Game developer Bethesda hit fans hard in June. Towards the beginning of the month - and only a few weeks before the global Electronic Entertainment Expo; the largest conference in gaming - it slammed down one of the most exciting announcements it's made in a while: a new installment in the immensely popular Fallout series.
For the uninitiated, Fallout is a post-apocalyptic action-RPG franchise set in an alternate future where China and the United States ended up embroiled in a brutal cold war. Three guesses as to how that ended, and the first two don't count. Since the first title released back in September 1997, the games have captured the hearts and minds of fans with their quirky blend of the morbid and the merry; the grim and the quirky.
Let's not get off track, though. We're not here to talk about the games. Instead, we're going to take a look at Bethesda's marketing campaign. Because here's the thing - they might be a game developer, but they're better marketers than some businesses wholly devoted to the craft.
Let's get started.
They Know Their Audience
First thing's first, I'd like to point to the game's first trailer. Watch it, if you've the time. This is an example of an advertisement that does pretty much everything right, and demonstrates that Bethesda's got a deep understanding of who it's talking to when it markets its products.
If you enjoy the games, the trailer gets pretty much everything right. It matches the look and feel of the universe, it shows just enough to pique one's interest, and it features a dog. That's something Fallout players have wanted for quite some time, given the fan response.
Fact is, Bethesda gets its fans - and they love that.
"Knowing your audience is rule number one for persuasive writing," explains Jason Falls of Social media Explorer."In order to persuade your audience to consider try, or purchase your product, you must, beyond all other requirements, know that audience."
They're Great At Generating Hype
Before the Fallout 4 trailer released, Bethesda updated the official Fallout site with a 24-hour countdown timer. At the end of the trailer, they teased that more would be revealed at E3. And at E3, they offered just enough information that fans were excited to hear what they'd announce next- just as they promised they would.
By focusing on the strong points of their product and not giving away all the information about it at once, Bethesda set the imaginations of its audience ablaze. And by talking up their product in a way that caught people's attention, they ensured that their audience would handle a lot of the advertising for them. After all, who doesn't like speculating on what their favorite entertainment property's going to do next?
"Give your fans reasons to talk," says Forbes contributor Kimberly A. Whitler. "It can be amazing products, great service, insider knowledge, social elevation, incredible stories, unbelievable facts or even funny disclosures. It's on you."
Their Marketing Materials Are All Top-Notch
There's a strong sense of polish throughout all of Bethesda's marketing for Fallout 4, from its high-quality trailers to its keynote presentation at E3 to the fact that it's been speculated that the game was in development for five years without word being leaked to the public (the game was "basically done" before being announced). Beyond their trailers, television spots, and presentations, Bethesda's branched out quite a bit with its marketing - and everything feels well-thought out.
There's Fallout Shelter, for example; a well-made, fun mobile game that serves as a great way to keep everyone's minds on the upcoming release of Bethesda's bigger title. There's the fact that Bethesda's started (amusingly) advertising the game on Tinder. The list goes on, and the lesson here should be clear:
If you're going to market something, give it your all. Otherwise, don't bother.
"Users who respond to a brand's content will naturally gravitate to that brand in other channels and areas of commerce," writes Econsultancy's Christopher Ratcliff.
I'll admit, this is a little different from my usual fare. Still, there's a lot of value to be gained in studying video game marketing. After all, few professionals know their audience as well as game developers - since they're usually gamers themselves.