The racing genre is replete in various titles covering various interests from NASCAR to street racing and off-road. With all the variety out there and such prominent multi-dicipline racing series like Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsports and Need for Speed, no franchise meets the particular needs of rally car fans quite the way Dirt does. We talked with Guy Pearce, Brand Director of Internal Studios for Codemasters, about the third incarnation of the Dirt franchise.
What has Codemasters thought of the critical reception to Dirt 3, and do you feel that will be key for it’s success in the coming months?
The reception to Dirt 3 has been truly incredible and a great testament to our hugely talented development team. It has received the highest praise, and Metacritic average, of any game in the series so far. At the time of writing it’s one of Metacritic’s top 10 games of 2011, top 5 on Xbox 360. Some reviews have stated it may be the best racing game ever made. We’ve already seen that have an impact on the first eight weeks of sales, as we’ve beaten a lot of the series’ records. For example, it’s the quickest we’ve sold 1 million units of a Dirt game. Having all those excellent accolades out there goes to reinforce the messages we put out about the game, especially as we continue to support Dirt 3 and its extensive program of add-ons over the coming months.
How have the main sponsorships, such as with Monster energy drink, helped push the game?
We’ve had some really hardworking partners along for the ride on Dirt 3. Ken Block, ESPN, Monster Energy Drink, Ford, Tanner Foust, DC Shoes and the Monster World Rally Team have been invaluable in helping us build really entertaining viral content, and spreading the word on Dirt 3 to all their legions of fans and audiences. I mean, Monster Energy Drink has 10 million people on Facebook, that is extremely powerful. The key thing with our partners is making sure they fit the brand, the game, and it’s a good fit for our respective audiences. Our Battersea gymkhana video with Ken Block wouldn’t have been possible without our partners, and the viral that came out of it was a spectacular piece of content and just a great event to be part of.
What role do you feel the trailers had of informing users of new features, like some of the multiplayer features and the gymkhana mode?
Trailers are a vital route for communicating feature set, but they also act as a gauge for the popularity of the different aspects of your game. We weren’t really expecting the Gymkhana mode in Dirt 3 to be so universally well received by our global rally fans. The trailers featuring Gymkhana were by far the most popular in terms of views and scores. Having the ability to record and share your own Gymkhana driving videos via YouTube has been a huge success. We’ve had over 200,000 videos uploaded by fans already, showing off their skills to friends and that’s helped drive awareness to gamers who we may not have been able to reach. Equally, it’s great to see how people are enjoying the game and the sort of videos they’re putting together. Some of the Gymkhana runs are insane. Allowing players to make their own trailers and publishing straight to YouTube wasn’t an easy feature to create, but it’s something the fans have really taken to.
Talk to me about some examples of social media outreach that helped maintain the buzz for the game.
We had a very passionate audience from Dirt 2, and it was great to engage with them directly on Facebook and Twitter while we were making Dirt 3. We pushed the community side of DiRT3 from the second the game was revealed via a TV spot during the X-Games last summer. Competitions, seasonal giveaways, exclusive community updates and information from behind the scenes in studio really helped everyone stay up to date on the development of the game. We offered our fanbase multiple chances to come to the studio and focus test, or spend the day at our events as VIPs, and we also worked with our partners on social media to bring updates and information to their audience too. We love our fans’ passion for the game. On Twitter alone, over the course of the game being in development, over 25 million accounts saw a Dirt 3 related tweet, and it’s the conversation and sharing of exciting information that makes it all happen. Ken Block, with 1.8 million fans on Facebook, was posting details about his involvement with the game throughout the whole development process. We’re recently concluded a contest with Monster Energy Drink on YouTube, where people uploaded clips from the game as video response and we decided which was the best — over 350 people entered. Naturally, the social media push is what’s giving it traction. The list goes on and on!
It’s a crowded racing market out there, but do you think the particular appeal to the rally and extreme sports crowd has helped maintain the game’s cult following?
Absolutely. Dirt 3 is the only game that focuses on the global rally scene and its emergence into the extreme sports world. We’ve worked hard to understand what those audiences want to do in a game, and integrate that into the Dirt 3 experience. We’ve also made effort to align Dirt with the credible partners in the sport and culture. We hope this will give the Dirt brand a sure footing for the future, so our dev team can continue to make an awesome game experience. The game has a cult following, but we think in terms of sales momentum, critical reception, fan reaction and the innovation that we put into each game in the series, this development team should be considered as doing some of the most exciting work in the world. Anyone who likes cars and racing games will find something to love in Dirt 3, and many of the features we’ve introduced have been taken up by other studios. No one does damage like us, Codemasters pioneered the Flashback feature in racing, Gymkhana now lets players thrash a car around like never before — these are just some of the features that make the Dirt 3 series relevant to a broad section of gamers.
The game’s packaging along with some of its banner advertisements, used this motif with a car and three-sided pyramids exploding outwards. What was idea behind this aesthetic?
Ok, here’s some art-speak for your ears. Those gold ‘three-sided pyramids’ are actually called tetras. One of our dev team artists had the idea to use them to abstractly represent dirt particles coming out from under the wheels. The brand team thought it looked cool so it became a key aspect of the marketing visuals. It’s simple, strong and unmistakably Dirt 3.
Is Codemasters looking for a potential bump for Dirt 3 with the summer X-Games?
We certainly hope so. We’ve developed an ‘X-Games Asia’ game add-on pack to be launched in the X-Games window, which will be pushed by various ESPN channels. It’s an official X-Games event and lets players go for gold on two new Rallycross tracks in Shibuya, the neon heart of central Tokyo. It’s a really exciting contrast with this incredible, iconic landscape acting as a stunning background for Dirt 3’s racing. Rallycross is hugely popular in Dirt, especially online, so it’s a great fit for fans.
Thanks for this opportunity.
Thank you, Guy!
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