As we discussed earlier in the year, Blizzard have taken their market research to heart and decided to offer free copies of the game (whilst stocks last) when you watch the Warcraft Movie. Except, not to everybody. Portugal, Italy, the United Kingdom and Canada are notable amongst the absentees on Blizzard’s offers page. Before my legion of rabid stalkers throw themselves onto Twitter to accuse me of rampant conspiracy theorying, I’d also like to point out that thanks to a bit of judicious research from a friend yesterday, I also know that list of US theatres is oddly specific. The offer represents only about 10% of the actual total number of cinemas countrywide. Yes, I’m sure it’s entirely possible that there’s just no offers in place at present for these countries, and only with certain companies. It’s also just as likely as Blizzard knows where every current Warcraft subscriber lives? The company decided to make this offer very specific indeed.
Excuse me while I stick on this lovely hat I just made.
Blizzard know exactly who plays their game. They’ve paid a PR firm to identify the specific areas worldwide (including the US) where their MMO saturation is low, and decided to specifically target these areas geographically with the offer. They have ignored a number of countries for two reasons: the player base is already strong, and there is no need to pick up new players when so many people are already playing. In the case of two notable areas, the value of the Canadian Dollar and the Pound makes it impractical they’ll get that much return anyway for the effort expended to begin with. The areas of the US where those cinemas exist are the states they particularly want to target, where they know people have lost interest in playing. There’s no need to sell to people who already own the game, after all. This is all about putting a copy of the MMO in the hands of people who don’t take part already.
This also means that the target areas include a massive number of non-native English speakers, with massive potential for expansion and localisation. More importantly still, all of these areas can be included in Activision Blizzard’s long-term aims of increasing sales for ALL of their titles, and that includes the mobile ones AND don’t start me on the esports…
This hat’s getting really hot, I think I’ll take it off now.
The key to all of this is to remember that if you’ve been here since Vanilla, this isn’t for you. The whole promotion is quite obviously targeted at pulling new people into the game, or encouraging old players who’ve not played for a while to pick up a copy of Legion. Hell, you don’t even have to play it, just buy the Expansion. In the end, this remains an awful lot to do with shifting units of the game. Popularity and playability will ensure retention, but if your players just pick up the copy and just do a month’s worth of time? Well…
You see, I can play the cynic card if I choose.
The long-term audience for this game, for all its abuse and bloody-mindedness, will keep things nicely ticking over at least until after Legion’s launch. However, the question everybody ought to be asking is if that will be enough for the long-term survival of the IP, especially in light of what we’ve seen concerning Nostalrius. I don’t want to be that person but without retaining a large portion of this potential new audience? Things might get a bit hairy going forward. Really, what this game desperately needs is new blood, and lots of it. This is a pretty determined effort to make that happen, and I have to applaud Blizzard for going all-out in the attempt to literally take over the World with Warcraft.
Let’s hope people understand and grasp the bigger picture in this plan.