The other day Eric posted about why There Shouldn’t Be A Signup Form. His post smacked me over the head with something I should have thought about a long time ago: the futility of converting through content.
At some point or other, most live MMO teams with declining player bases (which is almost everyone) are handed a mandate to increase conversion of new players.
Usually this involves someone higher up in the company looking at the number of free client downloads and comparing it to the number of new subscriptions each month.
(You do have a free client download, right?)
Once the mandate comes down, the live team kicks into gear. Since they are usually limited to working with in-game content, the live team concentrates on character creation, starter areas, the in-game newbie experience, low level quests, level 1-10 socialization, etc.
What the live team almost never does though, because often it isn’t in their purview at all, is fix the gawd-awful process that a new player goes through between the download and character creation.
Like navigating the cluttered sales-speak website to find the technical support link when the install doesn’t
- … and then getting a 404.
Like filling out a massive web form to sign up an account
- … half of which it turns out is market research anyway
- … and doing it three times because each account name you choose is already in use and the form doesn’t save your entries
- … and then doing it twice more because you also need a separate forum name
- … only to have the verification e-mail go missing three times in a row.
(And do you know how many older games still require credit card information for their free trial? Egad!)
The best the live team may be able to do is bug the installer team for a fresh client download, bug the customer service team for some knowledge base updates, and bug the web team for some link fixes.
Of course, all that assumes that the installer team still knows how to build a fresh client, that the CS team still knows how to use the old knowledge base software package that the rest of the company switched away from three years ago, and that the web team isn’t tied up for the next three months building a site for the game in development - all of which, I shudder to say, is not always the case.
(And I’m not even going to mention the games that hide the link to the client download off some back page – or worse, a post in the forums! That’s outside the scope of this post. But suffice it to say that if you have to Google for the client download, you have failed.)
That’s not to say that improving your low level content is a waste – far from it! But if your goal is conversion, even character creation may well be too late.