Listmas 2013: Stupidest MMO Advertising

MMO’s seem like a rather new genre. Even that they have been around for decades, chugging along by their more mainstream cousin, how they present themselves often seems to lack the integrity of other mediums. It is a genre that once had a purpose but now seems more intent on copying what others do in terms of the development, the mechanics and how they are marketed. It also seems like the people marketing and even developing these games still don’t understand the basic appeal of the genre and as such we get some of the dumbest, most preposterous and down right insulting advertising I’ve ever seen.

Most of these adds should be primer materials for university courses on how not to market a game…or any product really as they often pander to certain stereotypes that insults. Rather than creating an appeal they come off as condescending, pretend to be something else to create unrealistic expectations or just don’t sell the product very well. I have a lot of pet peeves rearging how these games are marketed, a lot but here are my top 5 stupidest marketing practices.

Selling Sex

This seems like a staple within the gaming industry. Sexy woman adorned in impossible poses on near every single game box or advertisement spread. Sometimes it makes sense, other times it doesn’t but it’s an insidious part of the industry we are unlikely to get rid of any time soon. Sex sells, or so they say but in an age of instant information and reviews I don’t think a sexy lady on the cover helps as much any more. The positives and negatives of your game are what is going to sell.

MMO’s use this familiar strategy but at times it feels like it is being taken to its illogical extreme. Everyone would be familiar with those Evony adds you see across the internetz on many sites and forums by now that are well, just a pair of tits…literally. Selling a strategy game to the player through boobs is the best they can do even though such a thing is so far removed from the realities of the game… not to mention that there are far better pictures out there of pixelated breast to drool and.. uhum..over.

scarlet blade ad

Then came Scarlet Blade and it’s now infamous advertisements that threw caution and clothing to the wind, removing any pretence about their aims. No subtlety involved just a virtual doll to fulfil deluded fantasies.

Comparisons to Wow

World of Warcraft has been the behemoth in the genre for this decade now, for understandable as well as unknown reasons. It captivated a generation and still continues to provide for millions of players. It has a large world, a ton of content, a large collection of customisation options, and a wide selection of activities to fulfil any and all interests.

It’s understandable to see clones of popular games pop up, it happens all the time as people want a similar amount of success… it doesn’t happen of course but even attaining a small part of that profit is extremely enticing to investors. While many other genres do that I really don’t see the blatant comparison to the bigger, and sometimes better franchise. They show some of those similarities between products but they try to create their own brand and separate themselves from that bigger product but no… MMO’s love to make that comparison themselves.

Rift azeroth ad

We MMO players love to make comparisons to other games and a discussion will erupt in every game regarding comparisons to wow based on every single mechanic, it is a terrible affliction that spoils interest in new titles. It’s also creates a certain amount of conflict within the genre of people attacking and defending various titles and the developers themselves often instigate this. I honestly believe if the developers ignored this facet of mmo dialogue and just tried to make their game then this sort of stupidity would lessen.

Popular Celebrities

I’m not one to fawn over celebrities at all, never have been. I admire them in a certain way and I love the creations they star in whether that be movies, music or games but my interest in them ends there. They do have a certain amount of popularity though out of our industry and within and it seems like a good idea to use them as a way of selling their product to more people….it never works well though.

Connection to the title is often tenuous at best, we know they have no interest in the title so their appearance seems disingenuous. Games are becoming a more accepted medium but to pretend some of these people enjoy and are actively engaged in the genre is ludicrous. It just ends up lacking the needed connection between the celebrity and the community they are trying to sell towards. 

To me it seems like they are ashamed of their own community and trying to improve an image by showing off people deemed more acceptable. It also seems like they are continually trying to sell to new demographics not even connected to gaming, does that even work or is it worth the effort?

Sooooo Hardcore

If there is one thing I despise about this industry it is pretending to be something you’re not, I would much rather we just be proud of the medium we have but apparently that’s not good enough. The worst of this is the pretence of being Hardcore or something akin to an extreme sport… apparently hurting other people or yourself is much more socially acceptable. Hardcore is a very loaded term by itself but it is also rather meaningless as it refers to many flexible definitions. Lets be honest as well and say gaming as a hobby or past times is not extreme in the slightest, it may give an amazing adrenaline rush but comparing it to death defying feats is ridiculous.

The worst offender of this has to be Tera and the MMO-Fo campaign. It employed a professional UFC competitor to show how week, boring and unengaging the MMO competition was. It made a comparison between Tera being an extreme martial artist and all the others being the pathetic nerd… way to offend your potential playerbase. Now Tera was a decent action mmo but linking it with this kind of sport and a hardcore “Bro” appeal is just outlandish. It is also that they missed what Hardcore means in gaming instead linking it to physical intimidation tactics.

Yes, lets look like we want to beat up respective players

Everything from GW2

Haha what can I say, I love to troll sometimes but there is an element of truth to this top spot.

You name a terrible marketing ploy and it seems GW2 has tried it. Terrible artsy and irrelevant ads, uncomfortable dev videos, unrealistic expectations, impossible claims, real life crossovers and now the initiation into some sort of cult. I have never cringed as much as I did watching these with any other marketing in all my gaming years and I’ve seen a lot of bad advertisements.

The regular art and development departments created some truly breathtaking videos throughout development. These videos had an amazing aesthetic and artistic flair that created a world you desperately wanted to visit and yet, the official advertisements and marketing stunts are a complete joke. Many, like the recent trailer reek of desperation to appeal to other demographics. Most just seemed like they don’t understand gamers at all and their interpretation of our interests is rather insulting, not to mention making a joke out of mmo’s in general.

I get they were trying to be unique, it’s a crowded marketplace and you do whatever you can to stand out but it already was on its own and these things don’t help… not even a little

Today’s mmo rant has been brought to you by by the good Patrons of Healing the Masses; come for the rants stay for the…hmm.. why are you still here?

21 thoughts on “Listmas 2013: Stupidest MMO Advertising

  1. Actually, I’m just wondering if there ever has been -any- non-stupid MMO advertising. Seems players hype up soon-to-come MMOs a lot better than any marketing departments can.

    • there has been some decent stuff..a lot of that guild wars stuff was extremely solid; the rift weather report was amusing and just look at the war marketing…sold that game rather well despite its flaws.

      Player videos do seem to be a step beyond as they just understand the genre, they know where and how to showcase the appeal

  2. I do get slightly annoyed that LOTRO sells only to the LOTR fantasy obsessed community, can it not market itself to other demographics?

    It is a solid yet old MMO…the grey ‘dollar’ is growing daily! Get them OAP’s into LOTRO 🙂

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  4. Unfortunately, the WoW comparison plan is straight from marketing 101. When you enter a market with a clearly dominant player, you assail them and try to set yourself up as a viable alternative through whatever competitive advantage you have; price, features, support, whatever. Sometimes it works… my own industry was so attacked and now I work for an upstart… and sometimes it doesn’t… see every single Microsoft Office competitor.

    On a different note, this EverQuest ad from Maxim remains one of my favorite bad MMO advertising moments.

    • haha, that’s awful.
      I don’t know though, when you have a product that is such a huge imposing part of the industry it seems silly to compare yourself to it as you could never come close.

  5. of all those I think GW2 takes the cake given the level of pure misunderstanding their audience. One strong consistent message should always be the goto if you really believe in your product

      • “Quaggan needs food”


        Great post by the way. Didn’t realize how much bad MMO advertising there was. Although I still genuinely liked the Mr T stuff heh

  6. What you would think would be good MMO advertising? I’m not sure I’ve seen any mind you, but if you are going to take awake sex, celebrities, and comparison to competitors, I’m not sure what else is left. (-:

    • A lot of gw2’s promotional material was rather good, especially how they drew in the community at points. It created an amazing buzz. Bears bears bears warhammer certainly did it’s job. I tend to think a lot of wildstar stuff creates and an appeal that reflects the product

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  9. It’s all just a big bad music video- sex, celebrities, product placement, boasting and rubbish story lines. I wish it didn’t sell but it does.

    At the end of the day, a good product should be able to sell itself. Yes they all want to expand their markets, but their target market isn’t going to be easily wooed.

    If that Gw2 video was the first thing I saw for the game, I wouln’t have brought it.
    The lack of effort into understanding their potential customers is laughable.

    The Kid spraying graffiti looking like an assassins creed reject, I mean, you have fantastic world design and choose to show real life in some grimey back alley that’s a little too close to Silent Hill and is getting warm as a consequence?

    If they’d have just shown the gameplay clip, I’d have been a lot more interested. Even just a super high graphics cut scene of a guild fighting, close ups etc.

    When in doubt, get the elf boobs out.

    • it was a terrible advertisement, weirdly a lot of their promotional material was exactly what you describe; beautiful flybuys of scenery and the occaisional heavy action scene

      HAHA.. well.. would have to be Sylvari boobs then.

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