BioShock Floods Jimmy Fallon

2K Games tapped network TV to debut its launch trailer for Bioshock 2.   As reported in game blog Joystiq, the publisher took over a three-plus minute opening ad slot on last night s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on NBC.  The blog rightfully laments the spot’s heavy reliance on non-gameplay footage, no doubt a surprising move for a launch trailer.  But to 2K’s credit, it s well designed to speak to the broad audience the publisher bought into.  The high fidelity visualization of the game and its premise gives people who may not be familiar with BioShock one heck of a compelling setup.  At the same time, even without in-game footage, it tries real hard to differentiate the game play in the sequel for anyone who experienced the first.

Watch the trailer at Joystiq.

Exclusive: Behind The Marketing Of ‘No More Heroes 2’

In this exclusive interview, the[a]listdaily delves into the marketing of Ubisoft’s M-rated Wii title “No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle” with brand manager Michael Micholic.

By Meelad Sadat


NMH2No More Heroes

An original IP created by pedigreed Japanese game maker Goichi “Suda51″ Suda and developed by his studio Grasshopper Manufacture, No More Heroes is a slice of game culture that’s unabashed and thoroughly pure.  The property has all the makings of one of those game franchises with legs, and it’s the purity of it that might help it linger.  The purity comes from a premise made original by borrowing brilliantly, as an expert execution of intertextual references drawing from a broad swath of pop culture.  It comes from effortlessly blending Otaku with Americana, a potent cultural mix for any type of entertainment.  There’s also purity to be found in the series’ game play.  As violent as it is, the experience comes across as authentic and comfortably familiar for anyone who has touched a game console in the past 20 years.  Most importantly, both titles in the series have proven to be loads of fun to play.  That could be why Ubisoft is sticking with it.  The publisher marketed the first game in the West, then despite its publicized fate as falling short of expectations, picked up the sequel.  In doing so, Ubisoft also set out to buck a troubling trend, the one purportedly telling the game industry that Nintendo’s Wii console is no place for violent action games aimed at adults.  Ubisoft has never referred to the trend as affecting sales of the first No More Heroes game.  The press has since documented how it may have stung publishers such as Sega, EA, and even Nintendo system stalwart Capcom, as they tried to launch mature games on the system.

Fortunately, “No More Heroes 2″ premiered last week to a solid tailwind.  The game press has rallied behind the sequel, buoying its launch with enough acclaim to earn it an average review rating of 90 percent, as compiled by aggregator Metacritic.  More notably, the buildup to its launch has been on the back of a marketing campaign from Ubisoft that’s arguably as unconventional and uniquely engaging as the game itself.  Leading that effort has been Michael Micholic, Ubisoft brand manager on “No More Heroes 2.”  As the industry watches to see if this memorable title backed by Ubisoft marketing muscle can prove one subset of Wii naysayers wrong, the[a]listdaily got the opportunity to ask Micholic some questions about the effort.

the[a]listdaily: What do you consider the most important thing gamers need to know about “No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle,’ and how did the marketing campaign try to get that across?

Michael Micholic: The most important thing to know is that “No More Heroes 2″ is a great game for gamers regardless if they played the previous one.  As noted by IGN’s recent review and 8.8 score, “No More Heroes 2″ gives core gamers a reason to dust off their Wii.  It is a true sequel.  While it stays very close to the roots of the original, there are a number of big improvements to the game.  Developer Suda51 and his team really listened to the gamers’ feedback and fixed the issues some players had with the first game.  First and foremost, we are really happy with how the world of Santa Destroy has been re-worked.  We feel that it allows the player to jump right into the action with no delay.  Personally, I think the retro mini games are awesome.  This feature is a great enhancement to the game and it’s not something that’s easily explained through traditional marketing executions.  Instead we let the press get a deep look at the game during our preview event with Suda51, which allowed them to get hands-on time with the game to describe the experience in their own words.

There’s really no way a tagline, a print ad, or a banner can capture the game’s personality or what it has to offer.  Everything we have done to market the game has really been focused on video assets.  We had new playable characters, new weapons, new characters, and countless game play improvements.  These features were introduced through our dev diaries and some of our trailers.  That way, consumers could see it in action, rather than just read some bullet points in a fact sheet.

[a]: The game’s depth is a standout quality, everything from its unusual premise with sexually charged references to the mix of game play that this time even includes old-school 2D mini-games.  One press outlet dubbed it No More Heroes‘ “eccentricities.”  We think that’s a compliment, but when it comes to marketing strategy that might was well be a synonym for “difficulty.” What was your communication strategy with turning those eccentric traits from marketing threat to product strength?

MM: I would disagree that the “eccentricities” were “difficulties.”  The eccentricities provided break through personality.  When marketing a game, it’s important that the game stands for something and has a strong personality.  There is no shortage of personality in “No More Heroes 2.”  The game itself offers so much content that can be used in marketing.  The originality of the content inspired us to be even more creative in our marketing.  We created about 20 videos for this game and each had something interesting to say.  They were entertaining, they made you laugh, and they weren’t just your typical game play featurettes.  Our communication strategy was focused on putting the game out there and celebrating the eccentricities, rather than stifling them.  From what we are seeing in terms of pre-order increases, buzz, and comments on the boards, it seems to be resonating with consumers.

[a]: The video trailers for the game have been off-the-wall and very funny.  Will you tell us who was responsible for them and a little bit about their inspiration, both from creative and marketing standpoints ?

MM: We worked with our good friends g-NET to create all the video trailers for “No More Heroes 2.”  They started off working on our first dev diary and it was clear that they really understood the game.  They loved it, it made them laugh, and they were able to harness the craziness.  They got it.”  When we started to kick-off the rest of the campaign, we went to them because we knew they would be able to handle the scope of the project.  It was important to find an agency that could embrace the personality of the game.  I think some agencies would have taken a more conservative approach, but that’s not what we wanted for this game.  In fact, we found ourselves saying things like “make it crazier, make it look lower budget, make it more confusing.”  Stuff a brand manager probably doesn’t say too often.  g-NET loved the opportunity and we’re very impressed with what they delivered.

Despite all of the great collaboration with g-NET, a lot of credit has to go to the mind of developer Suda51.  There was no CG created for any part of the campaign.  Every image was straight from the game.  Most of the dialogue was straight from the game.  We did a lot in terms of editing, music, pacing, but there was so much great material to work with that it made our jobs easier.  We really let the game content speak for itself.

[a]: The web site deserves a plug.  It’s creative and chock full of retro-goodness.  For us it was the “aha” destination of what everything else – the videos, the messaging, Suda51’s talking points – has been trying to say about the game.  How did the ideas for it come together?

MM: The entire strategy for marketing this game was to put the game’s personality out there through a collection of videos, and the game’s website ( provided a hub for consumers to access these materials.  We did not want a standard website for this game.  We wanted it to be an in-your-face experience just like the game.  Once that was established, we worked with g-NET to create features to add to that experience.  The shuffle feature with Travis “charging up” is one of my favorites.  Staying true to the game, we definitely played up the retro feel with the pixels and sound effects, especially during the loading and transitions.  We’d like to think that by spending a few minutes on the site, you are getting a really good feel for the world of “No More Heroes 2.” Hopefully consumers agree that it’s a fun world to be in.

[a]: What are your thoughts on the challenges recent mature titles have faced on Wii, and how did that affect the way you approached the campaign for “No More Heroes 2?”

MM: The biggest learning was that the Wii consumer of now is different than the Wii consumer of 2006.  Back then you had your typical early adopter gamer picking up a Wii and buying games for it.  Typically, they would buy traditional gamer games.  Now, as the console has matured and introduced new peripherals like Wii Fit, the consumer profile looks much different.  At one point everyone was saying “Wii is the next PS2.”  While the hardware sales are similar, the Wii consumer now is much different and buying different types and amounts of games.  There is clearly a big following and a dedicated fanbase for No More Heroes.  We focused on creating content that would appeal to the core fanbase and assure them that this game was a big improvement on the last one.  We also felt that through our campaign we would entertain and energize a new set of gamers to pick up their Wii and play “No More Heroes 2.”

EA Keeps Big TV Rolling With ‘Lost’

EA is back in the news with another big TV buy.  MediaPost is reporting on the publisher s television spending spree after it bought a spot during last night s season premiere of ABC’s Lost.   The news outlet refers back to EA s much publicized NFL ad buys, with its long-form ad aired during the NFC Championship game for recently released Mass Effect 2, and the planned Super Bowl buy pushing the upcoming title Dante’s Inferno.   MediaPost calls EA’s strategy of booking appointment television one of trying to reach out to mainstream gamers who only buy hit games.  EA senior product manager Phil Marineau supports that notion by saying if timed properly, a big buy such as the Super Bowl ad can be a better return on our investment than a $2.5 million cable buy.”  MediaPost flavors the news by adding that EA’s big buys are an indication that the game industry is behaving like that other big-hit driven entertainment business, Hollywood.

Read more at MediaPost {link no longer active}.

Zynga Coming To L.A.

Social game maker Zynga is launching a game studio in the Los Angeles area.  As reported in Gamasutra, the company is setting up a game development shop in Marina del Rey.  The LA expansion represents the second in as many years for San Francisco-based Zynga, coming after it set up a game studio last year in Baltimore, Maryland.  Zynga said the move into L.A. is to tap into the area’s game and web development talent, adding that the company has been successful in the past with combining the DNA of traditional gaming with that of the internet.  Gamasutra says the L.A. studio has founding members who come from traditional game development, referring to one as designer Amer Ajami who worked on EA’s Command & Conquer real-time strategy series.  The outlet also points to the head of Zynga’s Baltimore studio, Brian Reynolds.  Before joining Zynga, Reynolds co-founded real-time strategy game maker Big Huge Games.  Read more at Gamasutra.

Apple’s iPhone Pie Shrinks

ABI Research has released data showing growth for iPhone is lagging behind total growth for the smart phone market.  Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog reports that research from the firm shows Apple’s device had about 16.6 percent of worldwide smart phone sales in the fourth quarter of 2009.  That s compared to more than 18 percent the previous quarter.  The blog says iPhone sales overall grew in the quarter, but not as fast as the smart phone category.   Apple experienced 18 percent growth based on 8.7 million iPhones sold while the global smart phone market saw a record quarter on 26 percent growth.  Digits points to competition from devices as the possible cause, including Motorola’s Google Android-powered phone as well as brisk sales of nearly 5 million units for Nokia’s Oyj.  Read more from Wall Street Journal.

Outdoor 3D Ad Debuts In NY

Out-of-home ad giant CBS Outdoor has put up the first-ever 3D billboard ad, reports Brandweek.  The firm has placed the ad for credit card company Visa’s Go World campaign, rolling it out on Monday at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal.  Brandweek says the ad comprises more than 100 pieces of media making up a diorama that runs down a terminal passageway.  It appears in 3D using special glasses, which attendants at the site are providing to interested onlookers.  But the outlet adds that it’s designed to be visible without glasses, appearing dimensional to the naked eye.   The ad is on display through the end of February and is expected to engage as many as 70,000 people a day.  Read more at Brandweek {link no longer active}.

Activision Shuffles Music Game Management

Activision has appointed a new head for its Guitar Hero division, reports Edge-Online.  The publisher put chief operating officer David Haddad in charge of its music game business following Dan Rosensweig leaving the company.  Rosenweig had been serving as the Guitar Hero unit’s president and CEO.  Haddad will report to Activision president and CEO Mike Griffith.  Griffith said Haddad’s broad consumer and digital/online experience makes him fit to help improve the unit’s profitability.  Read more at Edge-Online {link no longer active}.

Super Bowl Ad Survey

Ad agency Venables Bell and Partners has collected research on how people react to memorable Super Bowl ads.  As reported in Boston Globe, the firm surveyed 1,000 people in the U.S. and found nearly one third are likely to share their favorite Super Bowl spot through social nets.  The results varied by gender.  Among women surveyed, 34 percent said they would pass along ads on sites such as Facebook.  The result among men was 27 percent.  The Globe highlights one other result from the survey, a finding that also diverges by gender.  It found that men had high recalls for ads with an attractive person while women favored those with cute animals.   Read more at Boston Globe {link no longer active}.

The Zombie Sell

It seems as if Funcom wants to ease gamers into the survival horror premise in its massively multiplayer online game The Secret World.   The publisher has released this trailer introducing the game’s setting, a fictional town called Kingsmouth overrun by supernatural elements.  For the first glimpse at the in-game world, Funcom foregoes the vampires, demons and other beasts said to make up the storyline to focuse entirely on one relatable pop horror lure: zombies.

The trailer’s presentation is notable, showing sets and scenes reminiscent of classic zombie apocalypse films through the lenses of security cameras.

Watch it at GameSpot {link no longer active}.