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Leverage the Hype before a Video Game's Release

  |  October 20, 2008   |  Comments

Five innovative ways that video game franchises are building buzz online and offline.

As we quickly approach the upcoming holiday shopping season, gamers everywhere are delighted over the release of many great games in coming months. From highly anticipated gaming debuts (e.g. "Little Big Planet," "Dead Space") to sequels of recognized franchises (e.g. "Gears of War 2," "Resistance 2"), consumers will not have a shortage of titles to select as the perfect gift for the special gamer in their lives. However, given the abundance of upcoming games and the financial strain on many consumers, game publishers and retailers are ramping up efforts to claim those coveted holiday dollars. They are hoping pre-orders will help to drive game sales prior to actual launches.

Video game pre-orders have traditionally been utilized by the dedicated fans of a franchise; the gamer that can't wait hours -- much less days -- to rip open the packaging and begin playing as close to midnight on launch day as possible. However, this year, more games are made available for pre-order with very attractive perks and gifts. The pre-orders are generally categorized into two types: freebies to entice consumers to purchase at a particular location, and limited-edition packages that offer exclusive items.

Most major retailers identify a freebie that will bring consumers into their store and hopefully enable them to spend a few extra dollars on additional items. The game publishers tend to use limited editions to squeeze a few extra dollars out of game enthusiasts willing to pay for the additional game schwag.

The following highlights just a few of the latest pre-order packages building the buzz and anticipation of video games:

  • "Banjoe-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts": Pre-order comes with code to download original game on Xbox Live.

  • "Dead Space": Pre-orders receive art book based on game.

  • "Gears of War 2": Gamers receive Gears Tank when ordering from Best Buy or a free Xbox Live theme from GameStop. Amazon offered special edition packs that include a life-size replica Lancer from the game.

  • "Guitar Hero World Tour": In the U.K., gamers who order the super-bundle, which includes all instruments, will receive a bonus bass guitar.

  • "Little Big Planet": Retailers such as Best Buy and GameStop are offering custom downloadable content for the game with pre-order purchase while online retailers such as Game Crazy and Amazon are attaching physical items such as a burlap game sack, gift cards, and game guide.

Consumers learn of these offers through a number of sources. Retailers use their in-store displays and e-mail distribution lists to spread the word to potential buyers. Game publishers utilize the game's Web sites to highlight offers and PR announcements to ensure media outlets pick up the news. Not surprisingly, word of mouth still drives most of the information to gamers through well-recognized gamer forums and blogs.

During the pre-launch window, video game companies are looking for innovative ways to raise the awareness of games, and advertisers can partner to benefit from the hype associated with blockbuster titles. Many advertisers share key retailers with the video game industry and even those that do not still benefit from increased presence in front of consumers.

An effective partnership that delivers additional retail exposure for the advertiser and drives increased awareness for the video game is a win-win for all parties. For example, Mattel partners with Rockstar's "Midnight Club" to offer free exclusive Hot Wheels found only in Wal-Mart stores with the pre-purchase of the game. The Hot Wheels toys would be modeled directly after exclusive cars found in a downloadable content pack, also unlocked with the pre-order purchase of the game. Obviously all partners would work together to highlight the offer through in-store displays, e-mail communications, and word-of-mouth buzz.

As advertisers examine opportunities within video game advertising, they should consider leveraging the days before game launch to drive excitement and increased retail presence. Gamers know when the most-anticipated titles hit stores, so why not further spark their attention with added features and extra goodies that only your brand can provide.


Matt Story

Matt Story is director of Play, a division of Denuo. He oversees the West Coast operation, maintaining key publishing and gaming industry contacts for the agency. With expertise and perspective from both the client and the agency side, he brings to bear dual strengths: interactive and videogame advertising and how they can transcend and evolve a client brand.

Matt and his team develop unique gaming integration programs on behalf of General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Miller, and others. In March 2007, he played an integral role in the 2007 Pontiac Virtual NCAA Final 4 tournament, powered by videogame "College Hoops 2K7."

Before joining Play, Matt was interactive marketing manager across P&G's antiperspirants/deodorants category. During his four-year tenure, he managed the creation of the first P&G blog, which supported the launch of Secret Sparkle Body Spray. He also led innovative development with the Old Spice brand's in-game integrations in multiple key videogame titles. To hear more from Matt and the various creative minds at Denuo, visit Denuology for their unfiltered perspective on the world at large.

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