Top 5: Worst Advertising Pitches

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How many times have you read an interview or developer diary and thought “oh boy, not this again?” Given the recent list of games being announced, I am willing to bet several times. If the video game genre is one thing, it is cyclic, and if you pay attention long enough you can almost predict how an MMO will perform based on what was said during development or post-launch. Certain buzzwords pop up and the people in PR are apparently deaf to the groans that they generate, because they keep finding their way into advertising. So to celebrate the industry’s pension for plagiarism, let’s look at the top 5 worst advertising pitches.

5. World Of Warcraft Killer

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I considered not even adding this to the list because the days of designating your game a “WoW killer” are pretty much over. It took several years of MMOs claiming to be the next World of Warcraft and all of them failing spectacularly in the market before the public relations people realized that the phrase is just about cursed. When an MMO says that they expect to beat World of Warcraft, or match its success, you can bet that there is nowhere else this game can go but into the trash.

The WoW killer label is like an indicator of an early death, because there is no path for this game to head down where it will be declared anything other than a disappointment. Forget that the game is profitable on a couple hundred thousand subscribers, the developer has taken a stand of all or nothing in a contest that can not be won. These days you only see the Warcraft comparison in the community, as fewer games are willing to self-brand as the next champion.

4. Realistic

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What does realistic mean in a setting where you can never die? A world that throws out inconvenient aspects of daily living in favor of fun mechanics? Where you never have to eat or drink, sleep, go to the bathroom, hold a job, pay taxes, deal with physical and mental ailments, stub your foot, can’t climb up a wall or vault over a low fence? Where you can get stabbed a hundred times with a dagger or shot in the face twenty times and be fine because you were carrying a health potion? Where you can jump off of a cliff and survive because there is no fall damage.

In my view, realistic in media is always in the perspective of the universe that it represents, so a developer referring to their game as “realistic” is mostly meaningless unless you have an understanding of the world. More importantly, I can’t wrap my head around why you would want to make real-world comparisons in a universe where there are wizards, magic, and wizards selling magical male enhancement spells. I would even argue that the statement is counter-productive, because we purposely remove aspects of reality out of games for the fact that they’d make a game boring or because they don’t work in consequence free environment.

Just imagine an MMO where you break your leg and your character is permanently incapable of wearing heavy armor, running, carrying a backpack, walking without a limp. Or a game where you suddenly can not fight or run because your character had a genetic defect that only affects one in five hundred thousand and causes late onset asthma. Or a game where you quested in a swamp and found yourself out of the game for a week and a half because your character developed pneumonia and is bedridden.

Realistic isn’t fun.

3. Sandbox

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When I hear sandbox, I immediately think “featureless.” Many of you know, as a gamer, I love sandbox games. What I find with a majority of MMOs that apply the term sandbox is that often it turns out to be an excuse by the developer to say “do it yourself” with the hopes that nobody will take them to task. No friends/foe list? This is a sandbox game, write the names on a piece of paper. No quests? This is a sandbox, make them yourself. Don’t feel like building cities or programming merchant NPCs? Tell the community to build the house themselves and if they want to sell stuff, do it the old fashioned way: Spam on the streets. This is a sandbox MMO, not a carebear hand-holding themepark you casual twit.

Eve Online has shown that the sandbox genre can be insanely profitable, but far too many companies equate player freedom to the developers having no hand in the way the community operates. If you look at how immersed in player interaction and the movements of the world CCP is, you’ll understand why Eve Online succeeded where games like Mortal Online have failed. If you want to think of the term literally, Eve Online’s sandbox is filled with shovels and buckets, where so many other MMO games think they can throw their players in the empty box with barely any sand and assume that they’ll figure it out for themselves. Hell, CCP hires economists to keep track of market activity.

2. Mature

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If any of the list of games like Scarlet Blade were intended for the  “mature” audiences that the advertisements suggest, I wouldn’t see an army of alleged adults swarming and throwing tantrums like children every time someone brings up how creepy it is to pay real money in a video game for the option to take the clothing off of your MMO character, or the fact that these titles are mediocre-at-best and are really just waifu simulators with a fantasy game attached.

You don’t make a game more mature by adding big boobs, buttcheeks, and sexual innuendo. In fact, if communities like those based around Scarlet Blade are anything to go by, you’d find more maturity in a group of teenage boys ogling a Playboy than you would in these game’s chat channels. Filling the comments section calling everyone prude, a loser, questioning their sexuality, for the simple act of pointing out that the advertising gimmick is tasteless, doesn’t help your case, by the way. To make matters worse, many of these games don’t even have boobs in them! Those Evony clones are the worst offenders, with banner ads that are 90% cleavage yet not a trace of CG boobs to be found in the game. That’s false advertising and I won’t stand for it.

Here’s how you make a mature game: You make a game. Trust me, look into any video game and you will find a pocket of mature gamers who just want to hang out and have a good time, and yes I am including Scarlet Blade in that reference. You don’t make a mature community by writing “mature” on your advertising, much like how my Kia doesn’t become a Porsche just because I wrote “Porsche” on it in sharpie. Make the game and the players will come to you.

1. Free to Play Sucks

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I will admit, I revel in this far more than I should, and odds are so do you. How many times have we seen a developer slam free to play as incompatible with their game design, an inferior monetization model, with inferior communities and low prospects for success? Isn’t it all the more satisfying when the game goes free to play and those same people now have to pull a one eighty, with egg on face, and explain why they weren’t really serious and free to play isn’t the death stroke that they said it would be just a year prior?

I wouldn’t even call it taking joy in other’s failure, it is an appreciation for the fine art of tragic comedy, of seeing something with such bravado get struck with ten tons of reality. It is because you know that the more time that a company spends trashing their competition, the higher the likelihood that they simply have nothing good to say about their own product. Not only do they elevate themselves up and make their inevitable fall all the worse, they also stand to crush the community that rallied around their elitism who are the first to head for the door and toward the next up and coming product.

The gaming industry is all about big risks and big payoffs, but it is also one that tends to never forget mistakes, so why anyone would deliberately set themselves up for humiliation is beyond me. The old saying rings true in this case, if you have nothing nice to say, it’s better to just say nothing at all.

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