What World of Warcraft Teaches Us About Content Shock

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Content shock, a topic we’ve discussed many times on this blog, is the state where marketers and publishers create more content than any human could possibly consume. We’ve reached content shock already, and the artificial intelligence revolution has barely begun.

Warcraft’s Content Shock

In the video game World of Warcraft, we’ve had a bit of content shock of our own. The original game, which launched in 2004, featured two continents and 60 levels to explore. The first expansion pack, the Burning Crusade, launched in 2007 and featured a third continent to explore, raising the level cap to 70.

Since then…

  • Wrath of the Lich King introduced a new continent and raised the level cap to 80.
  • Cataclysm added smaller islands and raised the level cap to 85.
  • Mists of Pandaria added a new continent and raised the level cap to 90.
  • Warlords of Draenor added a new continent and raised the level cap to 100.
  • Legion added a new continent and raised the level cap to 110.

For someone starting out with World of Warcraft today, they’re faced with a massive amount of content. They’ve got 12 years of content to get through in order to reach the maximum level. As of the last two expansions, Blizzard Entertainment has allowed new players to simply buy a “boost” to reach parity with long-time players; otherwise, new players would take days or even weeks just to be able to play with friends who are already in the game.

Your Marketing Overwhelms Just As Much

Consider your blog, your website, your digital marketing presence. For veteran marketers, chances are you have a massive inventory of content. This personal blog has 7 years of daily blog posts to wade through, should anyone be so crazy as to do so. Some of my clients at SHIFT Communications have over a decade of content.

When someone new joins our community, what’s their starting experience like? Do we throw them in the marketing equivalent of Elwynn Forest with a cloth shirt and a small sword and let them quest their way to the present day?

Of course not – not if we want them to stick around. Most often, we start people with the present-day content. Here’s today’s blog post, today’s webinar, today’s social post.

Yet that’s not necessarily any better. A new Warcraft player who jumped in at the current maximum level would quickly be killed, having no understanding of how the game works.

Blizzard Entertainment found a middle ground: the catchup mechanism.

The Vital Importance of the Catchup Mechanism

What Blizzard Entertainment does to manage this is quite smart: they boost new players to the maximum of the previous expansion and provide a tailored, guided experience for the new player to get playing quickly. In Legion, the level cap is 110, so new players start at 100 and have 10 levels of play time to learn their character. It’s a great compromise: the player doesn’t start from scratch (and thus is demotivated by their in-game friends being so far ahead), while still not leaving the player ignorant of how the game works.

If you’ve got a digital legacy, consider how to usher people through it to provide them a great starting experience. I use my Welcome Pageas a way to provide a starting experience for new visitors. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than throwing someone in the deep end with the latest blog post or starting them at the first post ever.

What’s Your Catchup Mechanism?

Take a look at your web analytics. Unless 100% of your site traffic is returning visitors (and if so, you have a separate problem), some percentage of people who visit you are doing so for the first time. What’s your catchup mechanism? How will you help people get up to speed and give them what they need to be successful in doing business with you? A few ideas might include:

  • A video welcome
  • A curated series of blog posts
  • A welcome email series
  • A mobile app

Whatever you choose, be as welcoming as you can be while still serving your long-term customers. That’s how you’ll level up your marketing to be as powerful as it can be.

Disclosure: World of Warcraft and all associated images and names are property of Blizzard Entertainment.

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3 responses to “What World of Warcraft Teaches Us About Content Shock”

  1. this is a very clever idea. something to think about! Great post sir.

  2. Bill Hibbler Avatar
    Bill Hibbler

    I love the analogy. I’m working on a Start Here page for my sote, too.

  3. Excellent post! I think one of the biggest problems with WoW, for me, was that the new content didn’t make sense without the old content to put it in context. My friends wanted me to just get on their level and start playing right away, but that wasn’t enjoyable — I was confused about what was happening and didn’t understand why we were doing what we were.

    I think the same goes for our content (as you say). If you haven’t caught me up to the subject, I’m just going to be lost. But EVEN IF I get “boosted” to the next level, I’m still behind. I really do need to experience all that content, in order, one by one, to get the full effect.

    I’m not sure there’s a cure for that.

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