It takes a lot of marketing hype to break records in an industry and Bethesda did just that in the gaming world with their recent release of Fallout 4.
The release of Fallout 4 is an interesting one as Bethesda, the gaming studio behind the game, announced, hyped up and released the game in less than six months. In the gaming industry, that’s often unheard of as these games often take much, much longer to seed with their audiences.
(For example: Destiny hyped their game for five years before it was launched – I wrote about their marketing campaign brilliance in my book, Destiny: A Love Story about a Video Game, Marketing & Storytelling.)
* * *
Top Accolades, Even with a Short Marketing Window
Fallout 4 broke gaming records and saw 1.2 million PC users playing the game on day one of its release.
On November 11, just one day after release, Fallout 4 sat in the #3 spot for Top Games by Current Players on Steam (statistic comes from SteamCharts.com).
If you look closely, the other games clinching the top spots have playable statistics over the past 30 days. Fallout 4 had only been out for just over one day.
As of November 12, 2015, they clinched the top spot on Steam and had the most people playing concurrently at one time:
So, how did they do it?
Let’s explore the marketing campaign for Fallout 4 to see if we can glean any insights into their success with this title.
* * *
- Game Website Live: June 3, 2015
- E3 Announcement: June 14, 2015
- Fallout Shelter Release: June 14, 2015 (iOS)
- Fallout Shelter Release: August 13, 2015 (Android)
- Pip-Boy Edition Release: mid-October, 2015
- Development Finished: October 23, 2015
- Fallout 4 Release Date: November 10, 2015
* * *
1. Whetting the Audience’s Appetite
To whet their audience’s appetite, Bethesda announced the release of the Fallout Shelter app at E3 (Electronic Expo). This was the first time that the company held a conference at E3 and while fans thought they were getting insight into the next game in the franchise, they were surprised with news of a brand new mobile app.
According to Pete Hines, Vice-President of PR and Marketing at Bethesda, they were also the first company to announce an app at E3.
On the day of its release, Fallout Shelter became the third-highest grossing game in the iOS App Store, earning more than 2 million dollars per day. By July 16, 2015, the game earned 5.1 million dollars in microtransaction sales – just two weeks after release. (Source: Wikipedia)
By releasing an app, they were able to get their audience base excited about the upcoming title and they gave them something to do while they waited for Fallout 4 to be released. This kept the conversation around Fallout thus keeping the franchise relevant.
Key takeaway: surprise and delight your audience base by whetting their appetite with something while you’re creating your new thing. Give them something to talk about while you’re hunkered down in creation mode.
* * *
2. Creative Disruption
According to GameRant.com, Bethesda set up a profile for Vault Boy on the Tinder dating / hook-up app and proceeded to connect with people on the platforms. Fans of the game were surprised to be able to swipe left or right on Vault Boy and it caused quite the PR stir.
While a lot of companies resort to the traditional routes – Twitter, Facebook, etc. – Bethesda disrupted the norm by navigating to a platform that isn’t often used for marketing. Disruption marketing is simply straying from the norm to create a new signal that your audience will see and hear over the noise of your industry.
In the lead-up to release, fans were surprised with a leaked Twitch stream that showed a few of the company’s upcoming E3 announcements. While the company says that they didn’t purposely leak the information, Bethesda’s official Twitch channel was the culprit and fans clamoured to the channel to get an exclusive look at the game.
Key takeaway: be disruptive, creative and interesting. Give your fans a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at what’s happening in the development and creation of your wares. Your fans are paying attention and listening: what are you doing to intrigue them?
* * *
3. Urgency and Exclusivity
Prior to game release, Bethesda announced a very limited sale of a special, limited edition version of the game called the Pip-Boy Edition. With this edition, gamers received a wearable Pip-Boy of their own (a watch-like device in-game that allows you to navigate through your inventory, among other things) and a few other goodies as well.
After the Pip-Boy Edition sold out instantly, Bethesda said they were absolutely not manufacturing any other special edition games but they opened it up a second time, took a few sales and then closed it down for good. For those gamers lucky enough to grab a limited edition kit, they now have a piece of the game that not many people own.
Often, when a company releases something in extremely limited quantities, it creates a sense of exclusivity, urgency and demand around the released item — even if the audience base didn’t even know they wanted it or have a desire for it before release. Such is the case with the Pip-Boy Edition.
Bethesda got their fans scrambling for something they didn’t even know they wanted and the hype around it resounded loud and clear through the gaming community.
Key takeaway: create a sense of urgency or exclusivity around your product. Release it in limited quantities and create a need that your audience base may not even know it has yet.
* * *
4. Short Timelines
Finally, Bethesda focused on a short turnaround between announcement and release. In many industries, the wait for a new product is very, very long and the gaming industry may be among the worst offenders. However, from announcement to release, Fallout 4‘s turnaround was less than six months.
By keeping their timeline short, they were able to hype fans up quickly and keep them there without the marketing campaign going stale or boring.
Press outlets, bloggers and vloggers covered the game and because everyone was talking about it at the same time, and for a short time, it made the noise around Fallout 4 much louder than it may have been if the timeline was much longer.
Key takeaway: build anticipation with fury and swiftness. A long launch timeline is less important than what you do with the time you have.
* * *
Fantastic Marketing and a Fabulous Game
After watching the marketing campaign for Fallout 4 and playing the game itself, it is obvious that Bethesda knows how to tell a story and they understand who their audience is — a killer combination for marketing and product delivery.
The post-launch marketing has also been really neat to watch. Since the game has a really robust engine for character personalization and creation, a hash tag has formed on Twitter and is gaining popularity rather quickly. The hash tag? #FalloutSelfie… Nothing escapes the selfie-centric world we live in.
Now, it’s back to my post-apocalyptic universe and my Pip-Boy and the insane amount of stress I feel about the need to hoard every single thing I find in-game (seriously, how many empty coffee cups do I really need?!)
It’s all over…