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Marketing the Video Game
An effective marketing campaign relies on careful long term
planning to create hype and a desire on the part of the target
Strategy will involve convergence – the bringing together of a
number of techniques and technologies – poster
campaign/promotion via magazines like Play Gamer – involving
reveal/preview/review over at least three months’ worth of
magazines – remember, the reveal can last longer. The opinions
given in these magazines are trusted by the gaming community –
they have built up a reputation. This is an example of the Two
Step Flow Theory – audiences will respond to the words of
• Poster campaigns – look at the campaign for Grand
Theft Auto 5 – posters – vast campaign e.g. posters
featuring different characters, billboard style – on the
sides of buildings – with the release date – banner
posters hung down multi-story office buildings, printed
on office block windows etc. Remember, this game had
a huge budget – rumoured to be $265 million and $150
million of that went on marketing. The Avengers movie
had a budget of $220 million, although another $150
million was spent on advertising.
• Note the use of consistent iconography across various
media platforms to help create brand recognition.
• Grand Theft Auto 5 is, by any measuring stick, a massive
success. It is on the way to earning the title “phenomenon”
as it continues to score records and shatter sales
expectations. In fact, the game has done so well that it has
set seven new Guinness World Records.
• The records are (courtesy of GameSpot):
• Best-selling action-adventure videogame in 24 hours
• Best-selling videogame in 24 hours
• Fastest entertainment property to gross $1 billion
• Fastest videogame to gross $1 billion
• Highest grossing videogame in 24 hours
• Highest revenue generated by an entertainment product in
• Most viewed trailer for an action-adventure videogame
• While all the records are impressive, the one that really
stands out is the game’s sprint to $1 billion in three
days, making it the fastest entertainment property –
not just video game – to reach this milestone.
• That means that regardless of the cost of the product, a
video game earned just as much (and may end up
earning considerably more) than some of the biggest
films of all time. Throw whatever asterisk you like on
that figure, but the bottom line is that a video game
just became the most profitable form of entertainment
of the year (so far).
Shares in Rockstar Games parent company Take-Two
Interactive, almost doubled within a year.
• ‘By any sort of commercial scale, Grand Theft Auto is easily
Scotland’s largest cultural export ever. The series has sold
something like 135 million copies so far,’ said Scottish Games
Network’s Brian Baglow to The Scotsman.
• ‘The series has come on not just in leaps and bounds, but in
long jumps since then. It’s become far more than the sum of
its parts, it’s a fully global phenomenon. This is the fifth
major release, and the nice thing is that all of them have
been made here in Scotland.’
• Although the London-born Dan and Sam Houser are the lead
writers and producers for Grand Theft Auto, the franchise
has always been made in Scotland.
• Development studio Rockstar North is based in Edinburgh,
but started life in Dundee as DMA Design – where it made
popular 16-bit games such as Lemmings and Unirally
• Interviews (creators and voice actors etc) and
promotion and artwork – press –
newspapers/specialist magazines – television –
internet – gaming/comics conventions like the
New York Comicon 2013 e.g. panel interview with
three ‘characters’ from the game, then uploaded
to YouTube as an official video by IGN.com, an
entertainment website that comprises several
specialty sites or "channels", each occupying a
subdomain and covering a specific area of
entertainment; including major video game
platforms, and other forms of entertainment such
as television, comic books, and films.
• Trailers – on TV/in cinemas/online newspapers (like
The Guardian in the UK)/gaming
sites/YouTube/Rockstar/GTA website = whole campaign
involving teaser trailers/full trailers and others, like a
trailer for a fictional cop show that discusses the gangs
in the game.
• Carefully constructed trailer campaign - the first sets
up a series of enigmas and drops clues about the game
and more information is released as the campaign
progresses – e.g. the second gives more insight into the
three protagonists. The fourth trailer was the official
trailer – featuring the key narrative, characters and
shows the game to be a fast-paced and action-packed
title, with high-speed chases, explosions, low-flying jet
planes and sky diving all featured.
• Of course, this game is a FRANCHISE and has built up
an audience and a relationship of trust with that
audience and the gaming community in general over
the past few years. Rockstar has become a recognised
and trusted BRAND – guaranteeing audiences a certain
kind of pleasure.
• The website – a promotional hub. We now live in a
world where there are more devices connected to the
internet than there are people – and while this doesn’t
mean that everyone is connect ed to the internet, it
does mean that the internet has become a major
source of information. Note it links to the Rockstar
parent site – and example of synergy – promoting the
company’s other products.
• GTA 5 – Viral marketing and Guerilla Marketing
• Viral marketing is a broad concept, but it is
essentially utilizing online social networks to
share marketing content.
• Guerrilla marketing is the use of unconventional
advertising, which often does not appear to be
marketing, to spread ideas.
• Put these two together and you have online
marketing done in a highly innovative way, that is
not obviously an advertisement.
• 1. Rockstar created its own social network, Lifeinvader, that was set in
the world of GTA 5. An obvious parody of Facebook, GTA fans can
create their own account and access it both in the real world and
video game world. The social network’s ads are just that: they
advertise all the exciting activities that can be done in GTA 5. There is,
of course, Rockstar’s famous controversial humour to engage users
and encourage sharing. Speaking of sharing, the only social media
sharing buttons you will see on the official website are to share
content on Lifeinvader.
• 2. iFruit
• The other company to be
parodied was Apple when
Rockstar released their iFruit
app. The app allows players
to customize in-game vehicles
and train pets from their
phone. The effectiveness of
this is all about using the app
to blur the lines between the
real world and the world of
GTA 5 to generate word-of-
mouth marketing around the
• Rockstar still used
techniques – such as
trailers, billboards and
press coverage – for the
core of their
importance of never
relying on guerrilla
appreciating that your
entire target market
often can’t be reached
through one marketing
• It is this integration of both viral guerrilla marketing
and conventional marketing that has been highly
effective. This can be explained by the Elaboration
Likelihood Model (ELM), depicted in the diagram .
• If the target market is able and motivated to process
information, it means they are active on the internet
and willing to engage with Rockstar online so they
are exposed to the viral marketing, enjoy browsing
the parody websites and using the iPhone app -
likely to be the gamers in their teenage years or
twenties. According to the model, the most
effective way to market to them is through the
central route. This requires a promotional message
that is convincing and requires the target market to
think more – hence the use and success of viral
• But what about the older gamer or the Mum/Mom
and wife looking for a gift ? They are all potential
customers of GTA 5. As they are unlikely to be
motivated to engage with GTA 5′s online content –
nor even aware of it – this market is best targeted
through the peripheral route. Successfully using the
peripheral route method depends on exciting and
attractive advertising. Therefore, the billboards and
TV trailers embedded in this post are mainly
targeted at this demographic
• Simply, combining marketing that uses both the
central route and peripheral route means you almost
can’t go wrong!
• Another example of viral marketing -
• Promotional short film for Assassin’s Creed 2 uploaded
to YouTube: live-action 14 minute film packed with
beautiful special effects. Within a week had over 1
million views on YouTube.
• Because of the length of the video, this live-action
short makes the potential players and audience
connect emotionally with the characters on the game,
and that will probably make the chances of them
buying the game higher.