By David Radd
Back in May, we interviewed High Moon Studios about their efforts to turn the Transformers license into game brand. We followed up with them on the eve of the launch of Transformers: Fall of Cybertron to talk about more of the particulars in marketing the game. Marketing Manager Greg Agius was also kind enough to answer some questions about Deadpool, High Moon’s latest project!
What sort of reception did you get to the Transformers G1 pre-order trailer and is that a major reflection of the sort of audience you want to reach?
Greg Agius: For a good number of people it was like seeing our childhood brought back to life. It’s important to me that people realize that the source material for that video is sacred ground. We made that video right here at High Moon and there isn’t anyone in the building that doesn’t love the 1987 Transformers movie. For us that’s our Transformers and that’s our Optimus Prime.
The community had similar feelings of nostalgia from what I have seen. My favorite reaction was the wonderfully sarcastic piece on Kotaku. In terms of marketing strategy we wanted to target that very core customer who is most likely to pre-order. So while it’s just a slice of the much wider Transformer fan that we hope to reach, this piece serves our most dedicated fans very well. Count me as one of them.
What has the pre-order situation been for Fall of Cybertron and how have fans reacted to the pre-order offerings?
Greg Agius: We’ve tracked substantially higher compared to our previous games for the entire campaign. Pre-orders are still play a vital role in galvanizing support for a game; so this is a big victory for us. There are a number of factors that have contributed. Foremost, War For Cybertron proved that High Moon makes fantastic Transformers games. The fans that discovered that game have been huge pillar of support. We also created a great offering for that fan base right here at the studio. Being based directly at High Moon I was able to work directly with the dev team to build the G1 Retro Pack and our other pre-order offers. The joy for me was that I got to watch our talented artist work to create the assets from concept art to finished models. The team crunched big time to get it all done in time. This is the beauty of having in studio marketing behind a really talented dev team.
What has High Moon learned since it developed War for Cybertron and how has that informed the marketing for Fall of Cybertron?
Greg Agius: This is an interesting question, because High Moon had no marketing function at that time; I and my team of graphic designers headed by Matt Schiel are a direct result of learnings from War for Cybertron. WFC was a fantastic game! The success WFC achieved is testament to the quality of the game High Moon created, but it could have been even better. I think everyone learned the importance of building consumer awareness over a much longer stretch of time than the traditional ad campaign allows and the need to really equip the publishing arm of Activision with more tools to drive the game. Having internal marketing is more than just about creating support from core fans, you also need to win the hearts of everyone who can help drive your game. Activision picked just three games to feature at E3 this year; our hard work and the game’s quality helped win that featured support.
What sort of relationship do you have with Activision that allows you some freedoms with your advertising campaign?
Greg Agius: We work symbiotically with the Activision team: they have the resources and mass market expertise, we provide assets and knowledge that bring everything close to the IP. For a licensed game like Transformers it’s critical that you be IP accurate. You need to be a fan to talk to a fan. The look, feel, & tone of all of our assets match our game perfectly. In fact in most of the time we’ve leveraged game assets to create our ads. For example, our stunning cinematic trailers are built using our amazing character models and animations.
How will Transformers: Fall of Cybertron be different from other elements in the Transformers universe?
Greg Agius: Both of our Cybertron games have created a rich new subsection of the huge Transformers universe. Our games are modern updates of the Generation 1 Transformers that we all know and love. Especially in Fall of Cybertron the team has really created a dark and emotional story that adult shooter fans expect. Favorite characters are going to get smashed, a planet is going to die; this is all epic stuff. However, we can still have a big tent for all Transformers fans, because we’re exploring a prequel story. No matter how you came to love Transformers you know they started on Cybertron — this is that story.
How will you look to apply lessons you learned from the Transformers franchise to Deadpool, another licensed property with a fervent fanbase?
Greg Agius: With Grimlock and now Deadpool we have a knack for finding very unique characters. With so many games on the market you need characters that can break through and grab mind share. What we do best at High Moon is identify what it is that we as fans love about these characters and then use that as a core part of our campaign.
Speaking of Deadpool how far down the rabbit hole of Deadpool elements will the game and marketing for the game go? Fourth wall breaking? Thinking in little yellow boxes? Acknowledgment of the mechanics of a video game?
Greg Agius: Deadpool has taken over High Moon, literally. We’re not just using that as a method for our marketing and PR campaign. The team has embraced the character fully; jokes around the office, Deadpool T-shirts, and even a few guys with all red shoes. That kind of energy is infectious and Activision along with Marvel has fully embraced it. So you can expect to see some major 4th wall breaking in everything we do.
Being accurate to the character has already paid huge dividends with Deadpool’s game announcement at San Diego Comic Con. We broke the 4th wall and took over Marvel’s panel, spray painted a Spiderman billboard, and made everything look and feel Deadpool. Just check out the press release. The reaction has been glorious insanity. It’s amazing to see all of the new people we’ve now brought into the know on Deadpool. With tens of millions of hits to DeadpoolGame.com, fans are informing other fans. Activision and High Moon took big risks to do something fun and creative and millions are responding to it.
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