The Problem with Giveaways
Cryptic are currently running a promotional giveaway for Star Trek Online, in which the top prize is an exclusive ORIGIN Millennium Gaming Desktop themed PC with artwork from Star Trek Online: Victory is Life. It’s worth $3, 272, looks spiffy and has robust specifications. There all also various other runner up prizes, such as the Gamma Vanguard and Gamma Vanguard Starter Pack. If you enjoy STO then this is a good value giveaway with a fair selection of rewards. Or at least it is at first glance. If you read the ubiquitous small print that comes with any sort of endeavour such as this, you’ll quickly spot that you can only enter the giveaway if you’re resident of North America. And therein lies the problem with so many competitions these days. Despite games having a global market, giveaways are frequently hamstrung by regional restrictions, rules and regulations.
Let us not kid ourselves about the purpose of giveaways, competitions and prize draws that are common place to the gaming industry. They are marketing and promotional tools primarily designed to attract new customers and secondly to placate existing players. One of the biggest challenges any service industries has to face is churn; the attrition or turnover of customers. MMOs suffer this continuously. Therefore, they need to keep players engaged, enamoured and involved. Giving away in-game trinkets and baubles can only go so far. However, offering a tangible physical prize that is both exclusive and high-value is one way to attract attention. As human beings we tend to like the thrill and excitement of competitions and the chance of winning a prize. Often, the logical part of our brain which calmly tell us to consider the odds, is completely ignored by our emotions who want feel special and win something shiny. This is why companies such as Cryptic run giveaways. The buzz they create gets results.
But competitions of this kind are an administrative nightmare. Every country has its own bespoke set of rules regarding competitions, the prizes they offer and the age of those who can enter. Then there are issues pertaining to tax, physically shipping the prize to the winner and ensuring that the entire process is administered in a transparent and fair way. And those are a bunch of very difficult dots to join. Hence companies such as Cryptic often elect to limit the scope of the giveaway to a specific region. However, where such action may solve one problem, it causes another because those parties that are excluded are left feeling like second class customers. You may get a similar feeling when you see advertisements for some great deal that is only applicable to new customers of a service that you already use. I’ve phoned British Telecom several times in the past and berated some poor schmuck in customer services because I can’t have a shiny new router despite twenty-five years of loyal custom. You only have to go and visit the STO Reddit and you’ll find complaints about this PC giveaway already.
This problem seems to stem from the gap between global markets and regional bureaucracy as well as supply chains. I’m sure at present, it not an easy hurdle to overcome, but I certainly think that it needs to be addressed. Perhaps there is a compromise to be had. Can a high value prize such as a PC be sourced to other parts of the globe by local business partners? Can alternative prizes be offered to those who enter outside of North America? A solution will no doubt increase the level of administration required and all too often in business, it is the bottom line that dictates decisions. But sometimes if you’re trying to gain goodwill you have to go the extra mile. And before anyone trots out arguments about “entitlement”, this is not a matter of hurt feelings or anything as trite. It’s a matter of being publicly seen to treat all your customers the same, which is a sound business practise.