Gaming tie-ins for movie franchises have existed for nearly as long as people have been playing video games. When done well, these media can blend to create a hybrid marketing approach that will reach a wide audience.
The most common and familiar method of video game marketing is the tie-in game, which is produced and sold after the movie is released. These range from straightforward console adventures to immersive MMO games like Lord of the Rings Online or the now-defunct Matrix game universe. Occasionally, these games go on to take a life of their own, becoming a franchise in their own right.
A more recent trend in video game film marketing is more creative and flexible: creating social games to entice casual gamers. Facebook games and smartphone apps reach a wider potential audience than console games, and they can generate a sort of viral marketing frenzy that any film marketer would be glad to launch.
Social games usually rely on player interaction to solve puzzles or complete basic adventures. When these games are designed around a film or television show, they can incorporate elements of the story into the game to pique the player’s attention and create a sense of investment. Because of the social element of casual gaming, these apps entice players to talk about the game and its associated film, which can generate much-needed word of mouth and marketing buzz. This effect is multiplied when the game requires a collaborative effort for fans to solve clues or puzzles related to the game.
Successful Video Game Marketing Campaigns
Recently, The Fast and the Furious 6: The Game has earned a healthy following of casual players. Other successful casual gaming franchises include the nine-week episodic Salt tie-in, Day X Exists, and Disney’s Tron-based social game. Television shows like Dexter and Spartacus have also employed the casual gaming strategy to keep fans engaged between seasons, and the console adaptation of The Walking Dead earned an incredible amount of critical acclaim.
Of course, there are some limitations to what these games can do for a film. For the most part, video game tie-ins of all kinds primarily attract dedicated fans. It’s unlikely that someone unfamiliar or uninterested in an upcoming film will seek out these games, and most of the hardcore player base will be made of people who had planned to see the film anyway.
Where the marketing potential comes is from the friends and acquaintances of these die-hard fans. As these people see their friend playing the game, they may develop some curiosity for the game itself or the world it’s set in. If nothing else, they’ll have some name recognition for the film when it’s released.
Tips for Creating a Promotional Game:
- Keep the target audience of both the film and game in mind. Certain types of games appeal more to certain demographics in players, and it won’t help you to market a film to players who won’t be interested in watching it. Unlike console games, a large percentage of social gamers are women. Social gamers also span a wide age range.
- Match the tone of the game to that of the film. You don’t want to misrepresent the film by creating a game that’s wildly different, even if the game itself is quite good. A fun, lighthearted social game will not generate the right audience for a gore-heavy action thriller.
- Provide an ample budget for the game and find a good developer, ideally one who has graduated from game design school or at least has a lot of prior experience. If you can’t afford to make a high-quality marketing game, it’s best not to attempt it at all. A badly made or overly cheesy game runs a high risk of creating a negative image for your film before it even comes out, which can drive away viewers who might otherwise have been interested in the movie.
- Whenever possible, reward players for following through at the box office. With mobile devices becoming increasingly popular gaming platforms, it’s easy to provide rewards to your players. Try incorporating a code that will unlock a bonus level or special perks and make that code available only to people who watch the film. Before the movie starts, have the code displayed for viewers to input on their phones, or enable the ability to text before or after the film to receive special perks.
Video game marketing is not the right strategy for every film, but it can be a very powerful tool when used correctly and aimed at the right audience. Putting some careful thought into the benefits and logistics of developing a tie-in game can lead to substantial rewards once the film has been released.