Massively Overthinking: Do cross-IP collabs and promos in MMOs bother you?


Transmedia synergy. Let’s just lead with that. We have a long tradition around here of teasing MMOs for jamming in these weird promotions with things that have nothing to do with the games. Games like Fortnite are serial offenders, but even in MMOs, we’ve covered everything from makeup and nail polish to multiple TV shows and Kpop groups. Batman and Pirates of the Caribbean are just a few of the major IPs to get shoved into MMOs.

But for some reason, the Doctor Who collab with EVE Online seems to have ruffled more feathers than some of these others. Maybe EVE players felt these collabs would never come to New Eden because they never had before, or maybe they thought their dark and gritty sandbox was impervious to the potentially immersion-breaking shenanigans that go on in other MMOs.

For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I wanna talk about these types of promos. Do cross-IP collabs and promos in MMOs bother you? Are some better than others? Do they break your immersions or have no impact – do you participate in them or ignore them outright?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Easter eggs are one thing. The Doctor’s police box made a cameo in Asheron’s Call, and that was just enough to expose me to the basics of the series, and it made sense for both series. It was slightly immersion-breaking, but not as jarring as Fortnite.

Easter eggs are one thing though. It can be a fun nod. A crossover event feels like it crosses a line, especially with certain companies or IPs. Blizzard games? The lore always seems shaky anyway, and while I’ll criticize that all day, it makes their crossovers practically expected. But if there were, say, a Dragon Age crossover event in Star Wars The Old Republic, yeah, I’d be miffed. I don’t even play EVE, and the idea of the crossover made me happy to not be amongst the playerbase, and EVE has done a lot of innovative things that I approve of, particularly in regards to citizen science projects. It’s a real case by case situation, but any game that really works hard on building immersive lore has to be very careful of careless crossovers.

Andy McAdams: I don’t have issues with cross-promotion — though I think most often it’s just dumb. The transmedia synergy nonsense gets a lot of thought, but my sense is that it doesn’t really amount to much. The Mountain Dew cross-overs for WoW didn’t seem to do much – maybe boost Mountain Dew sales for a minute? I know I bought one or two just for the pet silliness (but I don’t like Mountain Dew, so I think I just bought it and then dumped it or something), but in most cases I ignore them unless the synergy is with a product I already use. The EVE Online crossover feels like it could make sense in some stretch… maybe? But I also don’t play EVE, so I’m not sure how egregious the cross-over is.

I dunno, they seem pretty ineffective at doing much of anything, but I don’t mind them.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I don’t like them, but there are so many more things I like so much less that I don’t want to expend too much energy complaining about them.

Some MMOs just aren’t meant to be taken all that seriously, games whose worlds and lore and IPs are more about having fun, so no big deal if they suddenly get lightsabers or cheeky references to pop-culture or whatever. But there are others where the consistency and sanctity of the worlds and lore and IPs are the whole reason I’m playing, so crossing the streams for some cheap marketing spotlight most definitely irritates me.

Does it destroy my immersion more than other things, like more than people talking sports and politics in general chat? Eh, not really. But it chips away at the credibility of the setting. And most MMOs can’t really spare too much of that as it is.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): Near as I can figure, EVE players are just mad that Doctor Who might have drawn in new players, which would upset some cosmic balance. I don’t know.

On the topic of the question, these things don’t really bother me for the most part. It really is a matter of implementation and personal interest of the arriving IP, and even the implementation doesn’t make me fuss too hard; these things often feel like square pegs hammered into round holes anyway.

Ultimately, the quality of a crossover and its rewards really determines whether I engage or not. The FFXV event in XIV was short but sweet and getting to the Regalia mount was worth it, while the Sonic crossover rewards in Monster Hunter Rise felt sloppy, so I just ignored it.

Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): They’re a little tacky, but I’m generally not too bothered by them. MMO immersion is thin enough as it is, with characters named X P00Pkillr X running by and big, burly dudes in neon armor dancing in fountains and what have you. If there’s also an NPC handing out branded T Shirts nearby, it just becomes part of the background noise of things I ignore.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Yes, they bother me. No, it’s not a hill I’m going to die on, although I may stand up on top of it and kick and fuss for a while.

It’s sacrificing immersion and the cohesion of the game world to make a cheap buck. Some of these game worlds — Fortnite is a good example — doesn’t really have a lot of integrity and can flex and shift to allow such promotions. But many MMORPGs have spent an awful lot of time building up the rules of what is and isn’t typically allowed there. LOTRO doesn’t do flashy magic or flying mounts, so suddenly shoving those in would be disruptive. Far more so if the Hobbits were now shilling for Starbucks in every tavern. It felt weird in RIFT, even, to have Defiance’s hellbugs break through — although this wasn’t really out of bounds in the established game world of Telara, so it didn’t rankle me as much.

I would just rather them not, as a whole.

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): If it involves a pet or mount, I am in, no matter how stupid the crossover. If it involves gear with better stats than what I currently have, I will overlook the goofiness of most crossover items. That said, it is immersion breaking for me, especially if the game and the crossover theme are horribly mismatched in theme.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): It depends on what game it is for me. If it is a deep, immersive world, then I don’t like modern-day promotions in it (the exception would have been The Matrix Online, where that would have fit perfectly). However, if it is just a regular MMO, then I think silly and fun cross-promotions can be fine. If it fits the theme of the game (such as already a variety of costumes, similar items), even better. But many are pretty eye-rolling! A fun, non-serious game would fit things better. If immersion is a big aspect of the game, then breaking it is annoying.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I don’t have an issue with cross promotions between games and other properties. In most cases it’s just a cosmetic update to the games. The more opportunities to geek out in games I enjoy, the better, although I can see the annoyance some gamers would have with it.

As with most things, it just depends: It depends on the game and the promo that is being added. Something like LOTRO having a cross promo with basically anything else would feel sort of blasphemous. However, the New World promo with the Wheel of Time seemed kind of cool to me. I don’t feel like NW has such a strong setting and world that it should be left untouched. Also there aren’t a lot of ways to enjoy the Wheel of Time in video games. For all we know, this might be as close as WoT fans get to having official MMO content ever, so let them enjoy it. The outfits and content fit in relatively well with the gear and styles that NW was already going for, so I think it works.

I’m not an EVE player, so I suppose I shouldn’t opine, but I’m going to anyways. I see it as closer to the NW and WoT promo than anything messing with LOTRO. I see EVE as just futuristic space ship simulator anyway. Honestly slapping some other space properties in it to add some flair is fun. Let’s add some Firefly stuff next. That’d be cool.

Tyler Edwards (blog): World-building and immersion are very important to me, so as a rule I’m against this sort of thing. I may be willing to look the other way if it’s content that can blend into the existing world. I didn’t mind the Wheel of Time cross-over in New World, for example, because those are pretty generic fantasy costumes, and they don’t stand out compared to any of the game’s other skins. Still, I don’t really feel that stuff like that adds anything, either.

…OK, the Mohawk G’nades in WoW were pretty funny. I’ll give you that.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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