Is Wizard101’s marketing getting out of hand?

Seriously, KingsIsle? You’re blatantly shilling teen actor/singer/Disney creation Selena Gomez’s new CD in the game? It’s the one that’s driving all the amphibians and crustaceans in the Spiral MAD! Talking fish can’t get enough of her intoxicating beauty! The indescribable sweetness of her music! She MUST become queen of Crab Alley!

Except that her parents would freak that she, like, disappeared. The same way all the parents of every other wizard in the game (all presumably separated from their families back on Earth) don’t.

The only two explanations I can think of: Disney is paying KingsIsle barrels of money to flog their latest media darling to children, or Disney is about to continue what they’ve started with Playdom and other casual gaming entities, and buy out KingsIsle entirely. If that does happen, expect to see a LOT MORE Disney stars somehow find themselves in the game, desperately needing the help of child wizards to get back home or at least to buy their new CD.

Look, even the crabs are dancing to it! Reminds me of the Lobster Quadrille, actually. Do kids even read Alice in Wonderland anymore?

Here’s some more of KingsIsle’s crack marketing team in action:

Both of these ads are from Facebook. The one on the left is a Wizard101 ad.

WizardVille? Like the Frontier Game – just faster, better, harder, stronger! Better name too. CLICK HERE to see what all the hype is about!

Wizard101 is nothing like “the Frontier Game”. FrontierVille is a standard Zynga clickfest combined with a metric crapload of friend begging. Plus, it’s integrated with Facebook. Wizard101 is a client-based MMO more similar to World of Warcraft than any Facebook-driven Flash sim game. The comparison to FrontierVille seems entirely arbitrary. Why not say, “Interested in the search for the Higgs boson? It’s like the Large Hadron Collider but bigger, stronger, more radioactive!” As is now nearly standard for Wizard101 ads on Facebook, the picture has nothing to do with the game whatsoever.

On the right is a mocking ad from Kingdoms of Camelot, which claims to have taken all the fun and strategy of a standalone MMO like Wizard101 and put it all in a Facebook Flash-based city building sim. The picture is straight from the game.

The Gomez quest does bring you to Crab Alley, which shares the same underwater setting as the next expansion, Celestia, due out in a week or two. Was the expansion delayed to shoehorn this advertisement for a Disney package into the game?

Anyway, the quest is live on the Test Realm. Basically, the Storm Professor frog, the same one who has been leading the rediscovery of Celestia, just got a new CD player, and The Best Song In The World is playing on it. He traces it back to the Most Beautiful Girl in the World, Selena Gomez, who is being held prisoner in Crab Alley. Some side quests get you access. You go there and find out Everyone Loves Selena Gomez in Crab Alley! Go Selena! She’s to be married to a crab, but she really needs to get back to recording her New CD! The Crab King goes wild, and enlists his entire court to be background dancers for Selene Gomez, who now holds a microphone! And never stops smiling! Even when faced by marriage to a crustacean. Well, now that some states allow gay marriage, looks like the warnings were true: people will start marrying animals.

I’m among Wizard101’s biggest fans, but this new marketing direction… I’m just not feeling it. Seriously. I was apprehensive about Eric Bloom’s quest, even though Blue Oyster Cult is my favorite band. (Maybe he should have had Michael Moorcock help write it?)

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11 thoughts on “Is Wizard101’s marketing getting out of hand?”

  1. I don’t really understand the hostility. It’s one quest out of the entire game. It’s a pretty cute quest and is a cute tie-in with the new world. For the target market of the game the choice of Selena Gomez seems pretty spot on and a lot of kids are excited about it. If it can make a pre-teen smile for 15 minutes while playing a game I’m not sure that I see the harm.

    While a lot of adults (you and me included) like the game, I’m not going to let myself lose sight of the fact it’s a game with monsters that fart on you that was made for kids. It doesn’t take it’s self too seriously so neither will I. That would just suck all the fun out of the game and I’m not looking to have that happen.

    Marketing is marketing. It is what it is. Of course it’s meant to sell you stuff. A tie-in with Disney is a win for KI because of the potential to bring in new players. I really don’t see them selling the game to Disney based off of one tie-in. I agree that them selling to Disney would not be something that I’d like to see. But that’s a pretty big assumption that I’m not ready to make yet.

  2. I totally agree. The moment i heard about the Disney star, i got this sour feeling in my stomach, much like the time the life wizard fled during our Warehouse run. It’s giving us the wrong type of publicity; Wizard101 is a kid’s game, not a teen heart-throb’s game

  3. I think it makes a fair bit of sense. If anything, Selena Gomez is known for playing a wizard on a TV show about wizards that panders to the same family demographic as Wizard101. Maybe the CD thing was unnecessary, but it makes sense when you think about it.

  4. Maybe KI got boat loads of free adverts on Disney channel in exchange for the Selena quest. Everyone is looking for new avenues to reach their target market. Wizard 101 & Selena are both tween/young teen stars. Some sort of synergy, whatever. I’m just going to play and enjoy. :-)

  5. Marketing of this kind deserves a special place in hell.

    Dev joke or marketing ploy does not matter so much. It is cheap. I also criticized in Guild Wars 1 and 2 where they really had to make a reference to pop culture in every zone, every item, every name, everything basically. I am exaggerating here, but they really went nuts with that in the later areas of Nightfall and the Eye of the North expansion. And GW2 started out with the “Steeleye Span” fortress named after a somewhat obscure English pop band (yeah, at least to me…).

    Too many references and pop culture references lessen your own work. I wonder why writers so often fail to see this. Marketing dudes however can’t have enough of this crap, I can’t blame them, but… someone has to stop them. :P

  6. Yes, I can see the “synergy” between associating a game where kids play wizards with a Disney show about kid wizards. That’s not lost to me. What I really dislike is the use of W101 as a marketing vector for unrelated merchandise — a vehicle for advertising. It says to me that W101 marketeers have remembered that the players are all hapless consumers that should rather be working on quests that will lead them to buy more merch.

    Combined with their increasingly deceptive Facebook ads… this just isn’t going places I’d like to see it go. Are commercials really necessary to enjoy the game? What’s next? Sugary breakfast cereals?

  7. W101, it’s a cereal now! *queue Nintendo cereal theme song*

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    As to the topic . . . well . . . the CD pushing is a little tasteless, but otherwise it’s hard to really complain. We are not W101’s target audience, kids are. I suspect there are plenty of kids utterly THRILLED by a quest to help Selena Gomez, and when you get right down to it, entertaining kids and making money is the point of the game. The quest does both.

    I’m far more offended by the endless, idiotic, beat-you-over-the-head pop culture references in WoW that are utterly jarring. And mechanohogs. And Thor minipets. With frickin lasers.

  8. I really can’t speak to whether it’s cool for kids. My kids are grown, and my niece had zero interest in the game last time I showed it to her.

    Regardless of whether or not kids are wild about Selena Gomez, my own feelings are that perhaps they don’t want their games to turn into advertisements. Remember the furor when EQ2 added the Pizza Hut /pizza command?

  9. I’m not a fan of Gomez. Can’t stand her in fact. I’ll just ignore her in the game, though.

    The Facebook ads are not quite right, though. Something screwy there.

  10. I understand completely what Tipa is saying. I didn’t detect any hostility in her post. I know that Tipa loves gaming and has been a huge supporter of KingsIsle and Wizard101. I believe she is disappointed (as am I) in KingsIsle’s actions, the past 6 months or more, in regards to micro-transactions and the continued advertising of “free to play”. They even won an award for “free to play”! The game is “limited free to play” not “free to pay”!

    I started Wizard101 in Beta. I have promoted the game on websites and have been encouraging to KingsIsle staff … but, now I am playing less and less and it has nothing to do with grinding, hard battles, or boredom. The game is tainted for me because it is simply wrong to say the game is free to play when it isn’t. Plus, I don’t want to be “nickel and dimed to death”.

    I play a lot of games. A lot. I can’t think of any other game where a character doesn’t earn a set of basic matching clothing and weapons, suitable for your character, by leveling up through quests accomplished (usually in increments of 5). If you want more stamina or flashiness, then you have to buy it … but you don’t walk around with a pink and yellow hat, a red and orange robe, and pink and red boots … when pink isn’t even one of your school colors. You shouldn’t have to farm (possibly weeks) in order to get the deck or weapon that your wizard needs because you leveled up to fiercer battles.

    I don’t mind paying to enhance items but I don’t want to pay to have the items that I need to play the game. I don’t mind paying a subscription fee.

    I really don’t think that Marketing guy Tipa spoke to recently plays the game. There may be 10 million players but it is extremely noticeable, as you advance to the different worlds, that there are fewer and fewer players (where you have to pay to visit). Wouldn’t it be better to try to get 10 million people to play all the worlds and not quit when they are finished with the free areas?

    By the way, there are some very interesting books at the public library on the psychology of Gaming. For example, in some games developed for tweens, the only pink outfits are the ones you have to buy … why? It is #1 what tween girls want their character dressed in.

    Though there is nothing wrong with Selena Gomez, I wonder … of all the celebrities, why did KingsIsle pick her to be the first celebrity? Why not Stephen Hawking … or even ask Eric Bloom and the Blue Oyster Cult members to do a series of quests related to Taarna … that makes more sense to me for a fantasy game than Selena Gomez. So, I agree with Tipa … I wonder what is Disney’s current connection with KingsIsle.

    In case you didn’t know, when Disney bought Club Penguin, micro-transactions sky rocketed and then they brought back rare items and sold them. They didn’t even bother to change the color of the items. Greed. After a couple of months, I couldn’t give them any more of my money (I was a 3 year subscriber and I paid a year for my little neighbor, as well).

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