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MMO, in-game marketing and GTA Online?

Posted: November 12th, 2008 | Author: elliot | 3 Comments »

To many MMO players, today is a special day. Millions of World of Warcraft (WOW) players have been anticipating the release of the latest expansion.
My local video game stored has promotion all over their windows about the midnight release sales tonight. I am a confused video game addict. Instead WOW, I am a faithful follower of Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO). I am dying to touch and taste the second commercial release of the saga, Mines of Moria, next week :-)  

If you look at the numbers, WOW (and MMO) is phenomenal. Earlier this year, WOW active subscriber number hit the 10 million mark. Meanwhile, there are about 16 millions of active MMO subscribers worldwide. If we do some simple maths here, assuming the games charge an average of 10€ month subscription fee, we see a 160 million € revenue.

In real life MMO seems to bear similar kind of intensity. People buy and sell in-game items in eBay. People pay others real money to power-level their in-game characters. People trade real money with in-game money. Some people also steal others’ in-game properties. In tragic cases, it even resulted death of real persons.

In the meanwhile time, MMO is not just for teenagers, who run marathon playing sessions on pizza and energy drinks in basements. Look at The Sims Online. Look at Second Life. Even “niche” fantasy MMORPG like LOTRO are full of players in their 30s and 40s. Regularly in the game I meet these people, who have regular jobs, spouses and children. They interact with each other outside the game, run net discussion forums about in-game issues …

The mind-boggling numbers, violence and the diverse age group lead me to think about the GTA series. With friends we have been discussing when they will release a true GTA Online MMO. After all, there is already the MTAcv.
And with 6 million copies sold in the first week alone, the GTA4 sales are pretty comparable to WOW.

So, the million dollar question is how marketers do take advantage of such massive amount of eyeballs. Yes, there is Second Life. There is also Habbo Hotel. But imagine the potential GTA Online, in which a second New York City is recreated, with all the shops, malls, office buildings, taxis, billboards … And players all can roam around do whatever they are so used to do in the GTA games, joining and forming gangs, grabbing territories, earning street creds … It will be a totally different ball game.

As a gamer, I would love to see that. As a marketer, I cannot wait for such opportunity.

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3 Comments on “MMO, in-game marketing and GTA Online?”

  1. 1 Sinttu said at 01:48:11 on November 14th, 2008:

    Also, think about it the other way around. There are so many possiblities for game companies to sell some extra stuff that is related to a certain game. For years the film industry has been the pioneer in this field. I guess George Lucas initially started it with the Star Wars figures. I think these days it’s rather an exception if there is for example no extra or bonus DVD included.

    The game companies have started to do this as well: books, t-shirts, figures and so on. There are endless amounts of possibilities for the game companies to get more money and attention by selling creative extras along with the games. You might even get new players to play your game when someone walks around in a cool game figure outfit.

    Today I actually witnessed this thing quite closely. My spouse has been talking a lot about this new xbox360 game for quite some time now. It’s called Fallout 3. So, today he went to buy the game from a game store, but guess what he came home with? A lunch box! They actually sold this unlimited collector’s edition of the game in a metallic lunch box, that included a making-of DVD, a 100 page art book (hard cover), a Vault Boy bobblehead (Vault Boy is a character that’s been used as the symbol of the game and that is also used in ads inside the game) and the game of course. Not to mention the cool visual design of the lunch box that would probably survive a nuclear war.

    So, from now on we will have this bobblehead bobbling in our car and if I ever take my own lunch to work, I will definately take it in the Fallout 3 lunch box. Someone might say it’s just the game company’s way of making more attention and money, but i’ll say: how cool is that!?

    Getting back to Elliot’s post, a further question could be that what if a company X that is advertising inside the game, had also it’s logo printed on the bobblehead? Or on a t-shirt, or…? Would it be clever, or would it bee too pushy?

  2. 2 elliot said at 12:34:42 on November 14th, 2008:

    Talking about the extras in game package, my LOTRO Mines of Moria special edition is probably in my mailbox already. And I will try to get to the mailbox today before my wife does :)
    These are some of the goodies included:

    - Where the Fellowship Walked map
    - Gold “One Ring” in velvet pouch
    - Elven cloak brooch

    As to your last question, the logo printing is no new practice. Just to print it out on every walking T-shirts or placing it on billboards probably does not give much positive effect. Instead, if we take GTA as an example, maybe you print it only on certain gang member’s T-shirt. Even better would be to place the product, not logo on the gang member’s hands.
    Every MMO is a virtual world. In that world, you can pretty much make the citizens to use your products, virtually. (Of course, that if it is financially viable :) And maybe you can also somehow have the citizens use them in the behavior you script for them. In doing so, you
    hope that the behavior would spill back to the real life, bringing real money to you.

  3. 3 julian said at 12:23:10 on November 21st, 2008:

    “In the meanwhile time, MMO is not just for teenagers, who run marathon playing sessions on pizza and energy drinks in basements.”

    My WoW guild is comprised of ppl with average age of 30. We have whole families inside. The purpose of this guild is to gather ppl with kids, families, job, etc – ocasional players which can’t play 24/7 but still want to raid end game content. And we’re from all over the world, even an american family :)

    Now, after a 3 years together, WoW is not simple a game for us, but a social platform. We’re spending more time chating, talking about kids, IRL problems, etc. than raiding some bosses :) Not to mention, our ppl who are close are organizing IRL events (UK, Holland, Sweden)

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