Before 2013, Tomb Raider had arguably found itself with one foot in the grave.
A single digital spin-off – Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, which omitted the Tomb Raider name – filled the five-year gap between 2008's Tomb Raider: Underworld and Crystal Dynamics' self-titled reboot of the series.
People were, unsurprisingly, sceptical before launch. But Tomb Raider struck a chord, receiving critical acclaim for its modern take on the IP. It became the best-selling entry in the francise to date, with over 8.5 million units sold worldwide.
With a new golden age seemingly dawning for the brand, it's easy to understand why Microsoft was enticed to lock down a timed Xbox One exclusivity deal for this year's sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider.
When we first announced the partnership, [Xbox boss] Phil Spencer spoke about how it was about working together [with Square Enix] in order to make a great franchise stand out even further,” recalls Jon Edney, first- and third-party category manager at Xbox.
That holds true today. The conversation has now progressed on to focus on the game and what an incredible title it's shaping up to be. Are we delighted that it will be coming first to Xbox this Christmas? Absolutely. Our task, however, is to do the best possible job for the game – and that means absorbing the Xbox community in Lara's great tomb raiding expedition.”
"The home of Tomb Raider is right here in the UK."
Jon Edney, Xbox
This Q4 is packed with triple-A titles, all of which will be competing for a place in players' consoles. Yet, Rise of the Tomb Raider stands in a number of ways.
One major factor separating the game from its peers is its lack of online multiplayer – a rare sight in today's industry. But could this contrasting element also limit the title's mainstream appeal?
Rise of The Tomb Raider's backbone is a story mode that embodies all that is great about the platform and action genres,” Edney responds.
It gives the game a unique differentiator from a lot of the titles landing this peak. We've been delighted with the way the game is shaping up and the reaction it has received both at press preview events and consumer shows such as EGX, where fans patiently stood in line all weekend to get their first hands-on.
It's a very different proposition and offers a true alternative to gamers, with such a rich, in-depth story that you can immerse yourself in for potentially over 30 hours.
We're still some way off being able to say that online multiplayer is a pre-requisite for a successful title.”
Tomb Raider may now be a multi-national affair – it's published by a Japanese firm and developed in the US – but the franchise's origins as a British games icon remain strong.
It's fair to say that the home of Tomb Raider is right here in the UK,” observes Edney.
Not only does that open up opportunities from a PR perspective, but also has an influence in terms of the location of major marketing investments.
For example, the Survival Billboard, a campaign that will culminate in eight UK Tomb Raider fans being placed on a live billboard in central London for 24 hours. They will experience wild Siberian weather conditions in a test of endurance, courage and self-discovery, akin to what Lara has to face in the game.”
This is just part of Xbox's in-depth promotion of Rise of the Tomb Raider in the UK, as the platform holder targets the IP's British fan base.
It goes without saying that there will be a multi-million pound UK marketing investment to support the launch of a title of this magnitude,” Edney continues.
One of the custom components within it is a landmark Instagram experience that will give fans a customisable visual journey through the world of Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Our investment in non-traditional channels continues to grow as we explore new and unique ways to showcase our games, engage fans and give them a fully personalised experience that they can then share.
The decision to locate a global launch activation of this scale in Britain speaks volumes about the importance of the UK.”