Frontline Marketing

Feature: Pocket Legends Heads To Your TV

Lauren Arevalo-Downes   |  

When we last left Spacetime Studios, we got the low-down on how their 3D mobile MMO Pocket Legends worked. Now the company is celebrating the first year anniversary of Pocket Legends and flush off the success of their new TV advertisements. We talked to Fernando Blanco, Spacetime’s Director of Marketing, about the TV spot and what the future holds for the company.

[a]list: Talk to me about the TV ad for Pocket Legends and what you were looking to get out of it?

Fernando Blanco: For the TV spot, there were a number of questions and risk factors. The biggest thing as an image issue: Pocket Legends as a game looks like it appeals to a younger teen audience and my suspicion is that the youngest people that would have the smartphones would be in their late teens, maybe early 20s. How is this going to be reflected on TV Younger viewers respond differently to TV; they see something and they believe that is the thing they should be doing, but the older teenagers are more cautious in deciding whether to try or buy what it is that’s being offered. [Pocket Legends] might appeal to a younger group, but we need something that reaches across both sides of the fence.

We went through a team at Ayzenberg with documentation and pictures for the demographic. They liked it, they said they usually don’t get that. They even got pictures of fans on Facebook and it was great insight into what they’re like and what their interests are. We established what they’re into, and the next stage was to put together a script for what’s appealing to that age group. Those commercials [for tweens] sound very different than those that target late teens they tend to have more energy, the speed and timing are different and that’s the sort of thing I was concerned about. I had seen Ayzenberg’s other stuff fantastic stuff like with Lord of the Rings Online, but it was mostly for and older audience, so we weren’t sure what they would do with a younger audience. We tossed around some ideas and what we came up with was something tongue-in-cheek and we decided to focus on live action instead of gameplay, and I think that was smart, because this is something that lives and breaths on mobile devices. It’s going to be different than a game on consoles or desktop PC, so the focus was on the audience, the cool factor, and the uniqueness of the technology because it is a MMO across multiple devices, where I can play with someone anywhere, across Android and iOS devices.

[a]list: It sounds like a unique challenge to make an ad for Pocket Legends, since it’s such a unique offering; no TV ads have really been done for a product like it before.

Fernando Blanco: There were a lot of competing ideas, but there are a couple of key factors for why we went the way we did, It was cool for me as a marketer though – I worked for Ogilvy out of L.A. so I was aware of the challenges… but the collaboration and what we did with Ayzenberg, they really hit the mark. Not only is the product and technology in a unique place, and send out a message that is unique and really cool.

[a]list: The only thing I can think of that’s similar to Pocket Legends that got TV ads was MapleStory. Do you remember those ads They were a bit surreal, like with kids slapping each other in the face because it was free, just like MapleStory…

Fernando Blanco: I think there is a little bit of cross over with MapleStory, but we have to think does our audience have a device to play this type of a game and then the typical marketing considerations about a persistent game that a lot of other marketers in the game space don’t have to think about it, because the install base for consoles and PC is very direct.

When I look at our numbers every day, we have crossed the 3 million account market for Pocket Legends, and that just generated a new conversation at the office about reaching that milestone. That’s the a number you see with desktop PC or console blockbusters, you wouldn’t associate it with with a smartphone MMO.

[a]list: It’s also a challenge with Pocket Legends being on smartphones since you have to balance considerations of players spending short periods of time playing it on the go…

Fernando Blanco: That was my supposition early on, coming from the PC desktop realm and moving into the mobile space, I assumed they were playing it for five minutes, but those play times are much longer than I would have expected. They’re playing for hours and hours, and its not a small percentage, it’s a large percentage. It’s corroborated on our forums, us asking how long people play, and just pages of responses for them playing four, five, six hours a day. We had anticipated it would be 15 20 minutes.

[a]list: There’s also the potential for Pocket Legends internationally, where smartphone penetration is higher than PC penetration…

Fernando Blanco: It’s interesting. Right now we’re engaging with a a bunch of manufacturers and carriers – when they talk about install bases and number of people, I’m just floored. I was talking to someone out in China, and discussing Android devices in that country, and we’re talking 100 million from one sort of device and on one carrier in China. It’s a little bit like the wild west right now, but those that get there first will be difficult to uproot.

[a]list: What audience were you targeting with the TV ad was it difficult to nail down what demographic, between pre-teen and late teen?

Fernando Blanco: That’s true, and it’s been a difficult thing to get a handle on. I’ve separated out two groups; the first group was 11 to 14 years-old and that was the younger control group and the commercials was performing very well on shows for that demographic. We have just recently started targeting the older group, with programing for 15 to 19 year-olds, and that’s actually out performing the reception from the younger groups. I was concerned because there’s this disparity between the product and how it looks I get this gut feeling its playing to a younger audience, but I won’t know for certain for some more time.

[a]list: Have you liked the reception that the ad has gotten so far from both new and old fans?

Fernando Blanco: Oh absolutely. When we posted the commercial on our site the response from our own forums has been unbelievably positive and the acquisition level speaks for itself. We have something along the lines of 7 million unique viewers for the ads targeting the 11 to 14 years-olds and that drove about 250,000 traffic to PocketLegends.com, and this is without other sources inflating that. That’s a 3 percent return and that’s unprecedented. With TV, if you have half a percent then you’ve really hit the mark, so it’s a measure of how much we want to ramp up now. But it’s one of those fortunate scenarios that existing players like it.

[a]list: The ad is also humorous, and that’s a great way to reach out to a variety of demographics.

Fernando Blanco: That younger audience is more amenable to things that are humorous and irreverent. They re testing those boundaries at around that age, so something done with a smile and a wink is a good idea for that age group. So usually humor is a home run.

[a]list: It’s been a year now since Pocket Legends launched. Reflecting on that, has the game surpassed the expectations SpaceTime had for it then?

Fernando Blanco: Every single day! And I’m not joking, every single day, when I look at our revenues over that time, it’s sort of redefining the playbook literally weekly. So as I said, to have 3 million accounts is a huge accomplishment. I worked on Wizard 101 for a bit; different sort of game, but it’s got a similar if not slightly younger age group, and these numbers would have been good for that with something benchmarking in the thousands rather than millions.

[a]list: Talk to me about the April Fools day joke {link no longer active} and how fans received that.

Fernando Blanco: It’s funny because a lot of people were talking about how much they wanted to farm! So it kind of bit us a bit because there was a group that gets this and there s a growing audience that wants us to do it.

[a]list: We were just talking about how kids are more likely to believe things they see, so there you go…

Fernando Blanco: Dealing with kids, every day its surprising to me how they deal with things!

[a]list: What do you have in your most recent update and what can fans look forward to in the future?

Fernando Blanco: Our anniversary celebration has been staging out over the month, we re looking forward to some stuff this update laid the foundation for. We have a great deal of new content for free. Tons of goodies, new items, celebration stuff, but I think the things people are most excited about will be available for free. People weren’t able to experience the content because it wasn’t free at first, but part of the celebration is that it goes free.

[a]list: How are you looking to expand and promote the game down the line Angry Birds has a movie tie-in, has plush dolls, and is looking to get an animated series…

Fernando Blanco: The great thing is that all those things become options now. I think in stages, so the first stage is with the TV spot and now that we’ve tested television and its been an absolute success. Benchmarking across other things in the mobile space, from banner ads and other options, it’s outperforming all of them. So we’ll be increasing that with more ad creative or an expansion of the additional commercial, perhaps with one to two new commercials to follow suit and tell a story.That’s not just for advertising, but also for the video and viral content like with Angry Birds; think the UN conference thing by an Israeli humor group! Making some video content is really where it’s at. I think a lot of the static advertising is on its way to going away, exiting forever. People like to see things moving and with video, and video advertising is outpacing almost everything we’re doing on a marketing. And that’s not just us, that’s the advertising trend. We’ve already started considering some new content with new ideas that include a cartoon or live action and we’re looking to see what are options are.

[a]list: Now, a PC version of Pocket Kingdoms is in the cards, right?

Fernando Blanco: PC play is on the road-map for this year and that’s potentially a big big deal. From seeing players playing Wizard 101 personally, so many of them are playing online interconnected games than ever before so once we do that, the potential is huge. The ability to jump from device to device depending on your situation is big and I think the title really lends itself to parents playing with their kids or maybe even grandparents. Working on Wizard 101, I saw a ton of grandparents were playing it and I absolutely see that as having a lot of potential. My mom has the game a she’s one of the power users! More of the people using things like smartphones are going to age – and this is generational and it works in our favorite as time goes on. A number of these devices are finding their way into the hands of kids 12 and below there’s a wide variety of these devices that they have.

[a]list: Anything you would like to add about what SpaceTime Studios has cooking up?

Fernando Blanco: Blackstar is our next project, and it will probably launch in June or maybe later in the summer and its got plenty of technology innovation. The features that we’re lining up for Blackstar are unbelievable and the fact that it’s still an MMO is exciting. We’re getting inquiries from the carriers and they want to do some exclusive stuff for it and there’s a lot of inbound interest. It will further SpaceTime Studios as the premier mobile MMO developer so we’re looking forward to it.

[a]list: Fernando, thanks.

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