From the secrecy of Bethesda Softworks Fallout 4 release to the avidly creative, user generated content of Electronic Arts Battlefield series. The gaming industry really sets the standards for today’s marketing. They constantly show an array of marketing techniques most companies could only wish for. But fear not, they can be learned and utilised.
I hope to discuss each lesson in separate articles, starting with lesson #1 Secrecy. Keep an eye for my articles in the future and make sure you comment! I would love for these to become a dialogue rather than, my monologue.
Now lets get started…
Lesson #1 Secrecy
The gaming industry is fantastic at gaining and maintaining secrecy and mystery and this really does help in building ‘hype’ and discussion among fans. I have observed 5 techniques of secrecy, the gaming industry use when marketing a new game.
1. The wait & The secret
Fallout 4 was one of the biggest secrets in gaming history up until its release in 2015. Since its predecessor, (Fallout 3, released 2008) Bethesda did not breath a single word about creating the next chapter. In-between Fallout 3 and Fallout 4Bethesda worked on smash titles such as (Skyrim and The Evil Within) so there was no reason for fans to believe Fallout 4 was ever going to be made. Apart from Bethesda notorious ‘5 year cycle’ (where in each Bethesda series, the sequel is usually released 5 years after its last installment).
So 2013, this is where the magic started to happen in terms of secrecy. Fans were now expecting and more importantly for marketers, talking (Because of the cycle). Entire YouTube channels where dedicated to finding and delivering news of Fallout 4 development and release. Channels such as MrMattyPlays (186,000 Subscribers) and Open World Games (287,000 Subscribers) all specialized in hunting for information on Fallout 4. Twitter and Facebook were also going crazy with speculation and questions; to Bethesda and even individual staff members. Hunting for any information at all. Do you know what Bethesda did? Its pure marketing genius… nothing! Nothing at all! Bethesda just sat and watched. No doubt gaining some valuable insight into what the fans wanted in the meantime.
Videos where made on what fans wanted if there ever was going to be a newFallout. Blogs where created, stating reasons why there will never be another installment and twitter was lighting up with ideas and things fans did and did not want. The confusion, the wonder and the never knowing was a part of marketing genius. People who had never played games from Bethesda, now craved Fallout 4just as much as a hardcore fan. The mystery behind it serving very valuable.
This all moved deep into 2014, up until the biggest gaming conference event E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) where game developers from all over the world come to showcase their new developments. This was Bethesda’s first appearance at E3. This of course got fans exploding with hype. Fans of Bethesda games, still spoke and hoped of a Fallout 4. But since so many events had passed (Pax and CDG China) people were still skeptical of any Fallout 4 news. Pople assumed Bethesda was only goign to talk about there other title Doom. But Todd Howard (Executive producer at Bethesda) absolutely nailed his presentation and blew people minds with the surprise announcement, Here watch it (Video), Marketers can learn from my little bonus lesson, Presentation.
The point is, Fallout 4 was always going to be big. But with the 2 year longer wait, the nail biting frustration of having zero news and the sheer relentlessness of Bethesda not answering questions, made Fallout 4 Huge. Call it Anti Marketing if you will. A strategic wait to release news of a new product, mixed with well timed marketing can be a powerful tool that can provide endless benefits! Discussion, speculation and most importantly (to please the boss), its all free! If that’s not Return on Investment, I do not know what is.
2. Easter Eggs
Now, Easter Eggs may only be used in the gaming industry and occasionally the film industry but, I believe they can be used (perhaps a modified versions) in all industries.
For those of you who do not know, an Easter Egg is a sort of reference to another film or game (or anything) in the game or film itself. Usually these offer some kind of comedic or clever pun or joke. Some can make absolutely no sense and just be fun (or disturbing). Some actually provide a difference to the games leveling system and some are just hilariously clever.
Check out this Video to get the gist before you read on.
With out doubt the king of Easter Eggs and the company that broke records with the largest Easter Egg in a game, are Electronic Arts (EA) and their Megalodon. But I am not just bragging about EA’s giant shark, I am also talking about their techniques of marketing their Easter Eggs.
In Battlefield 4, level designers would leave little symbols of dinosaurs, build giant Jurassic Park references and also place mysterious coded numbers dotted around each map. EA did not mention them at first but much like Fallout 4, they left to discussion to be led by the YouTube and blogging community (I myself took part!) These Easter Eggs became a huge discussion point and a massive investigation took part. You see, these Easter Eggs where not then end. They where all linked; a complicated algorithm that led to more and more Easter Eggs being found.
This is when EA stepped in with Twitter, allowing members of staff to post miniature clues to help the people find the end game Easter Egg. This allowed the secret to become wider known and created discussions that leaped from YouTube onto Twitter and many more places. The Easter Eggs where embedded in a complicated code that made them impossible to find alone. The community worked together. Not only did the Easter Eggs bring common ground among theBattlefield community, they where communicating, listing and hunting for the clues… together.
Please watch this video of jackfrags (A large YouTube partner with 1.3 million subscribers). Also this video for more details, this is where it gets ridiculously amazing. Whether your a gamer, marketer of just reading this article, I promise, you will find these videos incredible and finally realise the depth you can take Easter Eggs within your own business. A massive clap for jackfrags for the videos.
Imagine using this sort of intelligence to market your own company! Create references to your previous products, code a new staff members name online or (copyright permitting) reference films, music, games and more. The possibilities are endless.
(I may write a separate article on Easter Eggs and their importance. Plus I shall write in more depth on how I believe they can be translated into other companies. Keep watch!)
To be continued…
Disclaimer: Marketing is not the cure for a bad product. Even the greatest of marketing campaigns cannot treat poor offerings and keep regular consumers coming back. So it is worth mentioning the companies have mentioned, are two of the most successful gaming companies of all time (Bethesda Softworks, 8th & Electronic Arts, 5th). So provide products that emanate pure quality and class.
Please, join me on my next article where I will be discussing the other 3 tips ofSecrecy:
- Social Media Baiting
- Giving Fans The Room To Start The Ball Rolling
- Strategic Trailers/Adverts
Thank-you for reading.
Let me know what you thought. This is my first article so feedback is truly valuable, and feel free to connect with me! We can have deeper discussion or just a friendly chat. If you would like to know my research, of course Inmail me.
Harry Levi Rodell