[Rift] Character Transfers and Old Marketing Plays

I don’t know whether Trion Worlds has been holding this ace-up-the-sleeve for the perfect time or whether the serendipitous moment just fell in to their lap, but the result has been very effective. Basically, Rift will give players free server transfers to characters to try and hook up with friends, get away from a busier server, or change to a different rule set. Fans are happy. Cynics are cynical. And, business goes on, much as usual.

Two heavyweight MMO bloggers, looked at it from differing perspectives regarding the marketing approach. Tobold noted that the inclusion of some weasel words could turn this amazing feature into what every other struggling MMO has done at the three-month mark: merge underpopulated servers. Wilhelm at TAGN takes the same premise, but broadens the focus a little to remark on server architectures and Blizzard’s premium service allowing subscribers to do the same thing for a price.

For some reason I thought of McDonald’s, when I saw Trion Worlds’ impressive marketing maneuver. Nobody can kill the golden arches. It’s just too strong. It’s brand is nigh impenetrable. They are everywhere. There is no confusion as to the product. It is integral to fast food. And even with Angus burgers and healthy options, it still sucks.

We eat our fast food at Chick-Fil-A. Now, I’ll be the first to admit Chick-Fil-A is not perfect with their evangelical underpinnings and apparent lack of any green initiatives. They also have okay fast food. It’s slightly better than McD’s. Where they win, hands-down, is customer service. They make us feel like we are valuable customers. Everything from bringing our food out to us, asking us at our seats whether we want refills, greeting us with a smile and simply being polite, and my wife’s favorite, saying “Have a great day at Chick-Fil-A” in the drive through.

It’s all silly small stuff that has nothing to do with the product. Either way I am stuffing my fat face with an unhealthy option. Still I have had a manager at Chick-Fil-A comp my whole meal because I off-handedly told him how one morning they forgot to say the greeting in the drive through to my wife; whereas, at McDonald’s my brightest memory is arguing with unfriendly cashier on how a slice of ham was supposed to go on my McMuffin.

Trion Worlds understands this premise. Their product is good, but it’s not enough. Just like McDonald’s, World of Warcraft is omni-present in their field. Luckily, World of Warcraft seems to not score high marks on treating customers and their subscriptions as highly valued. This gives Trion Worlds an edge. If they also make the customers feel special and give them pride for being a customer, the Rift airship is going to stay aloft a long time.

–Ravious

21 thoughts on “[Rift] Character Transfers and Old Marketing Plays”

  1. Kudos on Trion for some good customer service, with a feature that should be part of the purchase price for any MMO.

    With the analogy, I can’t help but think: Isn’t it time we had an MMO that was a little more hearty than fast-food? Could we at least get some casual dining? Otherwise, more and more will be looking for something akin to home-cooked meals (IE: games where we can run our own servers).

  2. Well stated. I agree wholeheartedly.

    It also feels good to go for the underdog who cares enough to try harder….which most MMO’s that have launched over the last few years forgot to do when battling the behemoth.

    Trion has my cash for quite a while.

  3. I’m cynically happy. What Blizzard has done with their recent “marketing ploy” is say “we just want your money”. Trion is at least smart enough to look at what their player base wants or is unhappy about in other game, which I think Blizzard quit doing long ago. I think Blizzard has believed their own hype.

    1. No, this was inside. Was a bad morning anyway, and I wanted my goddamn ham. AND, last time I went to the same McD’s they forgot the ham so I knew to check before I walked away from the counter.

  4. Being English, I am deeply uncomfortable with what you’d call “good service”. That sort of thing tends to float like a housebrick over here, where we like our service surly, sulky or aggressive.

    On the other hand, we do like it also to be competent, unfussy and quick (so we can get the whole miserable experience over with as fast as possible), and on that score Trion is doing nicely.

    1. Also being very English – actually, I do appreciately genuinely friendly service with a smile. What I think we hate is the faux over-friendly service with a big grin , while the server’s eyes just say “I’m doing a sucky minimum wage job and I hate you”.

      And that, I think is somewhere Trion score over Blizzard. Scott Hartsman et al do seem to be genuine fans of their own product and happy to engage with the customers to provide the best game possible (note: that doesn’t automatically mean whatever some guy on the forums asks for, but I do think we got the wardrobe feature, for example, because there was a clear popular demand for it). Blizzard’s attitude comes across as something between “you people should feel privileged to be allowed to subscribe to our awesome game” and “STFU and line up to be sheared like good little sheep”.

  5. I guess I’m as cynical as they come nowadays. When I announced that I was leaving Rift because key features that I value were promised and then underdelivered, just about everyone I knew said, “But Trion is *trying*! They really care!”

    As if that’s supposed to make up for the lack of level of gameplay that I require. Not for me, it doesn’t.

    And of course this makes me feel like I’m the only human in a world of sheeple. :(

    1. Well sure if the game you need isn’t there, I can’t blame you. I mean would you buy a DVD you don’t intend to watch, or a book you don’t intend to read. (I’ll admit though I do buy Steam games sometimes with little intention of ever playing them.)

      Yet for many, there is plenty of gameplay. :)

    2. If the people are not happy with the game and yet continue to play, then you can say they are sheep. If they are happy with the game, then they are happy with the game.

  6. I quit Mcdonalds recently, after working for 3 years, and my Mcdonalds was always super nice to its customers, no matter how unreasonable they are. We’ve offered customers their stuff for free if they had a mistake with their order. Most of the time, they don’t accept, just because we’ve been so nice. Of course it was a crappy job, but not every fast food place is the same. Made a lot of cool friends there, met a lot of psychos there.

    Anyway, hopefully GW2 has free server transfers. Actually, they’ve pretty much said they’ll be free, they just don’t know how often they want to allow you to switch. So people don’t switch worlds every time a world starts winning in WvW.

    1. Cool, thanks. I was unaware of that. I think instead of pushing their spicy sandwich so hard, which is pretty spicy (and therefore won’t be liked by everybody), I think they should advertise this a little in stores.

  7. Must be different here in Canada…(sans Chick-Fil-A)

    McDonalds is unparalleled almost universally for its customer service, cleanliness, speed, efficiency, and food preparation standards. Basically overall employee training is far superior to any competitor. And this is just from customer perspective, they also have best opportunities for advancement and benefits and such as well. Not to mention they have way, way more customer flow and stay open 24 hrs a day.

    The result is you are 100% sure going there that your fries will always be fresh if not piping hot out of the fryer, and burgers while shitty are at least always *the same*. They have standards and there isn’t variance based on if you have a lazy old bitch who can barely put together a comprehensible sentence and her pal who couldn’t make a french fry to save her life.

    Only comparables might be Harveys and A&W, but both of those are much rarer, more expensive, and even then it is highly dependent on which location.

    p.s. We do have KFC and some other Louisiana Chicken (or something I forget, could it be Popeyes actually?). Although only KFC everywhere. And KFC (with Burger King) are almost guaranteed to have complete morons and incompetents working there. If you are lucky they don’t give you attitude for daring to choose their establishment.

    1. I’ve heard the same thing about German McD’s. Also McD’s with lots of high school kid employees in rural areas are not so bad; my McD’s in my major metropolitan area…

  8. I totally agree with you. It seems that many companies, not just in the gaming industry, get so large that they forget about customer service. The customer, even though he or she is quite distant from the folks in the corporate boardroom, really is the reason a company is in business.

    That said, I also think that RIFT is working towards merging some servers. In order to alleviate launch-day queues, Trion opened far more servers than will likely be sustainable over the long run. What they appear to be doing here is allowing players to self-adjust before choosing which servers to shutter. Letting customers do this for free is a great move. Blizzard would have charged an arm and a leg for this “feature.”

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