WildStar’s WildStyle — The Right Approach?

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I think about WildStar. On the one hand, there’s this video:

Seems like it’s a pretty colorful, action-packed, fun-for-all, not-taking-itself-too-seriously undertaking. Lots of goofy characters (and voiceovers), casual, blow-stuff-up-a-lot gameplay. That’s pretty much how all their videos have looked.

And then there’s this:

And to hell with just having a raid system for the sake of it – we want one cool enough where the best raiding guilds come to WildStar.  Which means we need to both do the regular stuff well and have some cool new stuff to take things to the next level.

So we’re a bit old-school.  Big ass raids.  Tough raids.  Raids you have to earn your way into beating, and raids that aren’t made so your grandma can make it through.   Sure, we can make things easier over time – but only if there are new challenges to give a tough time to the hardest of the hardcore.

I’m not going to debate which approach — casual or hardcore — is the answer. And the raid post does go on to say that there’s “other Elder game content that will not require a player to set a foot inside a 20- or 40-man instance.”

So which is it? Is WildStar meant for casual players or hardcore raiders? Is it trying to tread the line between both? If so, is it going to fall into the doom of WoW clones (totally different from the Doom of Valyria or the Doom of Men) in that it tries to be a game that appeals to everyone and in doing so appeals to no one in particular? Or a game that, when it tries to appease one faction of the player base, is violently criticized by the opposite side?

Marketing matters

First of all, I haven’t played WildStar. So I don’t know how it actually plays, and certainly not how the Elder Game will go. All I have to go on, so far, is what I’ve been told.

That, however, is the key — not just what I’ve been told, but who the Carbine Studios people are trying to tell it to.

A human, an aurin, and a granok all walk into a bar...

A human, an aurin, and a granok all walk into a bar…

While both appealing to (potential) WildStar fans, the video and dev blog are really intended for largely different audiences and are made for different purposes. The video debuted at PAX East, put on display for tens of thousands of diverse gamers, many of whom hadn’t heard of — or who had heard very little about — WildStar. As a video, it’s much more easily shared, more visceral, easier to digest, and more likely to appeal to those type of generally uninformed — and I mean that not as an insult, but as a factual description of people who are mostly unfamiliar with the game — players.

The dev blog, on the other hand, as with most dev blogs for most games, was aimed at a more dedicated crowd, the kind who are more likely to sit through a 1,000-word article because they’re already invested in WildStar. These are more likely to be your hardcore gamers, the types who like to raid and who want to know every intricate detail of a game months before it launches.

Of course, a lot of us fall into both categories: We consume the pretty pictures and videos and want to read in-depth treatises on the state of the game. But we’re in the minority. Those of us who do fall into those categories, I’d wager, are also more likely to be the types who have the time to make comments on posts and videos, including many of the insightful ones you’ll see attached to the video on its YouTube page. Chances are, that video’s not made for you, then. Don’t like how shiny and casual it looks? That’s fine.

It’s a little bit of a microcosm of how the gaming industry is as a whole. A decade or two ago, everything was for the core gamer. Games were complex, intricate, and specifically designed — and largely marketed — to that crowd. Now, there’s a lot more casual gaming out there, and casual gamers to attract, and a lot of people who remember “the good old days” when game companies catered to and courted them exclusively, are resentful of that.

Is he playing on the Super Adventure Box?

Is he playing on the Super Adventure Box?

By that same token, a lot of people have trouble getting around the fact that shiny videos aren’t meant to be exposés on how game systems work, or dev interviews, or other in-depth material that appeals to them exclusively. Never mind that there’s oodles of that material floating all over the web, some number less than 100% of it appeals to me, and that just won’t do. So the video is just a bunch of eye candy. So it covers things you already knew. So it seems contradictory to the “hardcore” vision you had for WildStar. So what?

Different strokes, different drakens

We’ll still have to see for ourselves when the game is launched, but that video doesn’t mean that WildStar is just a casual romp, any more than the raid article means it will be for hardcores only. Just as with each part of the game, from soloing to crafting to raiding, each marketing message appeals to a different group of people and just because one says “Hey casuals, you’ll like this game,” doesn’t mean that hardcores won’t, or vice versa.

That’s a message many MMOs have promoted, admittedly, and whether that promise will be fulfilled when the game launches is anyone’s guess. But that’s not the job of the marketing people or the artists or the writers who put this stuff together. Right now, it’s all just talk (and pictures) trying to draw as wide a range of people as possible to look at the product. And that’s what a good marketing team does.

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5 Responses to WildStar’s WildStyle — The Right Approach?

  1. Revanhavoc says:

    I’m right there with you Jason, can’t decide on this one either.

    The housing plots are very interesting, but the character design isn’t so much…

    I dunno man, you decide for the both of us and get back to me!

  2. jasonwinter says:

    While I’m at it, I’ll let you know how you should vote in the next election, too 🙂

  3. WildStar confuses me. It seems to have been crowned by many as “The Next Big Thing” in much the same way Guild Wars 2 was (albeit not at quite the same level of fevered enthusiasm), but I can’t for the life of me figure out why. From what I can, it’s a pretty standard themepark MMO. I won’t go so far as to call it a WoW clone, but I don’t see anything wildly original or exciting about it.

    I mean, I’m not saying it looks bad. My opinion right now is fairly neutral — though the forced folksiness and humour is wearing on my nerves a little — and I will probably play the inevitable free trial at some point just to see what it’s like. I just don’t see what the cause for excitement is.

    • jasonwinter says:

      A small number of very dedicated fans are calling it “the next big thing.” Nobody with real sense is doing the same.

      Compare guildwars2.com’s unique viewers (according to Compete) per month in the year leading up to its release (in thousands):

      73 (Sep 11), 74, 63, 81, 66, 179, 116, 145, 93, 91 124, 170 (Aug 12)

      The last numbers I have for http://www.wildstar-online.com are 2,765 uniques in November. It doesn’t even rank high enough to still be tracked on Compete.

      Try looking up guildwars2.com on Alexa (http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/guildwars2.com#) and then enter http://www.wildstar-online.com in one of the spaces below to see the (very unfavorable) comparison. They’re not even remotely in the same league.

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