Another off topic post, this time about public relations, marketing and gaming. I just wanted to point out this article on the Hollywood Reporter about how the BioShok crew created and handled successfully the buzz around the game:
“The game was so good we knew how much it would benefit from word-of-mouth,” explains Tom Bass, 2K’s director of marketing. “We needed to get that big first day so gamers would tell their friends about it and it would work exponentially in our favor from thereon in.”[…]
“As with, say, science fiction movies or other genres that are considered ‘cool,’ fans tend to look at marketers as ‘clueless suits’ who hype everything,” says Bass. “We knew we needed to be careful to do things in a way that was cool … not to build hype but to build buzz. Especially when we started marketing the game two years before it was finished. I mean, how do you go out on the E3 floor and say you’ve got one of the greatest games ever made when there’s nothing for anyone to see or play?”
Rather than label “BioShock” as “the next big thing,” Bass decided to create a Web site into which he could keep releasing assets to show — not to tell — how good the game would be.
“We created as an offshoot of the main BioShock.com Web site a community site called The Cult Of Rapture, named after the city in the game, that we updated every single day,” he recalls. “We started feeding information out to the gamers, the kind of information we normally reserve just for the press — details on the game, release dates, videos, and other content that would foster discussion. Instead of making these grand comments about the game, we gave people material that they could discuss among themselves.”[…]
“If you saw the description of ‘BioShock’ on paper, you’d never say that its success was going to be a slam-dunk,” admits Bass. “This was a risky game if ever there was one. I mean, this wasn’t just a shooter that had you firing at aliens. This is a game about an industrialist in the 1940s who builds an underwater society that begins breaking down because a discovery is made about the peoples’ DNA that causes them to go insane and they begin splicing their bodies and … well, try distilling that down into a 30-second elevator pitch.”
In addition, notes Anderson, it’s not based on a movie, there are no celebrities attached to it, it has a stylized art deco look, and its soundtrack consists of period pieces, like “Beyond The Sea” and “God Bless The Child.”[…]
Rather than merely release screen shots, the marketing team created 25-30 videos over the course of 18 months to show off the game’s unique look. The centerpiece of the campaign was the first commercial, which the team never referred to as a “commercial” but a “trailer,” borrowing the movie marketing term.
“We turned the debut of the trailer into an event, pre-promoting it as a world premiere on Spike TV,” says Bass. “It embraces everything that’s cool about the game … and it’s set to Bobby Darin’s ‘Beyond The Sea.’ How many video game commercials can say that?”
While there are no celebrities in the game, the marketers treated the development team of “BioShock” as celebrities of a sort, sending Ken Levine, the game’s creative director, out to talk it up with the press.[…]2K’s marketing team calls its “BioShock” marketing campaign quite a learning experience. From Bass’ standpoint, its unorthodoxy was precisely what the triple-A game called for. And he is already looking at titles a couple of years out and planning “community marketing efforts,” especially for some of 2K’s more high-profile products.
“In my mind, it’s all about involving your fans,” he says. “We value that community and we value their feedback and, especially in this case, we think we were able to make the game that much better by putting that feedback to work.”
If only in Maryland they had a mindset a bit more like this…