Showcasing Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen
For anyone following the development of Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, it goes without saying that the view behind the curtain is anything but ordinary in game development. As a crowdfunded MMORPG, the dedication to showing development and work in progress is important to us at Visionary Realms. At the same time there is a desire to keep from spoiling discovery before players can venture forth in Terminus. While crowdfunding isn’t altogether new, seldom has such an inside look been given to the development of an MMORPG like this.
Luckily the challenges associated with planning and marketing Pantheon sits on the plate of Project Producer, and Director of Communications, Ben Dean and his team. We discuss when the right time is to grow Pantheon’s reach, what methods can be used in modern day marketing in the industry, and more.
With the experience you’ve had in the development of other projects in the industry, what has stood out to you most about the uniqueness of marketing Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen?
When Visionary Realms formed, the marketing landscape was going through huge changes too. It’s mapped out more now, but going back 10 or 15 years when I was working on other projects, video game content was just plainly different. Traditional marketing at that time was largely focused on banner ads, written articles and tradeshows. Fast forward to today and the standards are not the same. Banner ads are being dropped in favor of social media ads; written articles are far fewer, replaced by independent video content; and even tradeshows are attended by fewer and fewer studios who opt to instead communicate directly through social media or their own in-person or virtual events.
Can you take us back to some of the original marketing plans associated with Pantheon and how you view their success looking back?
We also realized that some early marketing was focused on the “hardcore oldschool gamer.” While our tenets haven’t changed it didn’t take long to realize we needed to be less exclusive in our wording and presentation. Yes, we aim for challenging content, and yes, we will continue to practice and respect some of the foundations that made MMORPGs so revolutionary, but you can do that without being prohibitive. When you paint the picture that it’s a hard game for older gamers, the only thing that happens is that you get a following of hardcore oldschool gamers. Everyone else who doesn’t feel they fit into that category dismisses the game, thinking it won’t have anything for them. Nothing could be further from the truth since Pantheon is an incredibly deep and wonderful experience. We wanted to show these ideals to the newer generations of gamers so they could enjoy them too. We needed to adjust our language and not exclude potential players who would enjoy Pantheon as much as the next. We didn’t need to change the game, just change the way we were talking about the game.
How does being crowdfunded adjust the goals for marketing and communication? What challenges does it present?
It can be challenging to walk the line between transparency and development. As a basic, but probably the most practical example, announcing milestone dates is a huge challenge. Most who have been following us for some time understand that our internal dates change for a variety of reasons including funding rate and unforeseen complications. When we have a surge in crowdfunding or a new investor joins, we are able to accelerate production. Conversely, when unforeseen complications arise, it pushes dates out. Sharing these target dates could potentially be wildly different after even just 3 months. So we have to be careful about what we reveal and when. We want our information to be accurate. It’s similar to a problem that challenges media in general: do you report quickly or do you report accurately?
Does the involvement of investors, or potential investors, change how we market Pantheon?
On the first “Parting the Veil” Creative Director Chris Perkins discussed that Pantheon is not just a niche game being designed for only a specific player type within the genre. From a marketing standpoint, what is the playerbase you believe Pantheon should be marketed to?
So, in the beginning our target audience was the experienced MMO gamer who was looking for revitalization of some lost tenets. As we progress through the stages of development we are expanding the target audience. Alpha, for example, will be very much targeted at the social gamer to join our growing community. Later phases will include even broader audiences, like coop and dungeon crawler fans. It doesn’t change the design of Pantheon in any way, but it does determine when we start promoting the game to other segments.
The original MMORPGs that the genre was built on didn’t have to deal with the impact of social media. How has this evolved the process of making large announcements or showing various aspects of development?
Social media has to be used. It’s where you can communicate directly with your audience and that was a hard thing to do in years passed. The impact of that is huge. You can also see in real time the response and reception of those communications. If it’s something agreeable, you’ll notice. If it’s something your audience isn’t vibing with, you’ll notice that pretty quickly too.
Speaking of the impact of social media, Pantheon has had the privilege of forming a positive relationship with one of the most influential streamers on Twitch, CohhCarnage. How did this relationship develop, and can we expect more influencers like CohhCarnage to be part of showcasing Pantheon to a wider audience?
And yes, absolutely we will be working with more influencers in the future. I can’t say for sure that the relationships will all be the same as they have been with Cohh – every content creator is different and have varying levels of interest and different ideas for how they wish to approach creating content about the game.
Currently, what is the focus, or goals, for communication and marketing with the current state of development?
Our goals are to communicate more regularly and more effectively leading all the way up to Alpha. Beyond that too, but focusing first on this phase of development. Alpha is going to be a big deal but we still have a way to go, so we don’t want to go too fast or too hard. It’s a ramp up, not a wall. We have to stay very conscious of the pace of development and measure our communication efforts around that.
What are the key goals we need to hit internally to take that next step in pushing a stronger media presence and showing the game on a larger scale and how impactful is executing correctly on these moments?
Gamers can be forgiving when it comes to playing Alpha and Beta versions of games, but the reality of it is that we have to show them something that they will want to share with their friends. So it has to be fun and ready to be consumed by the average gamer. Few things are as annoying as getting into a game, really enjoying it, and then being abruptly interrupted by a server outage, for example.
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