×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Smart Promo: Why Ubisoft’s ‘Watch Dogs’ Campaign is the Right Way to Launch a New Game Franchise

Has the videogame industry finally figured out how to promote its tentpole titles to the masses?

Publishers have long known how to court hardcore gamers with new releases — hyping them through publications and blogs like Game Informer and Kotaku, YouTube stars like PewdiePie or networks like Machinima — but when it comes to everyone else, they always seemed like an afterthought.

There is a reason for that: the 34 million gamers that make up the “lifeblood” of the industry and open their wallets for virtually every major new release. Make them happy and they’ll keep coming back for more.

The trick is getting everyone else interested. That’s especially important as sales for the games biz are flat this year with 2013 at this time at around $3 billion, according to NPD Group.

As companies like Sony and Microsoft look to recoup the costs of their newest videogame consoles and turn the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One into hubs for all forms of entertainment in livingrooms, publishers have the opportunity to go along for the ride and pump up new game properties they hope will turn into the next big franchises. While studios are relying on reboots, remakes and sequels, gamemakers are actually trying something new for a change.

Ubisoft is doing just that with “Watch Dogs,” an expansive open-world game that’s not based on an existing book, movie or TV show — although the company’s film division already has a movie in development at Sony with New Regency on board to produce.

Before it gets you to watch it, however, Ubisoft needs for you to want to play it first.

The “Watch Dogs” marketing campaign started off in a traditional way, by introducing the property and the game’s first footage at E3, the industry’s annual headline-generating convention in Los Angeles.

But as the game nears its May 27 release date, Ubisoft is getting a little more creative with its marketing efforts.

In “Watch Dogs,” gamers play as Aiden Pearce, a brilliant hacker and former thug who taps into Chicago’s electrical grid to access security cameras and control traffic lights and use citizen’s mobile phones to enact revenge on targets.

To bring that to life, the French game company has produced an impressive series of videos that should provide some guidance for other marketers looking to broaden the reach of their own titles.

For example, in a nearly 10-minute “101” trailer, Ubisoft breaks down the characters, expansive world and innovative gameplay featured in “Watch Dogs.” The detailed walkthrough uses the right tone to speak to non-gamers and not in a condescending hand-holding way. It reveals a lot while still providing a tease. Better yet, it introduces a world worth spending time in — something that’s key when asking consumers to spend $60 on a new game that has not yet proved itself as a viable property.

In another video, Ubisoft goes the stunty guerilla marketing hidden camera route that was embraced by theatrical releases like “Carrie” and “Devil’s Due.” In “Amazing Street Hack” — featured above — visitors to a mobile phone store are tricked into believing they can control in-store lights, ATMs and area traffic lights using their smartphones. The visual stunt, produced by BETC Paris, recreates every hack that Pearce is able to do in the game, including steal a car.

Again, the hilarious short, which has now been viewed over 8 million times on YouTube, as of May 20, introduces “Watch Dogs” to more than just core gamers and effectively presents the game’s hacking conceit in a clever way while delivering another form of entertainment at the same time.

In Ubisoft’s latest video, the gamemaker has turned to filmmaker Devin Graham to produce a live action sequence using athletes skilled in parkour running to enact an action sequence that players might experience in “Watch Dogs.” Graham also directed a parkour-themed video for the latest “Assassin’s Creed” game.

And the gamemaker has paired up with Vice’s Motherboard to produce a three-part documentary series, “Phreaked Out,” where it delves into the world of hacking, inspired by “Watch Dogs,” of course (see trailer below).

Remember, all of these work because as opposed to a traditional trailer, the videos are another form of entertainment — another form of storytelling that happens to sell a product all at the same time. Some might say, that’s the ultimate example of branded entertainment.

Ubisoft has had some time to play with its marketing.

“Watch Dogs” was meant to come out in November 2013, but was bumped to May in order to improve gameplay, but also get away from tentpoles like “Grand Theft Auto 5” and “Call of Duty: Ghosts,” which stole much of the industry’s sales thunder during their launches.

SEE ALSO: Smart Promo: Watch Godzilla Try to Eat a Fiat

The delay and campaign seem to be paying off for Ubisoft.

“Watch Dogs” already has become the most pre-ordered game of the year (with more than 800,000 sales), and could top sales of Ubisoft’s original “Assassin’s Creed,” which has gone on to become a major franchise for the company — and also has a film in development with Michael Fassbender set to star.

Ubisoft announced this week that “Watch Dogs” has one gold before its release, and Ubisoft expects to sell 6.3 million copies this year.

“There is massive buzz in all of our stores around ‘Watch Dogs,'” GameStop’s senior VP of merchandising Bob Puzon said in a statement. “Based on the current level of customer pre-orders we have received, ‘Watch Dogs’ is the highest pre-ordered next-gen title to date and most pre-ordered new IP of the year.”

Now comes the true test: Is the game any good?

More Biz

  • Chinese Movie Ticket Giant Maoyan Loses

    Losses Reach $20 Million at China's Maoyan

    Reporting its first financial data since a February IPO in Hong Kong, mainland Chinese movie ticketing firm Maoyan saw its revenue grow by 47% to $560 million (RMB3.76 billion) in 2018. Net losses for the year grew from $11.3 million (RMB76 million) to $20 million (RMB134 million). Though the company also chose to present what [...]

  • Apple Event: Everything We Learned From

    Everything We Learned From Today's Apple Event

    After revealing new services in news, finance, and gaming, Apple CEO Tim Cook kept the biggest, most anticipated announcement until last. Cook, along with heads of worldwide video programming Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, and a whole group of Apple’s creative talents, presented the company’s new Apple TV+ streaming service, which is slated to [...]

  • Wynn Nightlife Announces Residency for Roving

    Wynn Las Vegas to Host Residency for Roving Spanish Party Elrow

    One of Las Vegas’ biggest music players is doubling down on the power of a global brand instead of just a single DJ to help them stay on top of Sin City’s increasingly competitive clubbing scene. Wynn Nightlife has announced a year-long residency and partnership with Spain’s Elrow, a respected Ibiza-born party that last year [...]

  • PledgeMusic Down to a ‘Skeleton Staff,’

    PledgeMusic Down to a ‘Skeleton Staff,’ Although a Potential Buyer Is in the Wings

    PledgeMusic, the direct-to-fan marketplace that has faced serious financial troubles in recent months, is down to a “skeleton staff” and payroll in the U.S. office ceased within the last month, sources close to the situation tell Variety, although a potential buyer is “very interested” in the company and has been in due diligence for several [...]

  • Michael Avenatti

    Michael Avenatti Arrested on Bank Fraud and Extortion Charges

    Attorney Michael Avenatti was arrested Monday and is facing federal charges on both coasts of bank fraud, misappropriating client funds, and trying to extort Nike. Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York allege that Avenatti tried to extract more than $20 million from Nike, and said that if the company did not pay him, [...]

  • Daily Show Viacom

    DirecTV, Viacom Avert Blackout After Marathon Negotiation

    DirecTV and Viacom have agreed on a carriage renewal pact covering a raft of Viacom’s cable channels after a marathon negotiation over the weekend. In a joint statement early Monday, the companies said: “We are pleased to announce a renewed Viacom-AT&T contract that includes continued carriage of Viacom services across multiple AT&T platforms and products. [...]

  • Discovery CEO David Zaslav Sees 2018

    Discovery CEO David Zaslav Sees 2018 Compensation Soar to $129.4 Million

    Discovery Inc. president-CEO David Zaslav is once again making headlines for an enormous compensation package. Zaslav’s 2018 compensation soared to $129.44 million in 2018, fueled by stock options and grants awarded as the longtime Discovery chief signed a new employment contract last July that takes him through 2023 at the cable programming group. Zaslav received [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content