U.S. Army Invades Video Game consoles

  |  August 29, 2005   |  Comments

A partnership between the U.S. Army and video game publisher Ubisoft will produce a unique marketing campaign.

Video game publisher Ubisoft will release the U.S. Army's game on consoles this fall. "America's Army: Rise of the Soldier," originally developed by the U.S. military as a communication tool, was been distributed free for PCs for several years. Both parties will work together on a marketing plan to suit the objectives of both the corporation and the government entity.

The original Army game is distributed as a free download, or handed out gratis at events. Marketing for the PC title will continue under the military's Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis (OEMA). The retail title, available for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, mixes army goals with corporate objectives.

"Ubisoft is in the business of making games, like every other business that makes some kind of product, we expect a ROI," Adam Novickas, product manager for Ubisoft, told ClickZ News.

That's not to say the publisher has free reign when it launches the marketing campaign for the game's November release. Christopher Chambers, deputy director for the game at OEMA, said the game, and all external communications, are subject to approval by the OEMA office, and the army's public affairs office. "Our relationship with [Ubisoft] allows the army to have control over any public communication about the game, advertising, PR, communication itself. We protect the image of the army."

While seemingly a challenge, Ubisoft embraces the dynamic of the relationship as the perfect partner. "Working with the U.S. Army is a benefit, every advertisement is approved by the army, it will say this guy is standing in the wrong position, holding the gun wrong," said Novickas. "It makes things as realistic as it can be, it's probably more of a benefit to have them as consultants."

A multi-channel ad campaign will launch when the projected November retail release of the game is determined. The rich media online campaign will target game enthusiast sites such as IGN and Gamespy.com, and lifestyle sites like Stuff online. The print component will include similar magazines and military publications.

"The core message is the fact that it's a U.S. Army game," said Novickas. "We'll go deeper on IGN and game sites, those guys have a lot more thrown at them every day."

"We're not going to be developing 80 million different campaigns, [rich media ads will carry the] same message. Rich media allows you to get more bang for your buck on IGN and gaming sites," continued Novickas. "We keep the rich media as one creative execution, and standard banner ads as a different execution."

The 10-year publishing deal benefits both parties. "For Ubisoft, it's a retail title," continued Novickas. "The army can talk about it, at the end of the day, they're getting the core values of the brand out of an army vehicle."

The army has plans to grow the property beyond video games. Chambers said OEMA wants to bring the brand to TV shows, movies, and action figures through product placement and licensing. He said a deal to publish America's Army game for mobile phones is being inked.

Both sides agree the forthcoming title is the start of a relationship. "We've worked with them now for well over two years, and we've made them aware of the issues we encountered with the PC, and given them guidance of acceptable content and unacceptable content," said Chambers. "We see eye-to-eye, and they've been terrific partners."

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Enid Burns

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