Getting new players to try your game while not alienating existing players is a difficult task for any game developer. Similarly, catering solely to your veterans might make forum-goers happy but doesn’t do much to pad your player base.
The folks behind Warframe understand this delicate balance. In an interview with Games Industry, Digital Extremes VP Publishing Meredith Braun discussed Warframe’s humble beginnings and its remarkable continued growth, which she attributes to careful attention to both new players and hardcores alike, all while adhering to strict budget constraints that were forged during Warframe’s initial development:
“We spend very little compared to other free-to-play games that focus a large amount of their budgets on acquisition. Warframe was a passion project – the studio’s ‘Hail Mary’ pass, if you will. There was barely budget to buy an account server for the game, let alone to spend on marketing at the time. We turned to viral everything to get the word out: live streaming, social media, Reddit, forums, PR, knocking on partner’s doors for promotional opportunities. Once we launched in open beta and more players got a taste of the game, it was clear we had something unique on our hands. Since then our acquisition strategy has focused primarily on our update schedule and community involvement.”
While the budget is a little more flexible nowadays, the company still relies heavily on word-of-mouth to advertise its product. Braun also says high-quality F2P games such as Warframe, Paragon, and Paladins are “disrupting” full-price releases like Titanfall 2 and Dishonored 2.
If you’re into Warframe, make sure to check out the whole interview and see if you agree with Braun’s assessment.