Top 10 Video Game
Marketing Campaigns

September 12, 2019

10) League of Legends: “General Marketing”

League of Legends is the free-to-play game that some would say put DOTA to shame. If you’re into Esports and watching online video game entertainment, then you’ve probably heard of it. Since its initial released in October 2009 by Riot Games, League has climbed the ladder to become the most played PC game in North America and Europe in terms of the number of hours played. To put that into perspective, the 2018 League of Legends finals boasted an average viewership of 11 million!

Now, let’s dive into how League of Legends continues to stay popular through its countless streams of marketing. League has among the largest footprint of any game in streaming media on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch.tv. This can be thought of as a tactic of influencer marketing, which, in fact, it is. To boot, Riot does not have to pay for this type of marketing because, thanks to YouTube and Twitch.tv, there are countless content creators making a living off sharing their game play.

So, what marketing does Riot do itself? Tons, but here let’s consider its social media marketing. Heading the marketing team is Andrew Conti, who has directed League to share content such as patch notes (updates on current game changes), fan art, character skins, new character skills, digital ads, and so much more! One aspect that many players love are previews of patch notes and skin releases. It immediately opens up conversation within the community. Although Riot Games has had a few recent fiascos you can’t look past the marketing success they have had with League of Legends. Job well done Riot Games.  

Recent Patch Notes on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/B2QjE-AlUSm/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

09) Sega Dreamcast 9-9-99

Although it’s the final console in the company’s life, the Dreamcast is held in high regard by the vintage and retro gaming community. Due to Sega’s less than stellar marketing strategies for past consoles https://www.gameinformer.com/b/features/archive/2017/07/03/gi-classic-the-saturn-spiral.aspx , the company hit the ground running with the excellent 9.9.99 launch campaign. 

Spending around $100 Million ($154M today) on traditional marketing, from billboards and television broadcast to a collaboration with Pepsi and fully sponsoring the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards, Sega partially redeemed itself with this last colossal campaign.

The Marketing Team – Foote, Cone and Belding—created cryptic advertisements, all surrounding the launch date of 9.9.99. This was a perfect example of excellent marketing but without the support of large companies like Electronic Arts and retail giants, who had a falling out with Sega from the disastrous Saturn launch.

08) Crash Bandicoot Nintendo Ads

Not too many people born in the late 90’s remember the original Crash Bandicoot marketing campaign where a “man in mascot suit” sat in front of Nintendo HQ and basically soapboxed about how his game was awesome. The campaign was more about the fans of the then-new PlayStation and how they plan to dominate the big N. The commercials were so successful that Pizza Hut did a collaboration to sell stuffed crust pizza.

The marketing behind this is a great example of viral marketing before viral marketing was a thing. Then product manager Ami Matsumura-Blaire discovered what her core audience was into and knew how to market towards that demographic. There’s a reason why the orange haired bandicoot is considered the unofficial mascot of the original PlayStation, and it was because of a genius marketing team.

07) Call of Duty Black Ops: “There is a soldier in all of us.”

First released back in October 2003, the first-person shooter video game franchise published by Activision has over time become one of the most popular first-person shooters across any console. Its most memorable marketing campaign, ubiquitous on TV back in 2009-2010, titled “There is a soldier in all of us,” was directed by none other than Rupert Sanders.

“There is a soldier in all of us” was a clever display of video marketing. It was a live action trailer featuring Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Kimmel as well as many others. The purpose was to target “everyone”, and it did just that. The commercial was not only comical, but it spoke to everyone because realistically in the online world of Call of Duty, everyone can be a soldier. They showed bankers, construction workers, office drones, and others acting as soldiers on a battle ground. It was hands down an awesome display of marketing. If “There is a soldier in all of us” doesn’t ring a bell, check out the video.

06) Genesis does what Nintendon’t (Blast Processing )

Many companies today utilize marketing terms. Companies like Apple, use terms like Retina or Liquid Retina HD Display to showcase LCDs on their new iPhones. But Sega was on top of this back in 1989 with their “Genesis does what Nintendon’t” campaign that featured (the not so real) Blast Processing technology. While the science behind Blast Processing was quickly debunked, the campaign did help skyrocket the sales of the Genesis, which surpassed the Super Nintendo in North America for a time.

Thanks to then Sego of America CEO Michael Katz, who instituted a two-part approach to building sales (Which included the Nintendon’t campaign), the Sega Genesis is still one of the most popular Sega consoles in history.  The campaign was so memorable that the release of the Sega Genesis Mini was marketed with a “remake” of that same commercial. 

This campaign showed how to utilize marketing spins and terms of technology.  Instead of saying the Genesis runs on a 16-bit Motorola 68000 at 7.61 MHZ – Michael’s team came up with Blast Processing, a term which would be recognizable to their demographic as “better” than what Nintendo has. If this was created today #BlastProcessing would totally be a thing.

05) Microsoft Acquires Bungie and Releases Halo on XBOX

Bungie, (Yes, that Bungie) was originally a Mac Developer and Halo, (Yes, that Halo) was originally going to be a Mac, RTS game). Microsoft acquired Bungie with Halo to be released on the original XBOX. The game was heavily redeveloped into a First-Person Shooter (FPS) and while it wasn’t supposed to be the flagship game of the console, then VP of Game Publishing, Ed Fries, heavily marketed the game as the system seller.

The game received excellent press, on which Microsoft’s marketing team capitalized, releasing commercials, incentives, tie-ins with other brands and media on other platforms such as companion books and toys.

A huge player in the Esports arena and helped gain popularity in Machinima culture, this almost 2-decade old franchise is still running strong thanks to excellent marketing.  This is another example of how other people helped to market a product and the marketer capitalizing on this.

04) Gameboy with Tetris

The original Game Boy was a marketing marvel on its own, but what really launched this system was what we now call “The system seller” and that was the pack in game. The commercial demonstrated the features of what the Game Boy could do: Stereo sound, link cable integration, multiple patterns and graphics on a monochrome, dot-matrix screen and easy portability.

Don Coyner, Nintendo’s Marketing Manager for the launch of the system in 1989, had an uphill battle. How do you market something no one’s ever seen before? You had handheld consoles like the Game & Watch, but the Game Boy was a new frontier.  Coyner’s strategy was to take a $20 Million budget (Around $41M today with inflation) and market mainly towards 9 to 14-year olds, while also creating an explainer video targeted at teens and adults covering the entire gamut of what the handheld could do.  Due to the successful marketing strategy of Coyner, Nintendo started pushing TV advertisements for every system and the first party game.

03) Super Smash Brothers

Released in early 1999 the Super Smash Bros. franchise has a long history of being one of the biggest fighting (don’t call it a fighter) franchises in Nintendo’s history. The marketing angle behind this was the nostalgia factor, while also utilizing the strengths of the console itself. Four player action (thanks to the N64’s four built in game ports) this title was marketed towards kids, but also captured older consumers who played the NES and SNES.  

The original marketing campaign behind this was a bit of a parody with the song Happy Together by the Turtles playing and the roster frolicking through a field, until abruptly changing their attitudes and fighting each other. The marketing team took what the viewer thought Nintendo was –a kid friendly mascot machine—and subverted it.

Almost a shock campaign for Nintendo at the time, this was a great “Oh man” moment for consumers. It helped make Super Smash Bros. one of the highest sold games for Nintendo.

02) Recent Release of WoW Classic: “A Toast to 15 Years”

If you’re not a World of Warcraft player or fan… well there are millions of other people in the world who are. The massive and most popular MMORPG released by Blizzard Entertainment back in 2004, WoW is the fourth-best-selling PC game in the world with over 14 million copies sold! And just when you thought life playing WoW couldn’t get any better it just recently did: WoW Classic returned.

WoW Classic cashes in on the nostalgia factor and brings you back to how it all started. The Combat Mechanics, original character models and skill trees all contribute to a truly authentic experience. So how did they market this? On the day of their 15-year anniversary they released WoW Classic and to celebrate they created a video, “A Toast to 15 Years.” In it we see a bard singing a tavern song about our adventures in Azeroth. Let’s be honest, it will make you emotional listening to it. What makes the video so great are the cameos. We see Game of Thrones actor Kristian Nairn, Matthew Mercer, Patty Mattson, and even Ronda Rousey. The legendary “Leeroy Jenkins” is also there along with popular content creator “Sodapoppin”. It was masterpiece all on its own. Well done Blizzard, this is an awesome example of marketing for an exciting release.

01) Fortnite push to Battle Royale Mode

In 2011, Fortnite was introduced at the Spike Video Game Awards by Cliff Bleszinski aka Cliffy B. If you’re unfamiliar with Fortnite, the original concept was a very different game. Stronghold, Minecraft and Left for Dead, all wrapped up in a free-to-play structure, the game had little success. But it wasn’t until Fortnite Battle Royale was introduced, did it become the mega giant it is today.

Fortnite is one of the only games on this list to surpass Apple in terms of Google trends. (https://www.businessinsider.com/fortnite-apple-google-search-trends-2018-4)

Inspired by the popular Player Unknown Battlegrounds (which was itself inspired by the 2000 movie Battle Royale), Fortnite surpassed PUBG in many ways. The marketing push from Survival team-based fort creation to Battle Royale, grew user acquisition from 10 million during its first two week release, to over 200 million by late 2018.

Fortnite is probably the best example of marketing done right. Creating a cottage industry within larger, more established brands, such as fast food and beverage giants collaborating with Epic to release merchandise. Additionally, the team behind Fortnite’s marketing campaign has the best strategy: Word of Mouth. While the game has been pushed with a massive budget, Fortnite harkens back to the old day of playground talk for kids and water cooler talk in the office. Game blogs cover every new release, YouTube personalities create in depth videos about the game and today it is one of the largest players in the Esports arena.

Fortnite, is literally a game changer in videogame marketing.

The original fortnight concept was a very different game.  original concept link

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