Giancarlo Esposito stars in Activision and 'Halo'-creator Bungie's new ad
To promote their ambitious new videogame “Destiny,” Activision and Bungie (which created “Halo”), have produced a live action commercial, directed by Jon Favreau, that prominently features Giancarlo Esposito.
The 60-second spot, produced by ad shop 72andSunny, with visual effects handled by Digital Domain, revolves around the mythology of the game’s futuristic world in which players take the role of a Guardian of the last safe city on Earth.
The trailer is designed to introduce the world and characters of “Destiny” “as a grand fable for the ages,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing.
Esposito, who stars in NBC’s “Revolution,” plays the role of a father in the spot, named “Law of the Jungle,” who reads Rudway Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” to his son.
The Kipling tale represents the massive sci-fi fantasy story Bungie is readying to tell through “Destiny,” designed to play out like chapters of a book.
“What better way to do that than through a book that’s treated as this cherished thing,” said Tim Wolfe, creative director and writer at 72andSunny. “It’s the most treasured object this family has.”
Favreau directed the pilot episode of “Revolution,” on which he met Esposito. Activision wanted Favreau to direct the spot because “what he was able to do with ‘Iron Man’ is a masterful mix of hardcore geek cred with mass pop cultural appeal,” Hirshberg said. “Those two are hard to bring together. He’s a master of both.”
What attracted Esposito was the game’s ability to get people to think about moral questions.
“I’m a beliver of mythology as a teaching tool, not just form of entertainment,” he said. “It should be entertaiment, but in our world, people want to be more connected and challenged. A game like this enables us to become more mindful, not mindless. That’s powerful stuff for me. It’s an analogy for the bigger world in the smaller world of the gaming world.”
In addition to streaming online, the “Law of the Jungle” ad will air during Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference Finals on May 25. Activision plans to release an additional trailer for “Destiny” during Sony’s press conference at E3, on June 10, that features gameplay. There is no release date yet for “Destiny,” but a fall launch is unlikely, according to sources close to Bungie.
With the ad, “we wanted to explain how this world works,” Wolfe said. “With videogames it’s easy to have them feel temporary; you play for a couple hours and get out. Bungie creates a world that goes beyond that, so we wanted to kick off the franchise with something that struck your emotions rather than your adrenal gland.”
Activision had considered producing a longer version of the ad and turn it into a short, but “production realities of the time and money of doing that,” got in the way, Wolfe said.
The “Destiny” ad isn’t the first live action spot produced to promote a game from a major game publisher.
In fact, live action ads, backed by a considerable production budget, are proving more common as games look to prop up their tentpole title launches with high-profile campaigns.
Over the last several years, Activision has also produced live action spots around its popular “Call of Duty” and “Skylanders” franchises, while Microsoft has done the same for its “Halo” games, and Sony and Bethesda embraced the concept for its “God of War: Ascension” and “The Elder Skrolls V: Skyrim” releases.
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“We’ve been a part of starting that trend with ‘Call of Duty,’” said Hirshberg, who told Variety the increased marketing strategy stems from “a shift from thinking of games as products to thinking of them as brands. A product is something you buy and a brand is something you buy into.”
With franchises like “Call of Duty” and potential new ones like “Destiny,” Activision is looking to “reach a mass audience and bring new people into gaming and into the franchise,” Hirshberg said.
To do that it’s looking to live action trailers to bring the emotional elements of a game to life.
“That’s what live action trailers are good at — bringing the gamer’s experience to life,” Hirshberg said. “You can’t do that when you just show the game itself.”
The live action take on new games was inevitable, Hirshberg said. “People like to compare videogames to movies and other forms of entertainment,” he said. “But games are one of the least disposable forms of entertainment there is,” citing the hours of time peope spend playing the game or the amount of money they spend on downloadable content and microtransactions.
At the same time, live action tends to prop up the overall exposure for a game and help make it a pop culture event, Hirshberg adds.
“There’s an impact you get from the production value and inclusion of some celebrities who are fans of your game that gives (a title) a larger than life quality,” Hirshberg said.
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