Like many industries, video game marketing has had its share of amazing and awful campaigns and marketing strategies. The bad examples might stick in the minds of gamers, but there are iconic campaigns that are remembered for all the right reasons.
Grand Theft Auto V (2013)
Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto series has been courting controversy since 1997. In October 2011 Rockstar tweeted out a link to an official GTA V website. A trailer came soon after. A second trailer dropped in November 2012, followed by a cover story in December Game Informer.
In March 2013, murals went up around Manhattan. The campaign made use of a viral marketing drive, exclusive pre-order packaging deals, and carefully positioned billboards and posters. Rockstar reportedly spent $265 million developing and marketing the game, and by the time it was released in September 2013, gamers were ready to buy. The game made $800 million in just 24 hours. It even scored seven Guinness World Records, including the swiftest entertainment property to gross $1 billion.
The Sims 2 (2004)
From expansion and branded content packs to deluxe and special edition DVDs, the possibilities have been seemingly endless for money-making with The Sims franchise. When The Sims 2 launched in September 2004, the marketing campaign had already targeted a new demographic for the franchise. EA targeted women between the ages of 13 and 34.
EA reached out to these women in parts of the internet that weren’t often used for marketing. They attracted 1.5 million users through Yahoo! Messenger alone. The campaign also worked with big-name retail companies by showcasing their real-life items in the game. These relationships allowed The Sims 2 to release branded expansions like IKEA Home Stuff and H&M Fashion Stuff. Even Katy Perry made a Stuff Pack. The Sims 2 has sold 20 million copies to date.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II (2012)
Call of Duty: Black Ops sold 5.6 million units in just 24 hours, and grossed $1billion in a month and a half, thanks to a clever marketing campaign with a zombie-filled viral site and a Call of Duty Chrysler Jeep. Activision went on to unveil the follow-up game, Black Ops II on TNT in the middle of the 2012 NBA playoffs. The futuristic trailer helped the title to set a new record for Amazon pre-orders, and has been viewed over 32 million times on YouTube.
Activision also produced three additional videos starring controversial U.S. military figure Oliver North. The publisher worked with marketing agencies 72andSunny and AntFarm on a pair of short teasers and a full-length film to plug the game. The whole campaign also had a strong mobile focus and a live-action advert that featured Hollywood A-lister Robert Downey Jr. Black Ops II grossed $1 billion in only 15 days.