The upcoming free-to-play mech shooter Hawken isn't spending a dime on marketing, claims Meteor Entertainment vice president of transmedia market and promotions Paula Cuneo.
Meteor has become the publisher for Adhesive Games's fresh take on the classic genre, but it's taking a different approach to its traditional role and is focusing its advertising efforts on ensuring the game spreads by word of mouth.
“If a game is really good, it should be all word of mouth, in a perfect world,” Cuneo told the [a]list daily.
“We're not spending any money against advertising and we're not doing any paid media. We're really making sure that the product itself and the experience you get interacting with the company means you want to stay around.”
The plan is instead to create a strong community and trust that the fans will themselves become the advertisers more traditional publishers might spend millions in contracting.
“We've created a bunch of advocate groups,” explained Cuneo.
“We have what we call Hawken's Heroes, people who have played the longest who are great advocates. They have their own forums and we can poll them about all sorts of things.”
“Those are the guys who aren't just making the game better, but making games as a service better. We want to make sure people stick around even when we make a mistake, because we want to fix that mistake.”
As Cuneo sees it, creating a game as a service means the fans become an active part of the development process, not just in demanding new content and helping to address bugs, but if they're happy they'll suggest others use the service as well.
“It's a gold mine, but you have to be a sincere and an honest, active listener, and then you have to translate what that means and give it back to development, then development has to appreciate it enough to integrate it,” she said.
“That's games as a service. The idea that teams used to roll off of games, we'd all have a glass of champagne and move on to a totally different genre... no. Everyone's in it for the long term.”
Of course this means that the company depends on its customers for much more than it would in the product model of game development and has to seek a different sort of clientele.
“The people we want to get playing our game are playing games now, they're not watching TV,” said Cuneo.
“To pretend that we could advertise where we are not doesn't make any sense. We're trying to facilitate advocacy inside the community. Publishers clearly are changing the way they do business and they way they are spending.”
“There's tons of fantastic middleware that allows for real-time results against media buys, you can do microtests to see what people are hitting. That whole 'We'll have an agency, and they'll parse out where our money goes, and they'll spend it, and we'll measure it to see if it worked out not and that's the end' – it's not like that any more.”