Social media and video game marketing campaigns are incredibly important for the fast-moving gaming world to target fanbases and make sales.
From exclusive deals, and guerrilla marketing strategies, to simple tweets: game launches have gone to extreme lengths over the years to catch the eyes of casual gamers.
Whilst we are spoilt for choice when it comes to delving into the best advertising strategies we’ve come across, here are our top 5 video game marketing campaigns.
Grand Theft Auto: V
It all started with a simple tweet in October 2011 that sent waves through social media and sparked hype for gamers globally.
Followed by a simple trailer just a month later, this gave way to fan speculation and a wealth of User Generated Content (UGC) that had the internet ablaze with wanting to know more.
With the further release of eye-catching artwork, interviews, and regular press releases, the official website was formed, which was regularly updated with sneak peeks and information about San Andreas.
Street murals and billboards began cropping up worldwide, which only increased excitement and showcased some gold old-fashioned advertising.
Nearing the release date in spring 2013, fans were offered special pre-order deals that included exclusive content such as 75% off other Rockstar titles and access to the Atomic Blimp.
It’s safe to say this marketing campaign was undoubtedly a success as the game broke industry sales records and became the fastest-selling entertainment product in history, amassing $800 million (£660 million) on its first day and a whopping $1 billion (£825 million) in its first three days.
It’s no wonder 2K Games’ BioShock 2 was the best seller for February 2010: a combination of online hype and scrapping old strategies was a dystopian dream.
Instead of churning out content focused on the Big Sister – the game’s new antagonist – the media team chose to treat each marketing ploy as a “destination.”
The launch trailer premiered on an episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, followed by a wealth of high-quality renders that were created for advertising, where each was given as a poster insert to just one magazine.
This created an exclusivity surrounding media material, leading each grain of new information or teaser to be treated as an event.
To appeal to the BioShock community, efforts were poured into producing the “Something in the Sea” website that detailed in-depth lore about the character Mark Meltzer, whose daughter was kidnapped and taken to Rapture.
Mock telegraphs were sent out to people who had sent in clues to Mark’s real-life address, including splicer masks, wine bottles, and other props.
Taking advantage of guerrilla marketing and to expand upon “Something in the Sea,” 2K dumped a load of wine bottles filled with promo posters and mail from Rapture, which washed ashore on 10 beaches worldwide.
With fans scouring the sandy shores to stumble across a bottle of goodies from the depths, this marketing campaign led to the sales of more than 3 million copies.
Released in 2017, Epic Games’ battle royale game, which features single-player and multiplayer modes, has found ways to keep the game in the public eye and provide an exciting service for players.
In April 2020, Epic Games announced a collab with Travis Scott in Fortnite in the form of an in-game, virtual concert at pre-advertised slots.
Posters were scattered throughout the game, across social media, with trailers, and other online media that promoted ‘Astronomical.’
Players could join matches at specified times to enjoy a revolutionary visual experience of a short concert hosted by a giant hologram of Travis Scott.
This experimental gameplay emphasised the community spirit and experience, which resulted in 27.7 million users logging in to watch the performance, with millions streaming afterwards.
To encourage more people to attend, those who were present unlocked exclusive skins and add-ons that encourage real-life merchandise purchases in true FOMO marketing fashion.
The internet was hyped over such an exciting event, a world-first in some regard, leading to the concert going viral and being talked about in all spheres on social media.
Halo 5: Guardians
It’s hard not to love Master Chief – the godly and mysterious Spartan that is just downright badass.
The Halo franchise is a fan favourite and has always done well, but it’s still important that Microsoft market the game to appeal to the current community and new gamers hopping on the bandwagon for the first time.
Using the combination of podcasts, online games, and other multimedia outlets, the campaign for #HuntTheTruth was effective in targeting younger audiences and sparking speculation focused on Master Chief.
This interactive campaign featured a trail of crumbs that led followers to discover messages hidden in ads that flashed: SON, ABDUCTEE, VICTIM, ORPHAN, RECRUIT, SOLDIER.
#HuntTheTruth differentiated from previous marketing campaigns as it focused on the backstory of Master Chief – his past, who he is, and questioning his character.
As a result, this piqued the interest of the most dedicated fans, with the game making over $400 million (£330 million) in sales during its first week.
This was aided through an award-winning trailer, early access sneak peeks for those who pre-purchased the Master Chief Collection, and a six-hour broadcast to the countdown of the official release – the most-watched live broadcast on YouTube.
What made this video game marketing campaign so successful is the fascination surrounding Master Chief: the beloved protagonist finally gained more of a backstory, which appealed to both new and existing audiences.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Launching during the peak of lockdown in 2020, sales of Animal Crossing: New Horizons managed to surpass the likes of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Fifa 20 to reach the top spot on the UK official games chart.
Realistically, the game came out at the best time, with people stuck indoors to shield themselves from Covid-19.
With its relaxing, rewarding, and slow gameplay, this family favourite appealed to new and current gamers across the globe.
Being a cute game with a dedicated fanbase already, it wasn’t difficult for the game to sell, and all it took was a pandemic (as bad as that sounds) for copies to fly off the shelves.
Overall, the game has sold over 37 million copies worldwide, totalling 10 million in Japan alone.
Part of the craze was fuelled by a new opportunity for brands to reach out to customers in-game and through the power of social media.
As a thank you to all our fans who have shown us immense support these past years, we are releasing our entire apparel collection in Animal Crossing! #ACNH
We hope you enjoy these designs, tweet at us if you're using them! pic.twitter.com/JuVDTZlnz1
— 100 Thieves (@100Thieves) April 6, 2020
Essentially, New Horizons allowed people to meet up and escape the confines of their own homes to jet off to their own island to virtually catch up with friends.