How to market your game

Ben Parfitt
How to market your game
HALO 3

Head of Gaming and Entertainment, Entertainment and Devices Division at Microsoft UK, Stephen McGill, explains why the Halo 3 launch was such a success: “There’s no doubt that our ground-breaking marketing campaign was a pivotal driver to the success of Halo 3. Expectations amongst consumers were extremely high, so we had to deliver a campaign that lived up to and supported the epic nature of the title.

“We felt we truly succeeded in delivering the most integrated and cutting edge campaign for a video game launch that the industry has ever seen. I think the whole integrated nature of the campaign really worked. From the outset we made it clear we wanted to deliver a campaign akin to the launch of a blockbuster film property, as this was in effect the launch of the biggest video game of all time. We were extremely pleased the way this come to fruition during the week leading up to launch – combined press releases, media activity and launch night activity generated an incredible day one buzz, which visibly translated into day one sales.

“The ‘Believe’ pillar of the campaign worked extremely well when supported by all of these other elements, and as a net result the amplification of the entire campaign was incredible. The Imax take- over looked utterly stunning and the buzz building up to and through the launch was incredible. I think the game and the marketing campaign delivered a huge spike in sales for our retail partners and the campaign rivalled your traditional excitement that you’d only previously expect to see for the likes of a Spider-Man movie or a Harry Potter book – and we outsold both!”

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL

“Our marketing consisted of a TV campaign across all major channels within popular girls’ programmes, print campaign including advertorials and relevant competitions in key girls’ gaming magazines,” says Disney Interactive Studios’ marketing manager Burcin Ergin. “We had an online campaign and a six-sheet outdoor campaign at retail-targeted bus shelters.

“We invested heavily in trialling and events. We used ‘advans’, which toured around key malls and appeared at the McFly concerts, as well as the Disney Channel High School Musical bus tour with Singstar pods.

“The PR campaign kicked off in July, so Christmas was really bought home to our audiences early and drip-fed post launch. This included features, news, reviews and gift guides in media including national broadcast, national newspapers, kids’ media and women’s press.

“This product really lent itself to experiential marketing activities. The game toured nationally with the Disney High School Musical bus, we had game pods at malls, concerts and Disney Stores. There were plenty of chances for kids to trial the game. We also had the benefit of great cross-promotional activities with other High School Musical products including the Disney Channel premiere, the CDs the DVD, and Ice Tour. Not a lot of companies can boast all of these divisions under one roof. This all ensured that the fans got a great sense of the entire suite of products available for High School Musical.”

THE SIMPSONS GAME

You couldn’t move for The Simpson Game in the build-up to Christmas last year. TV ads included two creatives across terrestrial and digital programming, running through November and December. In the press, kids’, TV, men’s and national press ads were placed with a total circulation of over 11 million.

On the radio, a 30 second ad using humorous voiceovers from the game across all major commercial radio stations was produced. Online, EA placed takeovers, skins and display ads across a huge number of sites, totalling over nine million impressions. At retail, there were ‘coming soon’ packs, POS cubes, posters, gate wraps, FSDUs and dummy boxes.

EA’s outdoor marketing arguably made the biggest impact – alongside London Underground and shopping mall six- sheets, national bus sides and collectible postcards placed in cinemas, there was the ‘Be The One’ event in Trafalgar Square with Keeley Hazell and a huge number of competition placements.

EA product manager Alice Brandvik explains why the campaign was such a success: “This is the first Simpsons game to capture the look, feel and humour of the TV show. Our relationship with Fox and Gracie has allowed us to carry the humour of the world’s favourite dysfunctional family throughout the entire campaign with some great creative tailored specifically for us.

“This advantage has given us authenticity to the campaign and great cut-through in the hugely competitive run-up to Christmas.”

ASSASSIN'S CREED

“Assassin’s Creed is the fastest-selling new IP on next-gen consoles – to have achieved that in November, up against blockbuster licences and triple-A sequels is phenomenal,” says Ubisoft marketing director Jon Rosenblatt. “We are all very proud of this achievement.

“The marketing campaign was superb. It activated at the right time and with the right messages, with pre-launch and post-launch mechanics. One of our objectives was to treat the campaign as a movie launch. We believe that this objective was met.

“There are a number of learnings to be taken from the campaign. The first was the use of 100 per cent gameplay footage in TV creatives. We know from research that a key factor for purchase is graphics, and as such we need to show how the game looks and plays.

“We were also delighted with the success of our community affinitive programme 1191ad. Through this we have had over 28,000 gamers taking part. We have seen over 5,700 pieces of user generated content which included wallpapers, screensavers, Facebook applications, as well as home made movies all based around the universe of Assassin’s Creed.

“Finally, a key learning was organising a hands-on event at London’s flagship HMV store on Oxford Street. We had only communicated on the event a week in advance, and it was a testament to the product that HMV on a Saturday afternoon was completely packed-out, with every single person patiently waiting (many for five hours or more) for their hands-on. This is a practice we will certainly look at repeating in the future.”

RESISTANCE FALL OF MAN

“With A fantastic story, we felt that there was a lot of mileage in the ‘alternative history’ that Insomniac created, which we called a Twisted History,” says SCE UK’s Phil Lynch.

“This concept underpinned our entire marketing campaign. We wanted to replicate it in as much media as possible. First we created a striking press ad, done in the style of 1950s propaganda, but of course, with a twist.

“Following on from this, we wanted our online ad units to again emulate the style of 1950s publications. The propaganda-style phrasing of the time and the aged texture on the digital ads, not only contrast with the medium of online, but when you display the Resistance: Fall of Man weapons like the hedgehog grenade and Hailstorm against this backdrop, we got equally fantastic stand-out.

“As an additional piece to the campaign, we created a short viral video as if it was set in the 1950s around the timeframe of the game. It essentially was a piece to camera of a Chumley-Warner style character, explaining what to look for in Chimera weaknesses.

“Our cinema advert is one that we’re particularly proud of. We shot footage to make it look like a 1950s documentary, with a Russian soldier narrating, the twist being the content of his narrative and the Chimera running riot in the streets. The ad switches seamlessly to actual in-game footage from the title.
“I think the British-connection, combined with 1950s imagery juxtaposed with futuristic weaponry and aliens, really struck a chord with consumers and allowed Resistance to cut through and not be seen as ‘just another first-person shooter’.”

TOUCH! GENERATIONS

Nintendo senior product manager James Honeywell fills us in on the stunning success of the Touch! Generations campaign: “In a deal led from the UK which became a pan-European campaign, we used Nicole Kidman as the key ambassador of Brain Training and More Brain Training, placing our ads in mass-market programming across all terrestrial and satellite channels during the launch phase, in what is our biggest ever software launch in the UK to date. Quite simply, the first ad showed Nicole’s reactions to using the software for the first time.

“The overall campaign has now evolved further utilising more UK specific talent including well-loved UK celebrities (such as Patrick Stewart, Julie Walters, Phillip Schofield, Fern Britton, Johnny Ball and Zoe Ball) that has built on the work already done with Nicole and will continue the momentum.

“We are most pleased about how we’ve managed to build a multi-faceted, long-running campaign which has culminated in the use of celebrity in a naturalistic, friendly and real manner. Reaction from people both in and out of our industry has shown us that we really are starting to embark on a new path and embrace a new type of gamer. Frankly, our main learning is just how much we still have to learn about our new audience.”

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