Mini-essay #2 by Michael Callisto
After reading this week’s articles and thinking about the immense amount of success that the Pokémon franchise has acquired throughout the nearly two decades of its existence, I began to try to think of examples of other franchises or brands that have been able to replicate Pokémon’s model. After coming up with many lackluster examples such as the Super Mario Brothers or Tomb Raider movies, I remembered that the Warcraft franchise is one that has existed for even longer than Pokémon, and has a similar global reach.
As with Pokémon, the Warcraft brand is at its core, a video game franchise. However throughout its 21 year history, it has expanded into the media of novels, magazines, physical figures, board games, card games, and film. With each different medium or genre into which the Warcraft universe is adapted, certain affordances and constraints become either more or less relevant. For example, in the case of a massively multiplayer online game such as World of Warcraft, a fast and reliable internet connection is a necessity. Furthermore, since the business model for this game requires a monthly subscription, players require some sort of minimum income if they wish to continue playing the game for a long period of time and experiencing every new expansion. Also, much of the game’s content requires many hours of dedicated playing in order to unlock or to enjoy. These requirements naturally make the game less accessible for some who either have
The Warcraft brand has also been used in a variety of video game genres, ranging from its beginnings as a real-time strategy game to its current various forms. For example, one of the most successful games in the franchise’s history is Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, a free-to-play digital collectable card game released in 2014 which currently has more than 25 million registered accounts worldwide. This game is available on multiple platforms such as PC, tablets, and mobile phones, which allows for a broader possibility of end user experiences. For example, someone who plays Hearthstone exclusively on the PC and who is able to spend $50 a month on the game will have a different experience from someone who plays it on their phone while at work and who doesn’t have any disposable income to use on the game.
These different types of media or genres of games are designed to appeal to different, although overlapping, demographics. This is the reason why this franchise remains globally recognizable. There is a “Warcraft experience” for everyone, no matter your age, interests, location, etc. The Pokémon franchise also achieves this with shows, games, movies, etc. which allow different types of people to extract different meanings from the Pokémon universe.
In sum, by providing a variety of different avenues through which customers can experience their content, the Pokémon and Warcraft brands have been able to transcend a single genre of game or a single medium in order to become international successes.