In my previous article, I outlined how and why Grifball has been declining since SML08. The pertinent question remains: What can be done about it? How can we get more new teams into the league?
To increase recruitment, Grifball.com should be as accommodating to newbies as possible. To achieve this, there are several steps the Grifball.com management can take:
1) Utilize the space on Grifball.com. By all measures, Grifball.com is a very popular website that certainly receives more hits than any individual thread in the RT Grifball forums. All news, announcements, and league updates should be posted on the front page. When potential players visit Grifball.com, it should be immediately obvious if there is a season running, how far along it is, and when signups for the next season are expected. The front page should also encourage potential players to not wait until signups to form their team. A captain that creates a team now for next month’s signups is much more likely to return to participate.
2) Keep all aspects of Grifball.com updated. Playing in an online gaming league is a big commitment. For people who have never played in an organized gaming league before, it can be a daunting ordeal. To make that kind of commitment, potential players need reassurance that the league is run in a sleek, professional manner.
Unfortunately, the current Grifball.com site appears to be anything but. While it is hosted by RT and is integrated into their site, several aspects of the homepage tend to fall woefully out of date. The maps on the front page were only recently updated. If a new player were to see the Staff page, they would be just as likely to contact Caleb, Burnie, or Puppy as they would be to contact the current Grifball.com staff. The FAQ lists out-of-date information. The Videos section of the website has gone two years without an update. The Press section has one article from 2007. The Playoffs section still says that the playoffs for WL10 have not yet begun. And worst of all, the rules pages for both the Pro League and the Amateur League are six months old. They reference FL09 and were never updated for the just-now concluded WL10. Even after this matter was brought to the attention of the current Grifball.com administration, it remained unfixed.
I know that if I were a new player poking around Grifball.com, I would be reluctant to register a team, as many signs on the site indicate that the current management is not serious about running the league. Any person with Site Admin powers can update the site and do something as simple as updating the Rules Page, but the fact that no one has done so speaks volumes about the management’s commitment to new players. While they may be outstanding managers, appearances speak volumes, especially to new players most influenced by first impressions.
3) Utilize DXP weekends. It’s of great importance that signups be open during DXP weekends. While it’s great that people are advertising the league while in the playlist, new players are far less likely to stick around if they can’t immediately jump into the league. If the next instance of Grifball DXP falls on March 25-28, and not the following weekend, it appears that Grifball.com will once again fail to capitalize on the influx of new blood.
The greatest recruiting tool Grifball.com has is Bungie. During every Grifball DXP weekend, Bungie makes a news post on their blog. If signups were open during that weekend, Bungie could also post a link to Grifball.com encouraging people to sign up for the league, if they enjoy the game. I haven’t heard an answer as to why Bungie couldn’t make a news post announcing Grifball.com signups (or why it couldn’t be advertised on the RT staff blog, for that matter).
4) Reach out to old players. SML08 had 200 more teams than WL10. It’s no stretch of logic to conclude that hundreds of players have stopped playing Grifball over the past two years. However, Grifball.com management still has the e-mail addresses of every captain that has ever registered a team for any league. It seems to me that a former league captain is much more likely to return than a random Halo player. Management should compile a mailing list and send out an e-promo advertising the upcoming season. The mailing list must include an opt-out feature, of course, but it would undoubtedly reach a number of captains who may be interested in giving Grifball another go.
5) Put on a happy face. The RT Grifball forums can be a daunting, uninviting, and occasionally unmoderated place. With five stickied threads – four of which are locked, with the remaining thread getting little-to-no traffic – newbies may not have any idea where to start. Since Grifball.com is often not updated, and the current commissioner has indicated that he has no interest in updating any aspect of the site outside of the front page, Grifball news is often posted and discussed in the forums. However, with only a few dozen active members on the forums, and hundreds of players in the league, it’s obvious that many people are left out of the process. With a hyper-competitive atmosphere, flames, insults including “rape”, and picture spamming, it’s not unreasonable that some people, unable to find the necessary information on Grifball.com, may go to the forums and be turned off by what they see. To maximize the potential expansion of the league, the community as a whole should make every effort to be more inviting.
Overall, most of the responsibility for promoting the league and running a successful recruitment effort lies with the Grifball.com administration. Although it does take some commitment to clean up the main page and maximize the impact DXP weekends have on the league, there are many actions that must be undertaken by the league management if we’d like to see the league succeed far into the future.
In Part III, I’ll discuss ideas regarding how the league can get players to stick around for one or more seasons once they are signed up at Grifball.com.