The Old Republic has had a very successful launch and hordes of gamers are criss-crossing the galaxy questing within the Star Wars universe. Prior to the game’s launch, EA had a good promotional blitz, both with con appearances and, during the launch date, television commercials. However, the time for marketing The Old Republic shouldn’t be over. EA and BioWare should build upon the player base and continue to market the game to lure even more players into the The Old Republic’s web. How should they market the game in the 21st century? With old-school marketing that helped launch the original Star Wars movie of course!
When Star Wars came out in 1977, it didn’t have a ton of fanfare hyping it at the time. Despite that, the movie struck a chord and clever marketing helped launch the Star Wars franchise and gave George Lucas more money than Scrooge McDuck in his money bin. (In one of the worst studio blunders ever, executives allowed George Lucas to retain all merchandising rights from the film.) Star Wars products were everywhere and people went practically mad scooping them up.
The marketing and merchandising of Star Wars helped keep the movie in the public’s consciousness (even to this day!) and pumped a lot of money into Lucas’ pockets so he could go on and self-finance his crappy prequels. It’s hard for the current generation to understand the impact of Star Wars. I lived through that time (I was born in 1970) and lived through the madness. Star Wars played in the theaters for over a year…yes, a whole year! People saw the film thirty, forty, even hundreds of times. Once the cultural juggernaut took off, there was practically no place you could go and not see some form of marketing for the film.
To that end, let’s look at some old-school marketing ideas that helped create the Star Wars beast and could be used to up the awareness level for The Old Republic. I’ll eschew the normal marketing areas such as t-shirts and posters and focus on other areas that The Old Republic would be viable in.
The biggest single industry that Star Wars impacted (other than movies) is the toy industry, and more specifically, action figures. Kenner practically brought the action figure industry back from the dead with their Star Wars figures and playsets. Earlier action figures averaged from 7 to 12 inches tall, but the oil embargo pretty much killed the action figure industry in the mid 1970s. When Kenner got the Star Wars license, they made the figures shorter to the 3.75” figures that you can still buy today.
The greatest asset of Star Wars for action figures was the sheer variety of figures you could create and sell to the public. Every alien in the movie, every major and minor character, and every different costume for a character could have their own action figure. Plus, let’s not forget the standard troops, such as Stormtroopers or Rebels, that you could army build. Why have only one Stormtrooper when you could have five or six? I still remember going into Lionel Playworld (a toy store chain) where a full aisle, running the length of the store, was filled on both the left and right sides with nothing but Star Wars figures, playsets, and vehicles.
Wouldn’t it be great if The Old Republic had action figures of their own? Who wouldn’t want to grab their favorite character class as an action figure? You could have playsets for each of the special locations on the various planets. Imagine recreating your talks with Nem’ro the Hutt in his palace with a cool playset. There could be figures for all the major NPCs you deal with, all the varieties of aliens you come across, and all of the companions that players can get. (However, I wouldn’t leave Khem Val alone with other figures as that he would probably eat them!)
Star Wars fans love collecting action figures and by having The Old Republic figures, it might nudge them into trying out the game. An even better idea is to include in-game promotions with the action figures and toys. This promotion could range from special gear to special quests or maybe unlock a companion you can only get from buying ten or more figures. It would also be a cool way for players to obtain new cosmetic unlocks for their companions; buy the figure and receive an in-game code to unlock their new look!
Another marketing concept that could work with The Old Republic is glasses. Yes, I said glasses, specifically the Burger King glasses that were released for each film. People went insane trying to complete their own set and few things caused more ire than when you broke one of the glasses years later, thus making the set incomplete. People still collect the glasses to this day, so why shouldn’t The Old Republic take advantage of this marketing tool?
Star Wars fans will collect the glasses just because they’re Star Wars, and players will pick them up because they’re already playing the game. Having a Burger King glass promotion will also spread the word of the game to tens of millions of burger-chowing patrons that don’t know the game, but might check it out after they’ve been exposed to it. Anything that adds exposure to the game is a good thing.
A popular way to promote a product back in the day was to have a television special about it. Star Wars was not an exception to this idea and thus was created the Star Wars Holiday Special. Even though the holiday special was reviled, and justly so, it still kept people talking about Star Wars. In fact, the utter horribleness of the holiday special has kept it alive as a cult phenomenon in and of itself.
The Old Republic can build upon the shaky foundation of the holiday special and create one of their own, perhaps for Christmas in 2012. The story could be of a bounty hunter and a jedi consular caught in a blizzard on Hoth and forced to spend the holiday in a run-down spaceport, where through a series of highly improbable events, learn the true meaning of the season. Who wouldn’t want to watch such heart-warming fare? Let the internet trolls rage on the various forums, but who cares as the dialogue about the holiday special keeps the game’s awareness high for the public.
The final old-school marketing idea for The Old Republic is to release a soundtrack of the game. The original Star Wars soundtrack has sold over four million copies and The Old Republic should take note and release their own soundtrack. Of course, the new soundtrack album probably won’t be on vinyl or 8-track, sadly. The Old Republic has all new music that builds upon the themes and motifs of the traditional Star Wars themes, plus who doesn’t love jiving to the 70s inspired jazz you can play at a cantina jukebox?
While there are many avenues open for The Old Republic to continue marketing itself to the masses, sometimes the old-school methods may be the best. If marketing ideas such as action figures, promotional glasses, a holiday special, and a soundtrack could work for the original film, then it should work for The Old Republic. Just don’t get caught playing with your action figures (they’re not dolls!) like Dark Helmet in Spaceballs.