Tuesday, June 02, 2009
I am looking forward to one day playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. But I think the hype machine for that game is running hot far too early in the development cycle. And that is going to bite Bioware in the ass, excuse my French.
Just have a look at the latest SWTOR news: There is a new cinematic trailer out everybody is drooling over. There is so much excitement about this trailer, that people are willing to overlook two minor details: This isn't how the game is going to look, and this isn't how the game is going to play. In fact, the trailer could have been a trailer for any other Star Wars product and nobody would have been any wiser.
The other news is about some paragraph in some legal text on the Bioware site that says that if you draw any fan art based on SWTOR, the rights for that art belong to Bioware and Lucasarts, not you. Well, doh! Did you think you could get away with drawing Star Wars "fan art" on T-shirts and selling them? Do you think you would get away with drawing "fan art" murlocs on T-shirts without Blizzard coming down on you like a ton of bricks? It is not because you drew that jedi, sith, or stormtrooper yourself that Lucasarts is suddenly losing all rights on jedi, sith, and stormtrooper images. Because anyone looking at them will identify them as being "Star Wars". But the real problem is that if a paragraph in the EULA is the most interesting thing to discuss about a game, something is seriously wrong.
Sure, marketing is important, especially if you want to expect millions of copies of your game. But timing the hype is an essential part of that marketing, and Bioware is doing it wrong. Didn't they learn anything from Funcom and Mythic? Do they really want a game hyped through the roof long before we even know anything about gameplay, raising incredible expectations that will be impossible to fulfil? This sort of marketing leads inevitably to disappointment. While you might get lots of players to buy your game in the first month, you'll only lose them a month or two later. And you'll be sitting on a bunch of underutilized servers, with the blogosphere vultures circling around any news that you had to merge some of them. This is not healthy from a business point of view.
So could we please slow down the hype machine and get really excited about SWTOR when, lets say, the open beta starts? Otherwise we'll all be burned out by excitement over trailers, concept art, developer interviews of how great they are, and legal paragraphs, before there is actually something that can be played.