In 2011, Rift seemed to be a game coming from a different era of gaming. Having a fantasy setting and using a subscription-based revenue model, the game seemed destined to dash itself up against the juggernaut that is World of Warcraft. However, instead of turning meekly from this fate, Trion embraced the role as challenger and launched the provocative “We're not in Azeroth” campaign; one year later, the game is still going strong and Trion is looking to expand to future products. We talked with Jim Butler, Sr. Director of Global Marketing at Trion, about the one year anniversary of Rift and look back at the original provocative ad campaign.
[a]list: The original advertising for Rift threw down the gauntlet to World of Warcraft. A year on, do you feel that was successful in drumming up attention for a then very new game?
Jim Butler: When I first arrived at Trion, the challenge was in creating awareness around both a young company and a very new game. It was important that we delivered a message that got the attention of our core consumers and resonated within the audience. Our Effie-winning “We’re not in Azeroth” campaign worked wonders here, generating word of mouth and awareness that we couldn’t have achieved through a traditional media buy. We worked carefully in driving home the message across print, display advertising, social media, broadcast, and more. It definitely exceeded our expectations and was the right message at the right time.
[a]list: How is the first year anniversary of Rift being celebrated?
Jim Butler: We started things off by thanking all of our fans who have made this such a wonderful year. We couldn’t have done it without you. Oh, and there was cake. *laughs*
It’s hard to believe it’s already been one year, but the celebrations continue both in-game and out. We kicked off the anniversary events in late February with the start of a new world event that has erupted into the Carnival of the Ascended. Carnival games, loot piñatas, subscriber bonuses, and much more are going on in Rift right now (you can check out the full list at http://www.riftgame.com/en/community/updates/carnival-ascended-events.php). The celebration also spilled over to the Rift Mobile app, where current and former players could win prizes with the Carnival Candy loot card game.
[a]list: How has Trion been incentivizing people to stay, or even return if they've been sampling something else?
Jim Butler: The development team has been producing high-quality updates at a rapid pace, and that provides a natural point for us to drive re-engagement with former subscribers and encourage existing subscribers to continue playing. We’ve capitalized on this by creating events around the updates, such as Guinness World Records for online marriages we set in February. We also leverage videos and arrange press coverage around key dates to continue to drive awareness.
[a]list: Do you feel like your free trial up to level 20 has helped draw in new players?
Jim Butler: The numbers clearly show that it’s working. Moving from a time-limited trial (7 days) to a level-limited one allows players to fully experience the game without worrying that a late night at work or a movie with friends will cause them to miss something. We re-branded the trial Rift Lite and allowed former subscribers to come back and play their low-level characters as well. More engagement is always better.
[a]list: Rift is and continues to be reliant solely on subscriptions for revenue. Does Trion still feel that the quality of product dictates the necessity of the subscription model?
Jim Butler: We continue to believe that there is room in the MMO marketplace for high-quality, AAA games that can command monthly subscriptions. I don’t think that quality forces us to a subscription model, as there are high-quality free-to-play games coming up. Like…End of Nations. *laughs*
[a]list: What has Trion learned from launching Rift in a marketing sense that you will likely apply to your future products?
Jim Butler: Plan ahead. Iterate a campaign a few times to really make it shine. Go big or go home. Make sure everyone in the company knows what you’re doing…and when. This is fairly basic stuff at some level, but it’s easily forgotten.
Marketing an MMO impacts virtually every group in the company, from Customer Service and Finance, to Legal, Development, and Platform. Everything we do is so public that it needs to fire flawlessly with all hands on deck just in case something unexpected happens (and it will).
Everything we do is focused on the consumer and their experience with Trion and all our games. As long as we keep focused on exceeding customer expectations, both in terms of the quality of the game and in how they are treated, then we’re going to level up and do even more awesome things.
[a]list: Jim, thanks.
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