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Old 11-07-2004, 02:35 PM   #1
the_logos
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Recently, IRE ran ads on 8-bit Theatre and Gucomics.com. Both are online comics sites aimed at gamers. We did a campaign on 8-bit theatre a couple years ago and it went quite well. This time, however, it did only 'ok' while the Gucomics ads did horribly. There could be many reasons for this: Perhaps the ads sucked, perhaps the demographic of the sites has changed such that the audience will no longer give text the time of day, etc. I don't really have an answer there.

It's gotten me thinking about the need to continually try to bring people into text MUDs who don't play them or who aren't even aware they exist. Unfortunately, no one in Iron Realms is really a marketer. I handle all our marketing but I'm certainly no expert. I don't have existing relationships with sites, much less paper publications, we don't have a dedicated person to produce creatives (ads) and I don't really spend the time on it that I should.

So, we're going to look for outside help. Yesterday, at the Accelerating Change 2004 at Stanford, I met with the Themis Group to talk about promoting our games outside the standard text mud sites. During the conversation, I had the idea that perhaps what we need to do is promote the entire realm of text MUDs rather than specific games. Or rather, promote the entire realm of text MUDs along with specific text MUDs. A rising tide raises all ships and all that.

I don't have any firm arrangement in mind so this is all subject to coming to an agreement suitable to all parties, but is there any interest out there in some sort of joint marketing program aimed at people who do not currently play text MUDs? Practically speaking, I don't see it working without contributions of some sort (probably financial) from all participants, but I'm open to suggestions.

Roughly, and with the caveat that since we're hiring outside marketing experts they would have a much better idea of the best way to go about this than I do, I'm imagining creating some sort of web page or web site that would break down participating text MUDs into various categories (hack n' slash, PvP, roleplaying, whatever) as well as provide some information on text MUDs aimed at people who have no idea what a text MUD is and they text MUDs rock. We'd give the 'alliance' some sort of name and then advertise that alliance, with ads leading people to that page.

So, thoughts from those in a position to participate?

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Old 11-07-2004, 02:52 PM   #2
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I'd be game for that. I think if we're finding a way to raise public awareness of the text gaming genre as a whole, we'd go a long way toward bringing new blood into the mix. I've tried doing this during radio interviews in Orlando and newspaper interviews in Tampa, but it would be best if we could find some way to concentrate the effort. Ideally, we should do what we can to tell people what text games offer and then point them to the big clearinghouses like TMS and TMC.
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Old 11-07-2004, 03:53 PM   #3
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Count me in! After exams are over (mid-December or so), I'd even be happy to develop any PHP scripting for the site we need. Can't do graphic design worth a ####, so somebody else would need to draw up the template PSDs, but I can come up with just about any sort of functionality that would be needed for the site (mud listing database, automated submission process, account registration, banner rotation, ad nauseum).
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Old 11-07-2004, 05:17 PM   #4
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Sounds like a good plan.

We would sure like to be part of something like that, although our financial situation might not be the best, some contributions maybe could be helpful.
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Old 11-07-2004, 05:26 PM   #5
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I think that even something as simple as a flier like:

Could POTENTIALLY influence people.

I think that as a whole people either have to be into role-playing or online games to consider checking out a MUD. Sure there is the "I hadn't heard of these" audience, and heck there is even people in the MMORPG community that have no idea that text-based games exist.

I would think that first an effort should be made to influence gamers particularly, focusing on things like gaming forums, fliers at gaming shops, etc. And even going so far as to put up printable versions of ads and encouraging people to print them and put them... somewhere, could potentially influence one person.

Then I guess you should also think of what makes you want to try something. Would you remember a web-site on a forum/ad? I know I won't clikc a pop-up on someone's website and hardly ever check out affiliates/banners unless it looks extremely promising.

But I also disagree that it would be some sort of major financial thing. Ultimately the ads (unless very advanced) will focus on many simple means... fliers, banner ads, maybe even little markers in Forum Signatures (for people active in non mud forums, like MMORPG.com, and other places).

And lastly, its usually best to start slow and small to gauge a response before going balls out with an expensive marketing campaign that could ultimately just blow up in your face with little results.

This is a good line of discussion though, the MUD community is seemingly large, and if even a handful of large-game administrators motivated their own communities towards a larger goal of spreading the word about MUDs, there should be some result... you'd think.
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Old 11-07-2004, 07:20 PM   #6
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I've always thought that selling MUDs as 'interactive novels' was probably the way to go (or you might try "chat rooms with story") to appeal to the general public.

Hmm, was that the sound of everyone throwing things at me?
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Old 11-08-2004, 10:41 AM   #7
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Is the potential of advertising within the mud community itself getting exhausted?

Anyways, advertising outside the mud community is sensible, and the key to succes might be advertising on the right sites I think.

You could try http://games.swirve.com/utopia for example, which has around 100.000 users playing a slow paced, text based strategy game in a medieval fantasy setting.

Another option is a google bomb, leading to tmc or tms when searching for 'free games', but this would require the cooperation of a lot of websites.
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Old 11-08-2004, 11:23 AM   #8
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I think the easiest market to capture would be D&D and card based games. Contacting Wizards of the Coast and the like to add advertising to their stuff would be quite fun. Also magazines like Scrye and such would draw an interesting group of people.
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Old 11-08-2004, 03:50 PM   #9
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It's a noble effort, but let's face it. It's an uphill battle. We don't have hot elf chicks with their crotch in your face (played by 40 year old truckdrivers) like Everquest does. We don't have 3d shooting engines like counterstrike, etc. The closest there is to realtime strategy is ASSAULT, and that's just one game (which has lots of other issues, like color that makes you puke and an admin who throws temper tantrums). And even that, can't compete with (say) age of mythologies or "command and conquer 46534: because we need sequels to make money". Kavir's GWII project sounds interesting, but the learning curve is so steep it won't attract a single soul outside the mud community.

What we need to do is integrate MUD with MMORPG. Set a game up so that you can connect via telnet, from work or from a public comp or *whatever*, and play fine, OR can connect using a special client (a la MMORPG) and get full graphics, etc. The key is to have both be the same game, ie, the person with graphics doesnt magically have special abilities the person with telnet lacks. People on telnet and on the client would interact seemlessly.

But that's a lot more work than most you mouthbreathing monkeys can do-- it's largely the fault of baboons taking existing codebases, screwing up the colors to all #### and calling it "A new codebase!!!!!! The uttermost epitome of mudding!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GRBLARGH!!" that we all have such a bad name. But then, it's also partly due to the fact that we haven't evolved from dark age technologies.
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Old 11-08-2004, 04:24 PM   #10
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Er...some of us would argue that text isn't precisely "dark age technology," but rather a taste that appeals to a certain segment of the population that doesn't rely on eye candy all the time. And that's the segment, I believe, we'd be pursuing with this effort.
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Old 11-08-2004, 05:57 PM   #11
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Well Brody,

Mudding is not casual gaming. The learning curve is steep as heck and on most big muds, to get anywhere you have to devote TREMENDOUS amounts of time-- so much time that if it were invested otherwise it would yield college degrees, published novels, etc. One advantage most muds have is the fact they're free, but they more than destroy this advantage since by choosing to mud, one is basically giving up a 2nd full-time job.
So what am I getting at? We won't do well targeting casual gamers, and that leaves only elite gamers. Sadly, elite gamers are the kind who are WILLING to pay the $20/month for hot elfchick-truckdriver poontang on Everquest. Elitist gamers who specialize in text are VERY few and far between. You've got us mudders... then you've got the roguelikes, and they have a good sized following, but they are getting fresh blood no faster than we ourselves are. The one "fortress" of text gamers is, as someone mentioned above, the utopia-type games. See eg. legend of the green dragon. These games are successful precisely because of their strict limits to turns- if everyone has only 20 turns per RL day, suddenly the "sacrifice social life, sleep, work, food and sex" aspect disappears and you can be quite successful playing for an hour or less a day. Perhaps it would be neat to experiment with setups like this in MUDs.
But another advantage the eutopia/LotGD games have is, again, they've evolved beyond dark ages. Once upon a time, the internet was only accessed through college computer labs and everyone did everything with Telnet, Gopher, or Lynx. Not any more. I'm not saying I agree, I loved those days, but it's over man. The fat lady has sung. That's not to despair though- there's no reason we can't have muds running on http servers. But everyone follows tradition like brainless zombies and churns out identical copies of muds that've been around forever.
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Old 11-08-2004, 06:33 PM   #12
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Heh. So, putting this thread back on track ... erdos won't be joining the effort, I take it.
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Old 11-08-2004, 07:34 PM   #13
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Huh, the idea sounds intensely interesting, and I would be more than willing to join in the effort. I just happen to have no technical experitise (or experience) in ANY field that may be involved with this project. I am poor, am only currently a green self-taught learner in the programming field, have no idea how to approach web functionality in the least, and I have no coordination when it comes to colors, designs, and marketing techniques.

I can babble alot, though. XD

In reply to erbos's commentary about targetting 'elitist' gamers--he's only half right. But you forget the couple thousand current-MUDers who are supremely stingy or broke, but have the time on their hands because either they're slackers, have a short school day, have no social life, or they're not monitored at work, or whatever. And there are plenty of people (I should know) who just get online and sit there day in and day out roaming over those lame web-based game sites wondering if there was ever "something more."
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Old 11-09-2004, 12:39 AM   #14
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Re: The idea that MUDs are in trouble because they need to target dedicated gamers who are willing to pay $20 for the likes of Everquest.

I believe that a large number of MUDs can easily target as an audience the kind of gamer who tried MMORPGs and even played one seriously for a while, but gave up on them due to some digruntlement. Depending on what the specific issue of disgruntlement was, different MUDs would fill that void.

For example, there isn't such a thing as a MMORPG where the RP level isn't in the toilet. A RP-required MUD can steal some audience there among players who are looking for RP. ####, even a RP optional MUD probably can do the same thing there. There hasn't yet been (my opinion) a fantasy MMORPG where the PvP side of the game didn't absolutely suck. A solid PK MUD can possibly pick up audience there among people who look to be on top of a game by skill and competition rather than super-catassing.

You get the idea.

MUDs can appeal to some subset of players of other games by working other angles. I'm too tired at the moment to elaborate, but the possibilities are there.
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Old 11-09-2004, 01:53 PM   #15
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Sorry about my lack of participation in the thread so far. Yesterday was busy work day and today, of course, Halo 2 is released, so I shan't be doing anything but playing it with friends.
--matt
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Old 11-09-2004, 02:12 PM   #16
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I would definitely be interested. I think that if we get past all this negativity - we could possibly get many new players into the market. Let's face it - people do things for strange reasons sometimes. If all of us could always accurately predict why people responded to what they do ... we'd all be billionaires.
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Old 11-09-2004, 05:29 PM   #17
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I remember very vividly what made me first come in contact with Muds. It was a light article in a magazine, not a Game Magazine or even an internet one, I believe it was a litterary magazine actually.

It described, in a rather humorous way, the nature of a Mud, how the world was set up, and the interaction between the players. It also said that MUDs were usually a game for the introverts, people who'd rather read a good book than go to the pub. And it mentioned how addictive it was, how a kind of virtual society developed in a mud, and how students were known to have blown their exams by mudding to much.

I remember how intrigued I was by the article, it made me want to look for myself, and since it gave the URL address to the Mudconnector, I  checked it out, connected to the first Mud on their list that let me in - and that was it. Pretty soon I was hooked well and good, and it didn't even matter that the mud was pretty much stock, it was my first mud and I loved it.

What I wanted to say with this rant is, that a couple of articles like that in a number of magazines probably would be a lot more effective than any advertizing campaign with banners and stuff, and it would also reach totally new audiences, of the kind that we all want - namely people who like to read.

I would never have even noticed a banner or an ad myself, furthermore I simply loathe aggressive advertising like popups and spam mail, and I think a lot of people react in the same way.

The main problem would of course not be to write the articles, I could even do that myself. The hard thing would be to persuade the right magazine to publish them, or to get some professional journalist interested enough to write about it. But I definitely think it would be possible, after all it IS an interesting phenomenon that Muds have survived for so many years, and still get developed, even with all the competition from video games and graphical muds around nowadays. It shows that good old text still holds its territory.
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Old 11-09-2004, 09:43 PM   #18
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While I think this idea has potential, I'd warn the participants against promoting the mud community as if muds were a commodity.  Avoid promotions similar to "Beef, it's what's for dinner," etc.

Erdos makes a relevant point in that newcomers simply aren't going to be impressed by many of the qualities that muds hold in common. Rather, it is the diversity of content (or at least the potential for diversity) that is the biggest benefit of the community as a whole.  And that might best be exploited by promoting specific subset of muds to targetted audiences, rather than promoting mudding in general.
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Old 11-09-2004, 10:12 PM   #19
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While reading this thread, it occurred to me that Molly was the only one who tapped a bit of an idea I was thinking about: writing an op-ed piece, or "fluff piece" for an alternative newspaper in the local area.

It wouldn't look like an advertisement. Instead, it would be more like a short story of "a day in the life of a mudder." Only at the very end of the article would there be a mention of the websites to link to for those interested in learning more about the mudding world.

Alternative newspapers (some of which are considered "underground" for university students, others merely weeklies with liberal leanings and emphasis on the Arts and Sciences and political backstabbing) are an enormous market that I think is often ignored by some of us who just plain love to write. Y'all know I'm long-winded as heck

So I'll come up with a short article, submit it to a few of the locals, and see if anything bites. I'll letcha know what happens; expect me to get around to it some time during the month. I'm a procrastinator; I have two novels in my head that I've never written, and have "thought about writing" for two decades now.

But I promise I'll give this one a shot. This month. Honest.
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Old 11-09-2004, 10:50 PM   #20
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Good luck with it, Jaz. I'll see if I can't do something similar in my neck of the woods. I've tried pitching the article idea to the local alternative paper's reporters before - and had them nibbling (but not quite biting). Maybe if I write something up as a column. Hrmhrm. We'll see!
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