[Column] Black Ops III And Genius Marketing


Call of Duty is one of those franchises that never sees coverage here at MMO Fallout, for obvious reasons. With that in mind, I need to take a moment out of our regularly scheduled programming to discuss the marketing genius behind the Black Ops III multiplayer starter pack, and to also explain why this concept needs to become a semi-regular promotion and also make its way to consoles. Activision is taking its marketing with a one-two punch that should, if all goes well, give a nice boost to sales on the PC.

First, what am I talking about. Nearly ten days ago, Activision introduced the Black Ops III Multiplayer Starter Pack for a paltry $15 on Steam. The pack is exactly what it sounds like, access to multiplayer with some restrictions. No campaign, no zombies, and you can’t prestige, play custom games, access mod support, no Dead Ops Arcade, or Nightmare mode. Tit for tat, this is as barebones as it gets: Ranked multiplayer. If you decide to upgrade to the full game, your $15 is taken off of the total price.

The package makes absolute sense on PC, where Activision has to contend with a tidal wave of established competition that is either free to play or damn near close. In order to make real headway on PC, Activision must rely on the Steam platform where established titles like Counter Strike: GO dominate the genre and the charts. It also makes sense if the company wishes to remain viable on the platform as a whole. At launch, Black Ops III averaged 24 thousand concurrent players on PC. Two months later, in January, that number had dropped to 14 thousand.


And help this game needs, since outside of Team Deathmatch and Domination, the game modes on PC are virtually abandoned at non-peak hours. Even on weekends, and after the release of the starter pack, it isn’t out of the ordinary to see multiple game modes stuck at 0%, with no one playing or willing to join to spark some traffic.

So by reducing the price of entry to $15, Activision brings in all kinds of players who would have otherwise not purchased the game, as you can see by the glut of players in the match above that only own the game because of the pack. Even if 90% of these players eventually quit without buying anything else, they still contributed $15 more per person than they would have had the pack not existed. In all likelihood, Activision views the pack as an easy point of entry: Those who would have waited for a heavy Steam sale to buy the game will likely stick around and even purchase the full game upgrade, while those who had just enough interest to toss in for the starter pack are salvaged customers.

The increase in population also gives incentive and boosts the likelihood that existing players will continue playing, and hopefully buy the season pass and customization pack if they haven’t already.

But, not to let this campaign die, Activision is ending the promotion with the second part of their one-two punch, a free weekend. Think of the free weekend as a boost to the stepping stone that is the multiplayer pack. Free weekends are like a sample station at the grocery store. They attract people who have no interest in buying the full product and, through the power of free stuff, hope to change their minds. So you play a few rounds of Black Ops, have a bit of fun, and oh hey the game is on sale for $40. Too much? Why not just keep playing the multiplayer for $15 and decide if you want to upgrade later? Cool.

So by that logic, the starter pack acts as something of a negotiating tool, with the full game upgrade splitting the cost and making the whole package look cheaper by comparison. Sure, you’re still paying the sale price of $40 total, but you put down $15 and start playing over the weekend, and then the sale is coming to an end but you can still upgrade to the full game for $24. Twenty four bucks for zombies, campaign, and everything else you’re missing? What a deal! At least, that’s the intended thought process of the promotion.

The promotion, and the availability of the starter pack, are gone come this week, so I have to say I am very interested to see where Activision goes with this type of package. There has been speculation for years now of Call of Duty cutting up its game modes into separate but cheaper packages, and there is no doubt that the numbers from this short lived campaign are going to be run through a gauntlet and have a heavy influence on the franchise’s future marketing.

Do you agree? Let us know in the comments.

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.

? Top MMORPG Blogs to Follow