Astoundingly Dumb Marketing Strategy?

Was it only a couple of days ago when I said that TERA's free-to-play conversion was the way to do it? Um yeah, it was. And yet, leave it to the gaming industry to find a way to screw up an otherwise great marketing effort.

In order to bring lapsed players back into the fold, TERA publisher EnMasse Entertainment offered former players like myself a free week of play time to inspire us to return to the game. Many players, like myself, took advantage of that offer. Even better, when that week ended we got another free week of the grace time EME offers as a matter of course to allow players to renew their subscriptions without losing access to the game. Pretty great, right?

So how come after all that effort to recapture these players as customers they then do a complete 180 and risk all that marketing effort and all that free access by enforcing a gap of several days in-between the end of that free time and the beginning of free-to-play on February 5th?

Every MMO gamer knows well that generally speaking we're a pretty fickle and disloyal lot. We're constantly looking for the next big thing, and a new big shiny on the horizon can and often does cause players to quickly abandon one game for another they find more attractive for whatever reason.

By creating a totally unnecessary and artificial gap in access between the free time that attracted these players back into the fold and the time when the game actually goes free-to-play, EME risks losing a significant portion of those players to the other games they'll seek out during this period when the doors have suddenly slammed shut in our faces again, and just before the start of a weekend no less, which of course is MMO gaming prime time.

Of course, some players will wait patiently during this time and then return to TERA once the free-to-play gates open in the middle of next week. Others will not be content to twiddle their thumbs (and other digits) for the better part of a week and will seek out something else to play while they're locked out. Some will abandon the games they get involved with to return to TERA on the 5th, but others will not.

I don't have a marketing degree, but I do have a lot of experience in retail sales, and I think it's more than reasonable to ask: Why is EME investing all this time and effort to bring former players back into TERA if they're just going to cut us off again right when we're getting back into the game? It makes no sense whatsoever to me.

Personally, I'm not going to be spending my weekend twiddling anything. I've got plenty of other good games I can play and I'm going to do just that. I'll return to TERA at some point because I enjoy the game, but I'm not in love with it enough to limit myself to not playing anything while I wait. If I'm so inclined, I'll be back on the 5th. If I get involved with something else in the meantime, it may be a while before I get back to it. No promises. no commitments. This is about my own entertainment, not about loyalty to any particular game or company. Since TERA isn't entertaining me anymore, I'll find something else to do the job. If I'm having fun with whatever I'm playing next week, I'll probably keep playing it until that's no longer the case.

The truth is that EnMasse entertainment gave me two free weeks of game time and they owe me nothing. However, the reverse is equally true as well. If EME is unwilling to keep me interested and entertained until free-to-play starts, that's fine. It's their right to make that decision. But then they shouldn't expect my loyalty and interest in TERA to continue indefinitely regardless.

Maybe I'll be there on the 5th, maybe I won't, because while the decision to cut off access to players like me is entirely within EME's rights, so too is the decision not to wait around and be bored for the better part of a week entirely within mine.