The Brilliance of Branding

written by Alastrom

 

One of the greatest failings of the modern MMO is population attrition. This is normally attributed to a lack of content or a general disinterest by the community taking part in those titles. The reality is that the modern MMO has to compete with a much wider gamut of new releases and given an ever shortening attention span, they have to use a lot of tricks to keep you hooked. The average player is no longer interested in investing six months of effort to reach the pinnacle of their game’s content. In that amount of time there will likely be ten new titles for just about every genre of gamer out there. The player base eventually starts to fall off and eventually it reaches a critical mass point where the online title can no longer be sustained.

 

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Like it or not, everyone will lose interest at some point. When old players go they tend to take their friends with them. Without new players coming into the fold, revenue slows and content ceases to be created. Without new content, the chance of repeat consumers shrinks and eventually the whole project descends into oblivion. The single player game offers a unique solution to this problem. With each new installment to the series, the reach to new players increases dramatically. In addition, a successful game ensures the financial health of the company which keeps the doors open for future content creation. Squadron 42 isn’t just a unique title from a visionary game director, it’s the key to keeping Star Citizen going strong for years to come.

 

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Squadron 42 is the ambitious single player game from Chris Roberts, set in the Star Citizen Universe. It’s been called the spiritual successor to the Wing Commander series. This was stated several times during the Kickstarter campaign and that’s not an accident. Before Star Citizen could even enter the conversation we were talking about the Chris Roberts brand, developed through his previous work. Nineteen games later, a movie, small television run, several novels, trading card game, and a screen saver pack, the series had fully cemented its name to fans. With regards to Star Citizen, this told future backers what they could expect from the upcoming project before they knew much about it. This isn’t simply an impressive backstory, I believe it’s critical to the success of Star Citizen as an MMO.

 

Many of the backers that have invested into Star Citizen are primarily interested in the online experience. The single player game holds little to no interest for them and some have even suggested that it’s a waste of time and development resources. This represents a major flaw in reasoning. Many of the successful massive multi-player online title that exists right now have the strong backing of a brand. The best examples are World of Warcraft, The Old Republic, The Elder Scrolls Online, and Final Fantasy. These games may not be perfect, but all of these titles have years of branding behind them which help bring a multitude of players in. The simple explanation is that these games need little introduction to help you understand the world you’re in. It also helps players overlook gameplay flaws in favor of familiarity. At the end of the day we will always go back to what is familiar to us.

 

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This is not to say that unbranded games can’t be successful but they certainly have to work harder for it. For example, two Korean MMOs, Black Desert Online and Archeage moved to Steam to help further distribute their game. Both are titles I had completely forgot until they popped up on the Steam store page. Sure enough, I put another three months into each. Crowfall and Chronicles of Elyria are also showing a great deal of promise, both having wildly successful Kickstarter campaigns behind them. While there are plenty of MMOs out there that one may argue are the exception, I would say they are the example. The former two games are working to keep their population base up, while the latter two have to start thinking about the challenges of release in a heavily saturated market.

 

Squadron 42 is helping to establish that same level of strong branding for Cloud Imperium Games that helps those other established MMOs to maintain their success. It’ll help future generations of gamers experience the game with fresh eyes. Given enough time, it’ll spawn additional content in off-shoot games, literature and media. This is why the single player experience is one of the most important elements to ensuring Star Citizen becomes the Best Damn Space Sim Ever. Without it, I truly believe that the game would have a much shorter lifespan than what we’re all hoping for. For someone who has widely given up on single player games, I can say with total conviction that the single player Squadron 42 is the key to everything.

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One thought on “The Brilliance of Branding

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  1. Being a long time Star Citizen backer, as well as a Chris Roberts fan, I agree. I played the original Wing Commander back back on my old 486 66mhz computer, followed by WC2, WC Privateer, Privateer 2, WC3, WC4, Star Lancer, Freelancer, and any and all expansions to these games. I also played games like X-Wing, Tie-Figher, X-wing Alliance. We also used to dream of having a game that would amount to Privateer Online, which is what SC in essence is. But at the end of the day, it was Wing Commander, the single player drama/war movie/space opera experience that brought us all to the table.

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