Blizzard Advertisements Anger Me

While I’ve been keeping up with WoW news since I stopped playing, as I have every intention of coming back to play when the new expansion hits, and I enjoy the WoW community as much as I enjoyed the game, I haven’t felt the urge to write anything about the game since I left. Until now. I considered writing an upfront apology about how ranty this post will be, but then I remembered the name of this blog and how aptly named it is.

Blizzards advertising campaigns have always irritated me. From the random minor-celeb cameos to the whole Mr. T crap with the mohwak grenades, I’ve been left wondering if Blizzard actually has a marketing department that it pays, or if it just draws up a list of pop culture references and throws darts at them to decide what to do with their next advert. When they released the pre-cata ad with clips from the Deathwing cinematic, I was surprised by the step forward. The ad wasn’t anything that amazing, but it was clearly a move that was actively trying to get back lost customers and interest new ones. Then tonight I heard about their newest ad, and I facepalmed. Here’s the link if you haven’t seen it yet –

Now many people may just be thinking the same initial thought as me – really Blizz? Chuck Norris jokes haven’t been funny for about 5 years. But the problem runs deeper than that. The issue isn’t that Blizzard used a tired joke for their ad, but more about the fact that they think it’s a good idea to base their marketing around nerdy, in-joke references. WoW is a game with so many amazing qualities, and yet you would never know that from its adverts. Just to prove my point emphatically, here’s a list of good things that WoW has to offer, followed by a list of the target markets that Blizzard SHOULD be aiming for:

  • Huge, immersive game world
  • Incredible social elements
  • Hard challenges AND casual friendly fun
  • Multiple playstyles accomodated
  • Fun way to socialise and keep up with friends/family
  • Epic lore and story
  • Active, varied and large community of players
  • Continuous progression, constant game updates
  • More content than 10-20 single-player games put together

That list was just the first things I could think of, there’s likely lots more. Admittedly, some of those are perks related to all MMO’s, but as you’ll see from my list below, Blizzard should be advertising the MMO genre as much as they advertise their own game. The list of target markets:

  • Casual gamers who would find the expansive world and casual game style appealing
  • People who are vaguely into gaming and love being able to socialise online (facebook games, anyone?)
  • People who enjoy playing games with other people (many people who are stuck on Xbox live have no clue about how awesome raiding or rated BG’s can be).
  • People who don’t game but would be enthralled by the expansive story and lore that WoW has
  • Competitive people who would enjoy arena or top-end raiding

Again that list is shorter tha it could be, but it proves my point well enough – WoW has A LOT going for it. So, here’s the list of selling points that Blizzard is putting across for WoW, followed by the list of the target audiences that they are actually aiming for:

  • WoW is vaguely funny, in a ‘5 years out of date’ kinda way

And their target audience:

  • People who still find Chuck Norris jokes funny

See the issue? Cos I sure as hell do. I wouldn’t mind as much if it weren’t for the fact that far from advetising their game, they’re actually making it look worse. There’s nothing wrong with advertising a product at specific nerds, but when you do that at the cost of alienating all other markets, when at the 7 year mark basically every nerd has at least tried the game, it’s stupid beyond belief. So many people that would probably like the game if they played it long enough will be put off trying WoW because its made to look ridiculous. Gamers, and MMO gamers in particular, have a hard enough time shrugging off the perception that we’re all fat greasy nerds that live in our parents basement making jokes on the internet without Blizzard reinforcing that perception. WoW was so damned successful when it was released because of how casual friendly it was. That sounds a joke considering how tough Vanilla was compared to now, but its true – the hardcore nature of most games that kept normal people out were gone, and for the first time people flocked to it because they could have fun without being punished for it.

But there are so many people out there that don’t play because WoW has a bad image, and they have no idea what the game is really about. I remember talking about raiding to someone who had never played before, and they thought the idea of it was ridiculous. I then compared it to a 5 aside football team, and asked what the difference was between the two hobbies, other than one is considered acceptable. I mentioned how WoW is much easier to do on a regular basis, allows for more social interaction than any sport, allows me to keep up with other friends not on the ‘team’ at the same time, allows me to keep busy during normally dull parts of the day, and it gives me an epic story like a well written TV drama all at the same time. Suddenly the idea of playing didn’t seem so insane. And this is what Blizzard should be trying to do with their ads – show people that WoW is nothing like what they think it is. Instead, what they do is reinforce the same old image that WoW is for nerds and idiots.

There’s nothing wrong with pop culture references in the game. When used sparingly, they’re actually quite refreshing, and show that the people making the game are humans too. But they need to be discrete, so that people who don’t get the reference just pass on by without their enjoyment of the game being affected. They work in game (when done right, looking at you with evil eyes Uldum) because they are subtle nods – but they are not suitable for ad campaigns because they do more harm to the brand than good. People who understand the Chuck Norris reference in this ad will sigh at how old the joke is, and laugh at how stupid WoW looks. People who don’t will wonder why a TV star they may or may not have known 20 years ago is advertising a video game for no discernable reason. The only people who will play WoW after watching this ad are people who still find the joke funny, start a free trial, realise that you can’t play as Chuck Norris in game and then leave (in the same way that people would go in game for Mohawk Grenades, then get bored again), or people who are reminded of WoW simply by the ad, and remember all the good things about the game and decide to resub. Here’s a thought – SHOW THEM THE GOOD THINGS ABOUT THE GAME IN THE AD!

I have various ideas for what good WoW adverts would look like, but I won’t bore you with the details, suffice to say that they are aimed at suitable target audiences displaying the fun aspects of the game. What bothers me is just how off the mark Blizzard is with these ads, and how after this many years they haven’t learnt from their mistakes. They already make incredible patch trailers that they could easily edit into commerical length videos, interspersed with some gameplay footage, if they really didn’t want to put a lot of effort into producing ads. But alas…

I wish I could say that I have hope for the future, but from what I’ve heard this is just the first in a new line of cameo ads that are gonna be releasing steadily over the next few months. Having minor-celebrities endorse products is only a semi-effective move at the best of times, but after watching these ads you can clearly see that the person is there for the money, and doesn’t really play the game. And I don’t blame the people either – I’d take the easy money if I were them too. I hope SWTOR and Guild Wars 2 are very successful, not because I think they’ll kill WoW, but because they might give Blizzard the competition to strive to be better, and that might include a real hard look at how they’re advertising they’re product. I’m no expert, but I know one thing for sure – they didn’t reach 12 million subscribers because they got William Shatner to appear in their commericals. They need to take a look at what did get them there, and produce ads that make some fucking sense.

/end rant


2 Responses to “Blizzard Advertisements Anger Me”

  1. Poul Erik Dyreborg Says:

    Hi Chris
    With the latest update it says that the GM is inactive and I guess anyone still playing is able to take over the guild and do as they please about it.

    I think that maybe I should take over the GM until you decide to come back as I’m not leaving and have no plans on joining any other guild.

    Im just levelling all my other characters.

    Please give an answer to
    The the one and only Mage

  2. Poul Erik Dyreborg Says:

    BTW Chuck Norris jokes ARE still funny.. .sort of…

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