Inside ‘Watch Dogs’ Marketing

Ubisoft is one of the key players in the AAA game space, and they will be very much in the forefront of media and gamer attention for the next month as the highly anticipated new franchise Watch Dogs finally launches on May 27. The title was originally scheduled to be a launch title for the new console generation last fall, but Ubisoft decided the game needed more development time and pushed back the release. The [a]list daily spoke with Ubisoft senior vice president of sales and marketing Tony Key about Watch Dogs marketing and how the marketing landscape is changing.

Tony Key

Moving Watch Dogs out from its original launch date was a difficult and painful decision for Ubisoft. “Whenever we remove a chunk of revenue that size, it’s going to be a material impact on not only our earnings for that year but even our stock price,” said Key. “This is not an easy decision to make for any company. On the day we announced that, I think our stock dropped 40 percent or some ridiculous number. We’ve recovered since because people are seeing the rest of our lineup and it turns out maybe it was a good idea. We had no choice, despite the fact that it put us in a tough financial position in the short term. We’re a long-term company, with a long-term vision, and Watch Dogs for us is a long-term play. We had no choice. We knew it was the right thing to do, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.”

“Games are tricky because they’re a mix between technology and art, and it’s sometimes very difficult to predict — especially a new brand with new technology — an end date,” Key continued. “The Assassin’s Creed team has gotten so much experience now in working on a schedule that they’ve found that delicate balance of being able to put their heart and soul into the game and still making a schedule work. But a new brand, as you’ve seen time and time again from publishers everywhere, it’s very difficult to make that work.”

Moving the launch date had a serious impact on marketing. “The decision was made very late, and we were rolling along in a lot of areas on the marketing side,” said Key. “Any time a game slips, there are marketing inefficiencies. We are still executing, for the most part, the plan that we had had. It was a lot of late nights and crazy reactions to putting everything on hold at the last minute. It’s the least of our problems to put marketing on hold, compared to getting the game right, but it’s a lot of work for a marketing team when something like that moves. You have to reallocate all your resources on a new schedule, you’ve got your retailers to deal with, who are already running marketing for your game in some cases. Slips like that are incredibly inefficient.”

While delaying Watch Dogs was painful in many ways, a t least there has been more time for people to become aware of the game. “On a new brand, more time usually benefits a game,” agreed Key. “Although there was halo around the launches of those new systems that would have certainly benefited Watch Dogs, and vice versa. But to your point, we’ve had almost seven extra months to get more pre-orders, which has been a really good story for us. One of the main positives is that pre-orders were very much rushed from E3 on when retailers started taking pre-orders on next-generation, because most retailers weren’t even taking pre-orders on next-generation games until June. I think all the games that launched had less pre-orders than they would have expected to have for such a large launch.”

“For us, we’ve had a chance to get closer to where we think we should be in a normal course of action,” Key continued. “It’s given our retail partners more confidence in the launch of the game, because they’re seeing the momentum at their own level as opposed to just seeing it in the press. We’ve been able to recapture that momentum, I should say, and even add to it.”

Shipping Watch Dogs in May means there’s a clear field as far as new AAA titles go. “One of the benefits of the move, and we didn’t know this when we moved it, is we have a very share of voice in the marketplace right now,” noted Key. “There are very few other titles shipping in our launch window. We’ve got just enough time before E3 when lots of new games, including Ubisoft, are going to be on display. We have our moment, and that’s something you really don’t always get at the holiday with your brands. Sometimes you have other giant AAA games shipping the same day as you.” There’s really not much in the way of major new console IP launching until Destiny arrives in September., and people are looking for new IP for next-generation consoles. “That’s for sure true with Watch Dogs, I think there’s a lot of people out there that see Watch Dogs as the face of a new generation of games,” said Key. “There are no preconceptions based on what it was before. Watch Dogs represents the next generation of gaming in a lot of people’s eyes.”

Of course, there will be plenty of games vying for attention at E3 and all through the holidays, including Ubisoft’s own new titles, but Key is ready for the challenge. “You don’t get to own the market for very long,” said Key. “Your job as a marketer is to make sure that when your game launches it is an entertainment event, and if you do that successfully you will have a longer tail no matter what else is shipping, because people buy more than one game. I don’t expect Watch Dogs to be the #1 selling game from May 27 until December 31 every week — I don’t think any title’s ever done something like that. But our goal is to do good business with Watch Dogs, establish it as a major game brand in this new generation. If we do that we’ll have great catalog sales at holiday time. We’re confident that Watch Dogs will stand up to all those other games, including our own, through the holiday season.

The sharing capability that’s built into next-generation consoles is already having an impact on game marketing. “Sharing is such a fantastic addition to what console gaming is all about,” said Key. “For me it’s one of the true next-components that’s in its infancy at this time. Nobody knows where that’s going to take us. That whole livestreaming, user-generated content built right into the console interface — they made it accessible to everyone now. Everybody can be a celebrity, everyone can create content, everyone can send gameplay to their friends. The fact that they’re making that more mainstream is going to open up a world of possibilities, especially on the marketing side. It’s going to allow us to amplify great content that our best gamers are creating for us. Some of the best marketing is not going to come from us going forward. It puts more pressure on the games to be good, but if the games are good this user-generated marketing is really going to take things to another level.”

“If the games are good this user-generated marketing is really going to take things to another level”

Key is amazed at the rapid pace of change in game marketing. “We’re getting used to a changing landscape,” said Key. “In the last two or three years things changed way more than they did the ten before. I’ve been here for 12 years, and the last couple have been really turbulent in terms of marketers trying to understand the best way to reach consumers — all these news platforms and tools coming into play. A few years ago it was all about how to manage the social channels, and while that’s still evolving along comes something like Twitch that’s been out there but suddenly is accessible to anyone that has a console. I really believe that’s going to have a transformational impact on marketing.”

“There’s still no better way to enjoy a game than having your friend sitting next to,” Key said. “Less and less that’s important, because you’re still hanging out together even when he’s not in the room. That social aspect of gaming in general in the next generation, it’s really what next-gen gaming is all about, it’s not just about the graphics or the speed and power of the machines, it’s also about the social aspects, all the things we’ve learned over the last few years about sharing and gaming together that are really executed well on the new hardware.”

These new sharing technologies underscore how important it is for marketing and game development and community and PR to work together on games. “You’re a hundred percent right,” Key said. “We’re having a lot of conversations globally, around the company with our customer organization and our development organization and our marketing organization about how we all need to be working more closely together much earlier in the process so that we understand the right tools games should offer their players for sharing, telling their stories, evangelizing your product in any way possible. All of that is becoming a big part of marketing and production now.”

The holiday ahead looks like another marketing battleground. “I think there’s still going to be a lot of aggressive behavior from first-party around their hardware systems,” said Key. “You’re still going to be saturated with those messages about which system is right for you. From a content perspective this is the holiday where the hardware starts to come of age, titles being made exclusively for next-generation system, games that are one level above in terms of tool kits and development ideas and game design, taking more and more advantage of the next-generation systems. Every year the games will get better. There’s a lot of really great product coming this holiday. We see the trend as less games, but bigger. There’s also a lot of great games being made at a smaller level like Child of Light. From a blockbuster perspective, it’s going to be a really strong holiday, and people are going to want to join the next-generation.”

Key sees the next-gen console advantage beginning to become more clear this holiday. “The gap will start to show itself as we go forward,” said Key. “There’s still going to be great games being made for current-gen systems, but as time goes by you’ll start to see the difference more and more.” Will Microsoft and Sony make some moves this year on current-gen console prices to try and expand that audience Key doesn’t have any knowledge of what they may be planning, but “anything they can do to keep them viable and keep that market healthy is welcomed by us,” he said.

Win Together in ‘DriveClub’


Risk Everything To Win

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Nike is continuing with their Risk Everything campaign ‘Winner Stays,’ an ad based around a fantasy of schoolyard boys pretending to be the biggest soccer stars in the world. While names like Ronaldo, Neymar Jr., and Rooney might not be household names in America, the action is exciting enough that it doesn’t matter (plus, there’s a Kobe Bryant cameo)

Arcade Machine Runs On Coke Bottles


Nintendo Announces E3 Plans

For the second year in a row, Nintendo is opting out of holding a press conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, which will be coming up this June. However, it has plenty of other events taking place.

The company released a new video today, in conjunction with comical web team Mega 64, to announce what it has planned for the show. Using a robotic spy known as Reggie Fils-A-Mech (a lighthearted take on Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime), they manage to “create” the company’s game plan.


Brand Viewership Picking Up On YouTube

YouTube continues to be a hot commodity for original video content from select brands, according to a new report from OpenSlate.

The data indicates that the average subscriber base has grown from 37,000 to more than 82,000 over the past 12 months, spread across 500 unique brands. In addition, they accumulate a collected 722 million views a month.

In addition, from a survey of over 300 online media buyers, 41 percent want to increase YouTube spending over the next year.

When it comes to the top 500 brand channel by industry, as you can see from the chart above, Tech leads the charge with 131 active brands, with retail coming in close second with 111 and the auto industry following with 60.Â

Out of those tech brands leading the charge, Google shows a leading 2.6 million subscribers, while Apple and GoPro are closely behind with approximately 1.8 million subscribers each.

It just goes to show that YouTube continues to be of huge interest to these companies.

Source: Digiday

‘Call of Duty’ Joins X Games

The X Games events are usually devoted to extreme athletes, both related around summer and winter activities. However, this summer’s event will introduce an interesting new digital fold – video games.

ESPN has joined its efforts with Major League Gaming to bring gaming competition to the yearly event, introducing the MLG X Games Invitational. This three-day event will kick off on June 6 at X Games Austin, focusing on Activision’s Call of Duty series.

Eight of the top CoD teams in the world will compete in action, having the chance to earn medals, similar to the ones athletes would earn in other events.

The MLG Invitational will be held in its own tournament tent at the event, and interested fans can pay $100 for a three-day pass to get reserved seating for it. Those who can’t make it down to the event will also be able to watch live streaming, which will take place on the MLG.TV site.

Source: The Verge

Twitter Not Increasing TV Ratings?

Some people believe that social media can play a huge part in attracting viewers for hit shows – but NBC isn’t so convinced.

Twitter believed that its social media set-up would be able to “deliver eyeballs to your shows,” but NBC Universal research chief Alan Wurtzel believes otherwise.

While Twitter and Facebook played a good part for the recently aired Winter Olympics as far as social-related chatter is concerned, it didn’t translate as well to viewership as the broadcaster was hoping.

Said Wurtzel, “Why wouldn’t I want to say to you, ‘We have a potent new way in which we can drive ratings ‘” He followed that “it just isn’t true. I am saying the emperor wears no clothes. It is what it is. These are the numbers.”

This is an interesting change in tempo, as NBC Universal was previously supportive of the partnership with Twitter, through a strategic partnership that would have tied the two together.

“We want to make the conversation on Twitter lead to consumption,” said Sam Schwartz at the time of the agreement.

However, there is still some solid support for some of NBC’s other programming, even if Wurtzel didn’t go into detail about it.


‘Star Wars: Episode VII’ Cast Revealed

The Force is strong with the forthcoming Star Wars: Episode VII film, and today, the official website showed just how strong.

A new photo has emerged that shows the cast that will be featured in the forthcoming sequel, and it’s a surprising mix of classic faces from the original 1977 film, as well as new actors joining the fray.

Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker will be returning to their signature roles from the original film, while joining up with new actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson and Max von Sydow.

Since the announcement, fans have been expressing their excitement for the film, which will be directed by J.J. Abrams and features a script co-written by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan. It should make the upcoming unofficial Star Wars holiday, May the 4th, that much sweeter.

Star Wars: Episode VII arrives in theaters December 18, 2015.

Source: Ars Technica