Heroes of the Storm is the Super Smash Bros for Blizzard’s franchises, as well as the company’s attempt to break into the lucrative MOBA market. And it’s not doing too well compared to its competition, which is sad since the genre was first born from Aeon of Strife, a StarCraft custom map, and it’s the Warcraft III mod Defense of the Ancients that first popularized the genre. It’s just like how England invented football (it’s football, not soccer, come on America) and has only won once in the FIFA World Cup out of 20 games.
So Blizzard decided to use their newest and hottest franchise, Overwatch, to give it a boost in player numbers with promotional events. Players can stand to unlock OW skins by playing HotS. Not too sure how well that actually worked out, but since Blizzard held the event twice, I assume it’s at least somewhat effective. And this leads to what we’ll be talking about today. Can Valve use their larger games to promote TF2 the same way?
The current largest Valve game in terms of playerbase right now is Dota 2. It has a strong position in the MOBA genre, it has a cosmetic system that we can use for rewards, and it’s crazy popular. We could have the players unlock new cosmetics in Dota 2 by earning certain achievements in TF2. Or maybe new announcer packs. Or even new Couriers. The possibilities are endless.
However, I have some problems with that. Firstly, since Dota 2 is a MOBA, I really don’t think the skills in Dota 2 translates well into TF2. Not that it stopped Blizzard trying to promote a MOBA with a FPS though. Sure, some Dota 2 players may have experience with TF2, but banking on everyone coming in to know enough about TF2 to play is rather foolish.
That’s an issue because it means that there’s a barrier to entry for anyone wanting to play TF2 for the rewards. TF2 is already pretty complicated for an FPS, and the fact that the tutorial is rather lacking doesn’t help much. If you want to make sure that a bunch of inattentive players that are there for reasons other than genuinely wanting to play the game to stay, the game should be easily accessible at the most basic level. And to be honest, if you want to improve player retention in any way, you should probably do that too.
Secondly, the player’s aren’t here to play TF2. They are just here to get their Dota 2 items and go. Sure, some may stay and fall in love with the game, but most of them are just going to put in the minimal amount of effort to get what they want and leave. This happened for Heroes of the Storm, which is disgusting, inconsiderate, and disgustingly inconsiderate.
And considering how TF2 is already somewhat obtuse, it’s probably just going to make people want to throw more. Sure, some people are probably going to throw no matter what, but making things difficult isn’t going to help either. What TF2 needs are new, committed players that genuinely likes the game. We don’t need to import cretins who won’t learn to play the game from outside, we already have our own.
So, a Dota 2 promotion is probably not going to work well. But what about CS:GO? It’s Valve second-biggest game in terms of player count, and it’s an FPS, which makes it closer to TF2 than Dota 2 is. Not to mention, their community has an obsession with skins that rivals TF2’s obsession with hats.
Sure, TF2 has a rather large number of mechanics that are foreign to a CS:GO player entering the game with zero TF2 experience, but the shooting mechanics should be universal enough that they can find something that they are comfortable with and settle down. In fact, I say they’ll have any easier time trying to play TF2 than Dota 2 players. I can just imagine how it’ll look like right now…
… never mind.
So let us get to Valve’s third most played game and … oh wait, that’s TF2.
The biggest problem with this sort of promotion tactic is that it gives very little returns for the cost. Sure, there’ll be a huge spike in player counts during the promotional events, which you’ll need to allocate server space for during that period, but you’ll be lucky to get one-twentieth of the newcomers to stay on. And even that is overly optimistic. During that time you’re going to severely annoy the current playerbase due to all these people messing up their game. And for what? A large number of people that jumped in, mess everything up, and left with their loot?
The only way to properly promote the game, I feel, is to first brush up the game so that it’s more presentable. Thankfully, the artstyle aged well, but there are a lot of QoL things that can be improved. The tutorial, for instance, can and should be reworked. And after that, a few good updates along with advertisements on Steam should bring in more players to the game.
Blizzard did not show any statistics for their games, so it is hard to tell if the boost from the OW promotions are actually significant. But I have a feeling that it doesn’t do much to help HotS’s player count. So no, I don’t think this sort of promotion is going to help TF2 at all.