Two years ago, Kill Ten Rats interviewed ArenaNet’s Global Brand Director, Chris Lye, who toed the curtain that would soon unveil the Guild Wars 2 marketing campaign. Since that time, Guild Wars 2 has consistently been a marketing force. For example, mmorpg.com, a major MMO news site, has pegged Guild Wars 2 as the most anticipated MMO even through other big MMO launches. I asked Chris if he would want to follow up on that interview, and he was able to bend space/time to add another hour to last Tuesday to answer. Check out his thoughts on community, the gem store, and big marketing moments below.
Through the time since you last spoke at Kill Ten Rats, ArenaNet has really stuck to a “show, don’t tell” philosophy. When things are nailed down “just right” for Guild Wars 2, they can be revealed. What are some of the benefits and detriments to doing it this way? Has it made marketing more challenging or more simplified (or both)?
Fortunately, this isn’t something that was unilaterally decided on by marketing; it’s something we came to after much discussion here at the studio. Personally, I think it’s a better way to do marketing. When you’re at the start of a project, everyone’s filled with big dreams and great intentions—and you can’t wait to share them with your fans. But in the end, this can be a disservice to your game and your community. It’s better to be sure that your ideas have been proven through implementation and testing and then start talking to your fans about it—it ensures a nice build to launch as opposed to what sometimes happens with games marketing: a slow decline toward launch.
The gem store is a big issue on many fans’ minds as ArenaNet has not made it “just right” to show it off yet. Getting in tune with Guild Wars 2 customers is likely a critical aspect requiring much iteration and planning. From a marketing standpoint, how do you get in tune with what a customer would feel toward an unreleased Guild Wars 2 gem store, especially with regards to what a customer says versus what a customer will do?
We’re going to rely heavily on our testing group for this—which is made up of thousands of real-world testers who are not shy with their opinions. Fortunately, we have an entire team of folks responsible for getting the Gem Store “just right,” so we’ll be testing everything from how prominent the store is to how items are priced and displayed.
In a recent ArenaNet blog article about community, Martin Kerstein mentioned that the community behind an MMO is actually now multiple communities that each require a different touch. Can you touch on how you see the different communities responding to Guild Wars 2? What do you envision for the “official forums” community?
We’ve definitely seen distinct “personas” emerge from our different communities. They’ll be divided by medium (Twitter fans want up-to-the-minute updates, Facebook fans only want to hear from us a few times a week) or by playstyle, such as role-players or PvP-ers. We really want to encourage creative ways for our community to engage with our game—machinima, cosplay, and stuff that we haven’t even dreamed of. The key to this is fostering a community that is respectful toward one another—this will be a big focus of our forums.
Of the two marketing dreams you had mentioned in the previous interview, a marketing piece getting picked up by the dev team to go in-game or something going viral, has either become a reality to you, at least in part?
There have been some awesome career moments since we last talked—winning the gamescom MMO award against some daunting competition and getting one million sign-ups in roughly 48 hours are definitely two of them. I think one of my biggest contributions to the overall marketing campaign for Guild Wars 2 was the initial attitude that we’re rebels trying to shake things up in an industry that’s gotten too comfortable—going with a design manifesto instead of just a design vision. That’s certainly something that’s been embraced by the studio and resonates throughout our communications about the game.
Are the “arrows in the marketing quiver” changing as more and more players are getting a chance to play Guild Wars 2? Do they get reloaded on launch, or does it become a whole new ballgame?
I think the real game-changer to this metaphor is user-generated content. Initially, marketing is the one who has to bear the bulk of the responsibility for getting the word out. However, with our first public beta event just around the corner, I think we’re going to see some incredible UGC that is going to blow us away. Our job is to call people’s attention to it (and hopefully not bring the servers down). We definitely want to encourage and reward this type of behavior. The quiver does get reloaded on launch—we’ll have new stuff to talk about as far as post-launch plans for Guild Wars 2.
BONUS: You can recruit one Tyrian from Guild Wars 2 to your team. Which race (or character) would it be, and why?
Probably Zojja, the asura, since she’s voiced by Felicia Day—who has a great voice, even when she’s doing “snarky.” Asurans are just great to have in your party for the comic relief.