In video games, brand marketing is on the rise — and live service gaming might be one of the most effective ways to do it.
This month marks the fifth anniversary of “Star Trek Fleet Command,” a mobile and PC strategy game developed in collaboration between Paramount and Scopely. The game allows players to explore a virtual “Star Trek” universe, interacting with other players to complete missions and accrue resources. The game gets an infusion of new ships, characters and other content on the first Tuesday of every month, and it is completely free-to-play, making most of its revenue through in-game purchases.
But “Star Trek Fleet Command” is not a direct revenue play for Paramount — it’s a particularly engaging form of brand marketing designed to both capture the hearts of potential new “Star Trek” fans and keep longtime fans interested in the IP. Any revenue gleaned from the game is a secondary concern, as shown by the fact that “Star Trek Fleet Command” serves no in-game ads.
“What do you want more than a fan base that’s engaged with your IP every day, right?” said Doug Rosen, svp of games and emerging media at Paramount Global. “So the idea of a flywheel — somebody who comes in through ‘Fleet Command,’ who then goes and watches the new series on Paramount+. There’s an upside to it that even goes beyond the game.”
The “Star Trek Fleet Command” fan base is indeed engaged. There is a multitude of active players — nearly 20 million downloads, with hundreds of thousands logging in every day — and the majority of those players are in it for the long haul, with 90 percent of them sticking around for at least a year.
“Other metrics we measure are things like regularity rate — if they log in today, will they log in tomorrow — and those numbers are north of 98 percent,” said Scopely svp and “Star Trek Fleet Command” general manager David Eckelberry. “The predictive factor is just ridiculous; it is the most retaining game I’ve ever been a part of, or frankly seen.”
As “Star Trek Fleet Command” has grown its user base and expanded to include further-reaching elements of the “Star Trek” universe, Scopely has significantly bolstered the team developing the game. When “SFTC” launched five years ago, the development team numbered at around 50 people; now, it’s closer to 250, according to Eckelberry.
The growth of Scopely’s “Star Trek Fleet Command” team reflects the considerable investment that must go into live service games to keep their users engaged in the long term. Building a live service game that can keep fans coming back for five years is not an accomplishment that can be easily recreated — the phrase “lightning in a bottle” came up several times in conversation with both Scopely and Paramount — but if any IP is going to do it successfully, it’s going to be one with the pre-existing fan base and staying power of “Star Trek.”
“There are some brands that are interested in something like that; I would say it is fewer, just because it is a heavy expense, and it has a significantly longer lead time,” said Samantha Lim, svp of gaming strategy and innovation at Publicis. “But it is something of interest.”
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