Here’s something new I’m trying.
As we all know, gamers are a unique bunch. And, these days, with as much access as we have to information – not to mention ways to debate whatever information is doled out to us – I believe that corporate messaging needs to adjust to today’s more cynical and skeptical customers.
With this possible new series, I’ll try to present some non-traditional ideas in the form of press releases or other corporate messaging that utilize the shocking notion that customers should be talked to like adults – perhaps even to the point of criticizing them a touch – and not gullible or naïve children.
None of these are meant to be a slight, or a declaration of “I can do your job better than you,” toward any PR professionals. I’ll mostly be dealing with hypothetical cases that a company may or may not even be considering.
FWIW, I’ve done some PR and marketing work in the past, so I’m not speaking totally out of my ass. Partially, yes, but not totally.
So, here goes.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is doing fine, financially. It still has 1.3 million subscriptions, which is probably still enough to keep it at a pace to make up for the return on BioWare’s and EA’s investment in it.
But they’re going to have to do something about server populations. They probably opened up too many servers when 2 million people rushed the servers at the game’s start, and the dwindling population has turned many planets into virtual ghost towns, especially at non-peak hours. It’s a deadly spiral – if more players leave, that will reduce the number of players on each server, which encourages more players to leave as their guild/friends vanish, which causes more players to leave, and so on.
Short of getting a sudden influx of new players, the most obvious way to solve this problem is via server merges, which conjure up all sorts of negative impressions. Let’s assume, however, that this is BioWare’s plan. So how do you do it without bringing out the “SWTOR is dead!” crowd?
Maybe you can’t. No matter what, a server merge won’t be regarded as a good thing. But could BioWare deliver the message in a way that at least doesn’t give the appearance of a game that’s headed for the scrap heap? A way that provides a defense from its attackers?
Dear Fans of Star Wars: The Old Republic,
We have made the difficult decision to merge some of our servers. While there are obvious advantages to this decision – shorter queue times for PvP, more active planets, and the possibility of meeting new friends and guild mates, just to name a few – we understand the feelings that many of you will have regarding this decision.
When The Old Republic launched, demand was huge and we were faced with a difficult decision. Do we stay the course with our original server numbers and let players endure very long wait times in queues? Or do we expand our server list and allow as many players as possible to log in?
We went with the second option, and it seemed to work. Queues were short – where they existed at all – and there were few complaints about access to the game.
Nothing is constant in an MMO. On some level, we all realize this is true, whether it’s in regard to new content, changes to existing content, making new friends, losing old ones, or even just the appearance of your character’s clothes or armor.
Servers are no different. They’re part of the evolution of an MMO, too, and believing that they must stay static while everything else in a game changes is taking a rather simplistic view of things.
There’s no disputing that there are fewer players in the game now than there were at launch. Our own investor calls confirm this. But this doesn’t mean the game is failing. It’s a natural normalization in the MMO industry, or indeed, most any new product, especially one that is as well-known prior to its launch as The Old Republic was, to downscale slightly after an initial rush.
Would we like for there to be more players and for server populations to rise, possibly even necessitating the opening of new servers? Absolutely, and we are 100% committed to making that happen. But that doesn’t change the current reality of low server populations. Just like we did at launch, we feel that altering the server mix provides the best game experience for you, our players, at the current time. That might change in the future, and if it does, we’ll make the necessary moves to ensure the best possible game experience for all of you.