The Rise of the Super Team

An Editorial Addressing
the Use of Star Power to Market a Studio

Cody “Micajah” Bye

When you listen to music these days – rock and roll,
hip hop, rap, or pop – it’s more than likely that
you’ll run into what folks call a “super
band”. These “super bands” are comprised
of veteran singers, songwriters, and musicians who have already gotten
their chops with other bands and are now eager to try out either
different styles of music or just want a change of pace from their
normal band. When this occurs, record labels are quick to publicize
this band as “the members of X” combine with the
“singer from Y” to generate excitement for this new
product. Although the “super band” often produces
quality music, it’s often disconcerting to see your favorite
musicians and singers trying to win over the public with a new band.

The same sort of marketing campaign is now being attempted
with video game development teams. Whenever you read about a new studio
starting up, the first order of business is to list the experience the
crew has had. Many of the current start-ups,

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alt="Chris McKibbon Tells All" title="Chris McKibbon Tells All"
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McKibbin and SOE have done a decent job of not
"overhyping" his past experiences.

such as Colony Studios,
Red 5, 38 Studios, Perpetual, and many, many others, constantly drive
it into the skulls of the public that their newly integrated team has a
bevy of experience behind them.

However, the marketing schemers that hatch these plots also
walk a fine line between the benefits of such exploitation and the
pitfalls. Let’s take a look at these pros and cons, and
extrapolate what a marketing team could do to truly make sure the
advantages outweigh the problems.

The Benefits

First and foremost, discussing your team’s
experience with the public is a quick and easy way to tell your adoring
fans that the people involved in the new studio are sound programmers,
designers, or artists. For most gamers, names and faces may not be
important, but the games that were on the records of these men and
women are.

Let’s take Gods and Heroes for example. Both Stieg
Hedlund and Chris McKibbin have some pretty awesome accolades. Stieg,
before coming to work at Pepetual, was one of the main developers
behind Diablo 2, Starcraft, and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 2.
McKibbin, while not a huge developer, has shipped a huge number of
titles out the door during his watch and is just a force to be reckoned
with when it comes to gaming.

Take either of these two men and start throwing games like
Starcraft and Diablo into the mix, and players start drooling. SOE
hasn’t ponied their past experiences around TOO much, and
therefore they’ve stayed away from over selling the past of
these two leaders. SOE is good at what they do.

href=""> src=""
alt="Bob Salvatore" title="Bob Salvatore" name="photo_j"
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Bob Salvatore is a great example of a developer that
brings huge "star power" to a development team.

Despite the tremendous past experiences shared by McKibbin and
Hedlund, gamers still have a bit of curiosity about their upcoming
game, because Gods and Heroes is far from an RTS or a third-person
single-player RPG. It’s an MMO.

Players are excited to see these two men working on an MMO
title, due to their past titles, but they also don’t expect
any sort of gameplay elements to follow with them from any of their
previous games. Creating a “Super Team” with former
MMO developers can lead marketing and PR reps into some of the biggest
pitfalls the MMO industry has to offer.


However, this tendency to market the past of current
developers can lead to some severe problems, especially if you are
intent on putting together a team with MMO experience. In the minds of
many gamers, the more you talk about your past games, the more they
begin to correlate this upcoming title you have with a past experience
they might have had with the former game – good or bad.

Take Vanguard, for example. One of the bigger marketing pushes
for this game was the fact that nearly the entire team had worked on
the original Everquest. Brad McQuaid was the heavy hitter behind all
this, and many people even publicly voiced their opinions that Vanguard
would be the “true” EQ2.

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alt="Brad McQuaid" title="Brad McQuaid" name="photo_j"
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Brad McQuaid and Vanguard suffered from too much
comparison with Everquest.

And the marketing and PR firms did nothing to stop them. They
liked the fact that the gamers were comparing Vanguard to another big
title, and everyone was happy. That is, until people started getting
into beta or the final release and seeing just how different Vanguard
was from the game they had plotted out in their minds. It
wasn’t Everquest 2 and it wasn’t Everquest.
Vanguard is it’s own game, and whether you like it or not
will always come from your personal experience with the game.

Overhyping can also occur when studios are running on their
personalities alone. While I personally don’t think this has
occurred, I’ve heard rumbling from the press that they are
tired of hearing about certain studios that have relied on their
“star power” for a few years now and have little to
show for it.  

The Grand Scheme

In the end, most marketing companies will need to simply
“feel out” the general interest of the communities
they are attempting to court. By using “star
power”, marketing and PR firms give themselves some instant
gratification with the fans, but the eventual comparisons and the
threat of “overhype” should always be watched for.

Bring those gamers in, but once they get in don’t
keep shouting the call or you might drive away those players who are
most interested in your product.

Check out all of Ten Ton
Hammer's editorial

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016