Thursday, November 15, 2012

Are You Ready for Some Football StarCraft?

So we now have a release date for SC2's expac, Heart of the Swarm.

However, unlike Blizzard release dates of years past, HotS* has been announced four months in advance, on March 12, 2013.  The typical Blizz release announcement is 1-2 months in advance, so more than doubling that is more than a bit unusual.

I don't think I can read too much into the release date --unless it's not quite stable enough and Blizz is confident they'll make the release date if they push it out far enough-- but what is likely is that Blizz took Christmas and sports into consideration when announcing the release date.  If HotS is ready for the traditional 2 month release date, a mid-January release date is too close to Christmas to attract attention from the casual player (who most likely got a stack of games for presents).  Mid-February is possible, but there's a little holiday called Valentine's Day out there that might provide some competition.**  Finally, mid-March is right in the middle of the men's and women's college basketball tournament, March Madness, and right after the NFL season concludes.

Okay, what's the big deal about sports, right?  Well....

I've noticed the past several Blizz releases are promoted heavily on U.S. sports broadcasts.  Cata, Mists, D3, and SC2 have all been promoted heavily on ESPN, FOX Sports, and regular network sports broadcasts.  Blizz would be crazy to not try to capitalize on the sporting events over January through March.  I've been seeing ads for Assassin's Creed III on baseball, the Olympics, and (American) football since the summer, and believe me, Blizz took notice.  They want that gamer demographic that sports broadcasts provides.

Which also begs the question:  why didn't other MMO game companies, such as Funcom, Bioware, or ArenaNet, go for the same advertising target as heavily?  Given the discussions in Gen Chat during the Olympics, you'd think that the sports viewer is a large part of the audience for TOR, Star Wars or no Star Wars.  And The Secret World would be perfect for that subset as well, particularly given all of the crime dramas that the CBS network promotes on their sports broadcasts.  It seems that these companies (as well as Turbine) relied more upon social media rather than going out and promoting their game in the same manner that Blizz does.  Social media is great, but it has to be one part of a more comprehensive advertising plan.

Well, here's to the next several months, and seeing a lot of Sarah Kerrigan on the small screen!

*Hots.  Yeah, that'll work for an acronym.

**I can see the YouTube video now:  going out with your S.O. on Valentine's Day, or playing a video game?  You decide!


  1. To be honest I think it's simply a matter of price. As far as I'm aware advertising during big sports events is expensive as hell, and I don't think the smaller publishers can realistically afford that. EA probably could, but most likely they still think that it's not worth it.

    1. I've thought that too, but if you avoid the Super Bowl and the NCAA Final Four, rates ought not be that bad, particularly for college basketball.

      Sometimes, I do wonder about ad strategy for these games. The Secret World seems the perfect game for someone who is watching a show like American Horror Story (which, my wife tells me, is a great show) or a show like Fringe. Even if EA didn't want to spring for ads on sporting events, there are channels like SpikeTV that regularly show the Star Wars movies*, and seem to be the perfect target for these MMOs.

      While I realize that better marketing of TOR and The Secret World might not be enough, but it really does help to actually make an effort. At least Age of Conan and TOR made it into episodes of the CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory, but that's not enough on its own.

      *And James Bond and LotR, for that matter.

    2. Wait.... You're up awfully late tonight.

  2. Think there might be some other forces here, specifically the high level/professional SC2 scene.

    The single player campaign and main single player game is assuredly completed already to blizzards satisfaction. They are still making some fairly large scale changes to multi-player however. And I'm guessing they need a basically picking a date that will allow them enough time to make these high level balance tweaks and also let Tournament Organizers know when to start switching to HoTS for their matches.

    Maybe they do just want an epic Kerrigan Super Bowl commercial though.

    1. Since the professional tournaments are important enough to replace BlizzCon, I guess that those tourneys might influence release dates too. That only makes sense.

      I wonder if this is going to be the future, where WoW's release date will be determined by the PvPers.