The CONSENSUS seems to be that the FPS genre is becoming increasingly similar with very little innovation. For every occasional blockbuster such as Modern Warfare 2 that stands out from the crowd, there are numerous contenders that fail to make their mark.
In MAG, Sony is trying something new that should prove to make it one of the most unique shooters for some time to come. The title stands for Massive Action Game, which pretty much sums up the game’s key selling point: 256-man multiplayer matches.
With online multiplayer being arguably the most popular feature in any FPS these days, Sony and the team at Zipper Interactive have been working hard to create a battlefield that supports more than 250 players at any one time. Now, MAG is ready to recruit the world’s most trigger-happy PS3 owners, and Sony couldn’t be more proud of this release.
“MAG is a very important IP for us and definitely a key exclusive for PS3,” says UK product manager Phil Lynch.
“MAG is a real statement of intent from us to engage fans of FPS games.
“With the successful Resistance franchise along with Killzone 2 and now MAG, we feel we are a viable choice for gamers looking to get that much more from their games console. MAG will definitely be one of the many tipping points for those who haven’t got a PS3 to get one this January.”
While Lynch recognises that MAG’s ability to support 256 players on a battlefield simultaneously is a great headline grabber, he is also keen to point out that MAG is so much more.
“As you can imagine – and as I’m sure MCV readers are thinking – ‘Isn’t 256 players just going to be absolute mayhem?’,” he admits.
“It’s a very valid point but when you add in the player command structure, it all starts to make a lot more sense.”
As with rival titles, players gain experience points throughout online play. However, in MAG, increasing their rank has more significant consequences than unlocking new weapons and equipment.
Players who rank up are given the opportunity to lead a squad of eight men, a platoon of 32 or even a full 128-man army. These player-officers will be able to issue Fragos or Fragmented Orders throughout the match. Members of their team who follow these orders will be given additional experience points, which should serve to encourage teamwork and squad play.
“As you can imagine, running around like Rambo may work in an eight-way match, but you’ll not last long with 128 scopes pointing at you if you don’t play as a team,” adds Lynch.
The key to marketing MAG lies in engaging with the intended audience and key online communities. In fact, it is the early response from Sony’s own followers that has boosted the platform holder’s confidence in MAG’s potential.
“The PlayStation community has been very active and supportive of MAG since we announced it,” says Lynch. “In fact, via the PlayStation blog, many of our users were involved in the creation of the latest MAG trailer by helping to write the script.
“Our sales expectations for MAG are high. Thanks to the massive success of titles like Modern Warfare, Killzone 2 and Resistance, first-person shooters as a genre has become much more accessible to everyone.
“Allied to this, I think MAG’s unique selling points of unparalleled scale and groundbreaking player command structure will elevate its profile and really make it stand out among the competition.”
THE CALL TO WAR
Lynch observes that the FPS genre is very crowded, with very little visual difference between the likes of Battlefield, Operation Flashpoint and Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
As such, Sony faces the danger that standard display advertising wouldn’t truly convey MAG’s unique feature and may even get misattributed to rival games. Instead, the firm is preparing a special event with Eurogamer and IGN and their communities to show off the 128-versus-128 warfare.
Says Lynch: “We’re creating a recruitment drive on both sites for their passionate community members to
apply to become part of their favourite site’s Private Military Company and ultimately get to represent them in a large-scale war in our massive MAG event in January.
“Of course, we’ll have a very strong social media campaign using Facebook and Twitter supporting this, as well as press and a very special online advertising mechanic to get the wider audience excited about MAG as well.”
He also hints that the PlayStation community will continue to be a part of Sony’s wider MAG communications, even namechecking some of the key players from Eurogamer and IGN in future creatives.