The rise of the digital age has completely revolutionised the world of PR and Marketing for not only the gaming industry, but business altogether. Recent years have seen publishers, such as Electronic Arts put more focus on online personalities to advertise their games to a more relevant audience. This approach has seemed to be effective, with the industry projected to reach 5% annual growth through to 2020. However, there’s one current trend that appears to be spreading through the industry which is having more questionable results.
Traditionally. the promotion for a video game begins over a year prior to release, following the game’s official announcement. Generally, this progresses with an initial small drip of information, leading to more in depth coverage as they get closer to the games release. However, recently publishers such as Electronic Arts and Capcom have attempted a much smaller promotional window. The reason for this reaction is largely due to the overwhelming success of Bethesda’s Fallout 4. Announced June 3rd 2015, only 5 months before its release in November, the publisher had a much smaller window to show off the game. The move was a resounding success for Bethesda, with their most successful release ever. The game sold 12 million units in the first 24 hours and generated $750 million, $200 million more than the previous top seller and $450 million more than the previous game in the series. Looking at the numbers it’s no surprise to see other publishers try to replicate the success achieved via the ‘last-minute-dump’ technique for their own titles, however so far they have yet to see the same results.
Capcom’s Resident Evil 7 was officially announced at E3 2016, only 7 months prior to release and had very sparse promotion up until a month prior to release – a ‘last-minute-dump’ of information, if you will. Unlike Fallout however, Resident Evil came in 2 million units under its predecessor, even with an overwhelmingly critical response. We can see a similar situation developing with Bioware’s Mass Effect Andromeda. A month away from release, we’re only now getting a substantial look at the game. This highlights one of the biggest drawbacks from this tactic. If there is no footage or promotional material until a month before the games release then fans of the series start to worry about the potential quality of the game. After all Bioware’s previous release, Dragon Age: Inquisition, was releasing footage 17 months prior to its release. You also have to consider that Bioware was hardly hush about the game’s development following the immediate release of Mass Effect 3, meaning there was no big surprise with the announcement. It also meant that fans of the series had been waiting 5 years for anything substantial to be released, which can be rather frustrating, especially with the relentless teasing on social media. With this in mind, it’s understandable why hype around the game is currently somewhat mute. It’s not so much the tactic itself that’s flawed, but the implementation that has been lacking.
In the current environment consumers aren’t exactly the paragons of patience we once may have been. If we know what we want, then we would rather not wait. With that in mind, a shorter marketing cycle, with less waiting is potentially a fantastic idea and fits perfectly with todays “I want it now” mentality. It also means you’re not consistently spending money on marketing for over a year and with it condensed into a smaller cycle it means that instead of hype dying out half way through the campaign, the product can drop when it’s at its peak. The problem being that this simply doesn’t work if the product is announced years before hand, or with little to no substantial content released in the run up release. It’s a great idea in principal and I’d love to see it become the new norm, there’s really no reason to spend years hyping a product when you can achieve the same result in a few months. Publishers just need to be willing to Commit financial resources to the same degree as Bethesda’s marketing team. There needs to be a consistent stream of content until release, the reason Fallout was so successful was because there marketing was relentless in those few months and consumers new exactly what it was they were getting. This could be the future of PR and marketing in the gaming industry, it just needs a little more TLC.