I could probably write a whole book about about what I like the program and the general user community, but I won't be focusing into this for now.
What has amazed me now that a new version of the program has come out is the fuzz this has generated around the web (a visible fuzz if you usually visit Computer Generated Graphics's forums, blogs and sites). The software promotes itself in a way I've only seen on things that are much more mainstream. Because, let's face it, programs such as Terragen belong to a very we'll defined userbase niche.
I'm pretty sure that this viral marketing approach was not something intentional, but rather the result of a serious lack of funds to market the software more "conventionally". As a matter of fact, the viral nature of Terragen's marketing is very interesting since it was spontaneous.
Let's analyse what I consider the success keys of this case.
1. An excellent product (and free!)
It should be the base for all Marketing campaigns, viral or not. But it is even more important on viral campaigns since the word of mouth bubble will pop as before you can say "it sucks".
The fact that the program was free with restrictions that only made the purchase a must for those users with some experience on it was very important. That gave users the time to get a real feel on what the product could do before they chose to buy it.
The bad thing about X-days trials (usually 30) is that you never have enough time during that 30 days to really evaluate anything.
2. Good (and constant) communication.
Ever since I've been involved in the community ,I can remember the guys at Planetside posting at Yahoo's Terragen Group. This communication became somewhat interrupted when Matt Fairclough (the "soul" of Terragen) couldn't say much due to contractual reasons (he went to develop Terragen for DigitalDomain). But even then Matt "hired" Jo Meder to port the software to Mac. Ever since that day Jo has been always willing to write and share what was going on. Less Directly the guys slipped tids and bits of information to key community members, who'd communicate them to the rest of us.
Lots of webpages and sites were built around Terragen, it's users and it's renders, and any news got everywhere at the light of speed (or existing internet connections).
In a sort of anecdotal note, Oshyan Greene, key member of one of the most visible Terragen communities, Ashundar, recently became Planetside's PR guy.
3. The "sense of belonging".
It goes along good communications and its one of the hardest things to achieve "artificially". The community always had the sense the program was being developed for them and that Planetside was always listening.
Besides the feeling of being part of something great happening was there (at least for long time users).
All of this things make an evangelist out of every user. It creates the necessity to share the program and what's made with the program with every one. thus the viral effect is persistent and visible on each and every new enthusiast.
It might be hard to achieve for companies or larger business, but not impossible if the mind set is right.
Haven't had the chance to play much with it yet, but intend to during the weekend.
Thanks for a neat release!
Oh... Those were the days...
I was a young music Student shriving for new things. I subscribed to Chris Pirillo's Lockergnome and waited eagerly each new newsletter. I shrived on new (and free!!) software to put my hands on. Then one good day Chris reviewed Terragen, a landscape rendering software by Planetside, which had a full working of the software for free (only restriction was render image size). As soon as I downloaded it (in a 56KB modem, by the way, thank you very much) and had it installed I was hooked. in 3 clicks I had a "beautiful" landscape. Of course there was nothing beautiful about it, no colouring, no intresting camera position or anything at all, but I was amazed.
I got involved with the community and the developers, helped translating the user guide to spanish, started moderating the official user list on Yahoo! (with over 7000 users), made tutorials and met people around the world.
Now TG is heading towards it's version number 2 and things look exiting. It wasn't always like that. At one point in time it looked like we were going to be left without Software, but that's the story for another blog post.
For now I'll invite you to download the free (for non-commercial use) version of terragen. And share your experience with me.
Some time I'll share some of my creations with TG.