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How Warner Bros. Uses a Video Game to Fuel Interest in Its Movies

When “Aquaman” hits theaters Friday it will do so riding a wave of publicity from an unusual place: the massively popular lo-fi, Lego-like game-creation platform “Roblox.”

With more than 80 million monthly active users, “Roblox” popularity as both a place to create and play games is well established. But it wasn’t until earlier this year, that Warner Bros. discovered just how powerful a tool it can be for igniting interest in its movies.

In March, Warner Bros. teamed up with “Roblox” on a cross-promotion for the film “Read Player One,” using the event as a testbed of sorts for marketing to a younger audience of movie-goers through the game.

Roblox Corporation collaborated with the film-maker to create an in-game parallel to the central plot of the movie: Players in “Roblox” were asked to find three hidden keys across different games, use them to unlock gates and then finally defeat Mega Corp before it could seize control of “Roblox.”

Each key granted players an in-game virtual reward and the first player, only the first player, to take down Mega Corp and complete the entire quest, earned a one-of-a-kind in-game hat for their character to wear.

The results of the event were seismic.

The “Ready Player One” activation resulted in 47.2 million hours of gameplay from 181 million game sessions, a “Roblox” spokesperson told Variety. The in-game event also became a massive social success, garnering nearly 700 YouTube videos, 30,000 Twitter posts and 16.2 million views of “Ready Player One” videos.

While Warner Bros. can’t tie the opening weekend success of the movie to that “Roblox” cross-over event, the film did track higher with teens and kids, matching the demographic that absorb the game. And the company was so happy with the partnership, that they decided to try it again, and again.

The next big event inside “Roblox” tied to a WB movie was a sponsored magical attraction based on the movie “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.” The event launched in October and was tied to the game’s annual Hallows Eve special event. This year’s Hallows Eve event included the movie attraction, a recreation of Hogwarts in the game and scenes from the film. The partnership seemed to fuel engagement for the game, resulting in more than five times the combined gameplays from the previous year’s event.

The latest cross-over features Warner Bros.’ upcoming superhero flick “Aquaman.” “Roblox” launched an Aquaman event in the game on Nov. 20, allowing players to explore the world of Atlantis and film-inspired avatars exclusive to the event. To date, the event has had more than 52 million gameplays with the developers expecting that number to more than double by the time it ends after the holidays.

Warner Bros. tells Variety that the success this year means they plan to continue the effort in 2019.

“We are incredibly proud of our partnership with Roblox this past year,” said Andrew Hotz, Warner Bros executive vice president of worldwide digital marketing. “As audiences continue to fragment and their attention is drawn to a variety of entertainment types, it is critical to find partners that have a dedicated and engaged audience, which ‘Roblox’ certainly has.

“For many ‘Roblox’ players, our partnership opened up their imaginations and led to their first experience watching a Steven Spielberg film with ‘Ready Player One’ or an introduction to the thrilling underwater adventure of ‘Aquaman.’ Together with ‘Roblox,’ we’re looking forward to continuing to break new records in 2019 and finding new ways to fascinate Roblox audiences.”

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