Starcraft 2 (Part 2)

12 Jul

Last week we discussed promoting Starcraft 2 with a Promoted Trend on Twitter.  Let’s talk about another promotional tactic today.

When your product is novel, or different in some way, or it has a steep learning curve, showing the product in use can be an important part of your communication mix.  Basically the demonstration helps to minimize the risk of the new features by showing how they can be used effectively.  Starcraft 2 is a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game; essentially it’s a live game of chess played in space.  To make things more difficult, you can’t always see the entire game board so it’s hard to know what your opponent is doing.  Anybody can learn the basics in an afternoon but mastery is much more difficult.  There are professional gaming leagues where players practice all day long and it’s especially big in South Korea where some professional match-ups and tournaments are even broadcast on TV.

Some non-pro but more dedicated players research strategies by watching games played by the professionals so that they can incorporate these into their own strategies.  They become more skilled and knowledgeable of the game’s mechanics and gain a greater appreciation for the intricacies of the game.  For Blizzard, the professionals do a good job of demonstrating the different features and variety of options available to players in a matchup.  They provide the demonstration

Unfortunately only a small community of gamers actively seeks out these tools to improve.  There is another segment of customers who are less comfortable with RTS mechanics.  These are the silent majority; they purchase the game, play the single player campaign, and move on without ever challenging their friends or venturing into online gameplay, a core offering for this type of product.  For these customers, learning an RTS and playing online can be an intimidating process.  As marketers, knowing that this problem exists, how can we alleviate these pains for our customer?  We want to show the upside, the fun that can be had with online play, with and against friends.

One interesting avenue – the big idea for this post – is product placement.  This would allow Blizzard to demonstrate the competitive aspect through a mainstream medium, helping those customers who aren’t seeking out online resources.  The Big Bang Theory would also be a fantastic fit for Blizzard.  It’s a show about science geeks and nerds and they’ve already run a show on another Blizzard game, World of Warcraft.  One could easily picture the characters playing matches against one another analyzing unit composition and tactics.  It would be a great way to showcase the rewarding aspects of online play and competitive matches among friends.  If it encourages a few customers to make that leap then it’s well worth the cost because these customers are likely to become loyal followers who also bring their friends into the fold.

Obviously this isn’t the only step towards alleviating this tension that occurs because of intimidating online play nor is Starcraft the only game that has this problem.  Some other ideas for Blizzard would be building a helpful website, including tutorials in game with an achievement or points system, pointing customers towards high-level replays and supporting a community to discuss these types of tactics.  One last idea would be to reward players who ease their friends into it.  It’s all about converting customers from casual “play it once and shelve it” to enthusiasts who become lifetime customers and bring their friends into the fold as well.  This is the ‘developing’ function of marketing.

Wouldn’t it be cool to see Starcraft 2 featured in Big Bang Theory?


2 Responses to “Starcraft 2 (Part 2)”

  1. Dave July 12, 2010 at 4:21 PM #

    Nice job covering Starcraft! The video game industry is one of the biggest places consumers collectively spend their money nowadays. Check out my most recent post for another side of the Blizzard coin (WoW and the recent forum fiasco):

    • Andrew Turnbull July 12, 2010 at 4:41 PM #

      People don’t realize that videogames are now a bigger industry than Hollywood.

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