The good Cap’n John shared his experience about taking a free trial in WoW and it made me think about my own trials and tribulations in the “free” realm. I do them often. Welcome back weekends I boot up old characters, muck around for a few hours. Friends send me buddy keys to try something out and I do the massive download and play a bit. The truth of the matter is not one of these free trials have ever led me to invest. Which leads me to the bigger question – “What is the point?”
In business having someone trial your product is typically a way to introduce, and hook, the consumer. Some do it with free product, some do it with incentive, some to it with scantily clad opposite sex promotion-folk. In modern day MMO land it seems as though free trials are just yet another standard mechanic an MMO “must” have. Give a download and give ten days. Everyone else in the industry is doing it so it must work. Looking at the implementations of free trials in the current market I can’t help but feel I am being giving a lake, a fishing pole, and a hook – but no bait to fish with.
A savvy marketer could take the opportunity of a free trial and turn it into something fantastic and worthwhile. I am not a savvy marketer, but a customer who is going to share with the million dollar MMO’s how to win me as a customer.
1) Show me something exciting. Dropping me in as a level one character in typical MMO fashion just presents me with a boring “same-old” entry level experience. Most MMO’s aren’t designed with awesome up front (those are saved for the long time “investors” in the end game). Create a new area for trial customers, at mid to high level, with power options and sweet armor sets. Include a small tutorial section on how to play and how to use the granted items and abilities. Show the customer that with a little time (and cash) investment what the game will be like if they stick with it. Instead of using the first 10 levels as your MMO “training” ground – introducing mechanics and setting the scene – put me in a hero position right away. Let me taste the excitement and what the game has to offer. Create an experience like the Death Knight starting area in WoW (but usable by all classes). Give me a story, explain to me how to play my chosen character, and show me something special.
2) Engage current subscription players with reasons to help out trial customers. In most of the trials I do, I don’t speak to another living or breathing person. Give bonus XP for longtime players to go into the “trial” lands and help them on their journey. “Hey, noob_warrior_1003, welcome to QuestQuest! I am the Fresh Priest, from the guild ‘Yo-Mommas’. You have sweet powers, and armor, and a role to play in groups. Now that you have gone through the story tutorial phase (It’s sweet getting to kill that baby dragon, eh?) why don’t you join up with me and my guild and we will take you through a couple five mans so you can see how much fun and interactive this game is along the way. Before we start, any questions on your class? Don’t worry, we will carry you through and explain how to play that warrior to pure sweetawesomesauce!”. Right after the fun trial experience drop players into a city or area that existing players know trial characters will be. Let them interact, show them the ropes, and make the trial experience more social.
A lot of players and guilds couldn’t care less, and that’s fine. The ones who do, and who want to build a community on their server in their game, should get special treats for engaging trial customers whether they are retained as full time players or not. Guild wide 10% XP bonus. Titles. Achievements. Make it a very sweet spot so people will consider it worthwhile. Solo playing a complete boring level 1 character does not make me want to buy your game.
3) Discount and Deal me. Free trials come after a game has been out a while. I am shocked game companies expect me to trial a game for 10 days in a lacklustre experience, and then think I am going to shell out $50 and a subscription. Hey Publicly traded company – I did your awesome trial as a level 50 warrior, made some friends and even have a guild to join of some great people! Thanks for the sweet deal – $15.00 for a game key and the first month free? That seals the deal, and now starting all over at level 1 won’t be nearly as bad as I had thought. Wait, you are throwing in 25% xp gain up to level 50 too? Where is my credit card?
Three simple ideas that would most definitely create a lot of subscriptions from trial accounts.
My question is, have any of you trialed a MMO and then purchased it after the experience? What key things made you make that purchase? If you didn’t end up buying or subscribing – why not?