Sunday, 6 June 2010

DCUO: destined to flop

Via Spinks I learned today that DCUO, the new superhero game is due out in November. It's launching at about the same time as WoW: Cataclysm, Star Wars Clone Wars MMO (using Free Realms) mechanics, and the free to play launch of Lords of the Rings Online.

That's an absolutely awful time for them to launch. Most MMOers like WoW enough to go back for an expansion, even if they didn't free Star Wars and free Lotro are strong draws.

But it's not just the timing that will hurt DCUO, it's the branding.

My Dad wrote adverts for many years. He’s now retired but we play a game when we watch adverts together. We try to spot adverts that are aimed at the person approving it not the buying public.

You see quite a lot of these adverts, elegant silver-haired men looking cool and suave. Then you think about the product and go hang on, why the hell are they trying to appeal to that demographic?

The reason of course is that the advert was written to appeal to the middle-aged man approving the advert, not the market they want to sell to.

A classic one is where you actually have the exec himself in the ad. They’re always terrible and off-putting but it’s very easy for a sycophantic ad man to sell it to the client that he’d look great on TV and get the account approved.

Victor Kiam: was not actually more appealing than George Clooney would have been even if the ad man said he would be.

Now consider DCUO.

To everyone at DC it’s an amazing brand, synonymous with wonderful stories and characters that they all know inside out. Just mentioning the letters DC makes them go warm and fuzzy and think , yeah, who wouldn’t play that?

To people outside DC it’s a terrible brand. It’s too lacking in distinction. A word like Blizzard is a lot easier to remember than two letters that might mean anything. Just ask someone what DC stands for without context. Washington DC? Don't Care? Letters are much less memorable and much less unique than words. Especially when players will pronounce your game Dick You.

Most crucially people don’t associate DC with what really sells – Batman and Superman. I had heard of DCUO for months and thought meh until Jon Shute mentioned who their characters are. I’m about as nerdy as can be, I own a lot of comics including DC ones and I didn’t know they had Batman and Superman. What’s more I didn’t even think about it – DC MMO? not interested, Batman MMO? oh that sounds cool.

The combination of the branding and the release date is going to kill them. And that’s even if they find a way to make playing in the Batman universe without being Batman fun which is a big ask.

And it's a great pity. I like Sony and am a fan of their games. I am sure DCUO will be a solid MMO on its own merits. But I can't see many people playing it.


  1. Most Germans do not know what the "DC universe" is. But they all know Superman and Batman. And for some reason only American and Spanish gamers seem to have a major fancy for superhero games. Most people I know don't.

  2. Exactly. I think it's a great shame as I like Sony and I'm also a fan of Michael Zenke, former games journalist now a junior designer on DCUO.

    But I really don't think this will have a good launch. Maybe they can launch it, give it a year or two then relaunch it as free to play the way Turbine handled DDO. If they ever do relaunch it they should also rebrand it although that would mean someone having the balls to tell DC that no, not everyone knows who DC is or leaps for their wallet when the initials are mentioned.

  3. It's SOE.. it's going to crash and burn like every online game they push.

  4. I don't think that's fair. EQ2 is solid and stable only a failure if you think it might have rivaled WoW. SWG has amazing numbers considering its age and turbulent history. EQ is still going. Free Realms got reasonable return on investment (and of course makes up the engine for Clone Wars Free Realms).

    Still they generally neither underachieve nor overachieve even when conditions are favourable. Market conditions are so unfavourable to DCUO it looks grim indeed. They're even competing with themselves with Clone Wars.

  5. Boy I bet you retards are really choking on these words now. DCUO is AMAZING!

  6. I'm glad it hasn't flopped but from a business point of view it's not amazing.

    Good to hear people are enjoying it though, have fun!