As I was sitting down to write about Sony Santa Monica’s upcoming God of War, previews for the title were just starting to appear, and the same theme was mentioned in every preview: maturity. It’s been five years since the last main entry in the God of War franchise, PS3 release God of War: Ascension in 2013, and it feels like the series needed this break.
“From both a story and gameplay perspective, God of War has grown up,” The Verge’s Chaim Gartenberg wrote. Time’s Lisa Eadicicco added: “The Kratos we meet in the new God of War game has undergone a transformation,” while Eurogamer’s Martin Robinson said that the “more mature take on the formula, chilled slightly by the new Norse backdrop” is a “much deeper – and subsequently satisfying – one.”
Meanwhile, Polygon’s Samit Sarkar wrote: “The game manages to feel like a bold new direction for God of War while retaining the essence of the series. Like Kratos himself, Sony Santa Monica is turning over a new leaf.”
Essentially, Videogamer’s Alice Bell put it in a nutshell: “God of War is both unfamiliar and familiar at the same time.” That means Sony has achieved its goal of marketing an established franchise as a reboot, with the potential to attract both fans of the series and newcomers when it releases on April 20th.
And Sony agrees with that sentiment. “God of War definitely has a strong heritage, including an established and iconic protagonist in Kratos, but the new title very much has its own look and feel which allows it to stand as an entity in its own right,” God of War product manager Jon Edwards tells MCV.
“The move to a Norse world outside of the previous Greek mythology, combined with the transformation of Kratos and the introduction of his son, does a lot of the heavy lifting,” he adds.
The will to make sure the title has its own identity and feels like the reboot Sony wanted (and that the franchise needed) explains why the studio decided against giving the game a subtitle or number, Edwards continues.
“God of War really can be viewed as a standalone game and the name is reflective of that,” he says. “While we expect fans of the series to relish meeting the new, evolved Kratos, they don’t need to have played the previous games to enjoy the latest God of War.”
As a result, Sony hopes to widen the audience for one of its best-selling franchises. The God of War series had shifted over 21m copies worldwide as of June 2012, while 2010’s God of War III sold around 5m copies as of January 2017. So there’s a large fanbase for the title – one Sony hopes to expand to fans of the genre as a whole.
“Action adventure players are our key focus,” Edwards explains. “Fans of this genre look for games that not only deliver great gameplay but which have a strong emotive narrative, within a new world they can explore. God of War delivers this and more.”
He continues: “The evolution of Kratos’ character has allowed us to take God of War to a broader action adventure audience. Our hope is that fans of The Last of Us and Uncharted will enjoy the latest chapter in Kratos’ journey as much as we have.”
However, Edwards is keen to repeat that fans of the franchise will not be forgotten in this new direction for the God of War franchise.
“It’s worth pointing out that God of War still features the intense combat for which the franchise is known,” he says. “But it’s been more than a decade since we were first introduced to Kratos and so it’s only natural that we’d see the character, and the franchise, mature.
“In Kratos’ case, we see that he’s become a father and this is something that will resonate with a number of our players. Games are also increasingly emotive and immersive with the likes of Horizon Zero Dawn and The Last of Us setting the standard for action adventure games, and so this God of War really does have something for all players, old and new.”
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It won’t escape anyone’s notice that Sony is investing big in its God of War marketing campaign, though when we ask for more details Edwards’ only answer is: “God of War is one of our big titles for 2018 and the marketing investment is indicative of that.”
He continues: “We want to make sure that we convey the stature and magnitude of God of War; this is an epic action adventure game which will be brought to life via big AV placements across TV and cinema.”
But even before the TV and cinema ads, God of War started appearing in every Londoner’s daily life as giant posters were everywhere on the tube since even before the release date was announced in January. The out-of-home advertising campaign has been going on for a while then, with God of War being used alongside Horizon Zero Dawn as the literal poster child for the ‘Only on Playstation’ campaign.
“There are lots of reasons to love your PS4 but our great exclusive titles are one of the biggest,” Edwards says. “The ‘Only on PlayStation’ campaign serves as a reminder of this and, as such, we’ve drawn on the likes of Horizon Zero Dawn, GT Sport, God of War, Uncharted 4, Shadow of the Colossus and Detroit: Become Human over the course of the activity. We have something for all the players and this campaign allows us to remind people of this.”
And the marketing campaign will only get more intense as we get closer to the game’s release date, Edwards continues.
“The ATL spend will place God of War in front of a huge audience. TV, cinema and VOD will deliver the trailer to a substantial mainstream audience across sport and film audiences – Tomb Raider, Pacific Rim 2, Ready Player One,” he details.
“There will also be out-of-home placements on over 2,500 buses around the UK and hundreds of 48 sheet [billboards]. Alongside this, there will be a large digital and social plan providing new content and high impact advertising across a wide range of gaming sites, mainstream media outlets and more, providing an always-on approach to God of War.”
Edwards adds that Sony will “continue to support [God of War] across the year,” as it’s a “key title” for the publisher.
He concludes: “Our pre-orders are in line with our expectations at this point and we anticipate a significant increase once the reviews go live.”