Many OSG’s are employing advertising techniques that seem counter productive. Of course Evony’s risque campgain comes to mind. Flooding the internet with their “play now” adds, easily mistaken for pornography sites, certainly helped Evony get noticed. However, this has also painted the game as rather shady and dishonest, and I know several people who stay away from a decent game because of the company’s reputation.
As I mentioned, some OSG’s are adopting the facebook method of game promotion as well, where players are rewarded for incessently asking their friends to the game. Is this effective, or os it merely annoying? One Facebook game I’ve been caught up in recently is Social City. In the game you have a certain plot of land to build roads, factories, restaurants, etc. You can also expand how much space you have, but only if you have enough neighbors. For example, in order to expand to a 12×12 grid you need 3 neighbors, in order to expand to a 15×15 grid you need 10 neighbors, etc. (I don’t remember the actual numbers) The developers are clearly hoping that players will encourage their Facebook friends to join the game, but the players have circumvented those intentions. There’s actually a Facebook group to find people who are already playing the game and need more neighbors. So, instead of players having their friends join the game, they are finding other players to add as friends.
In the end it seems to come down to a game of numbers. When throwing these advertising nets (whether offensive or merely annoying), even if it drives away 95% of the potential players, if the net is big enough and noticeable enough then perhaps 5% of potential players is all a game needs to be successful. Sadly, this puts the developers in a position not of creating a great game that fosters a strong player community, but spending enough money on advertising to drive game traffic. Hopefully this site can help a bit, by pointing out OSG’s that are truly worth playing, not just those with the biggest marketing budget.