At the 2006 PR for Games Conference, Ubisoft senior public relations manager Michael Beadle presented an overview of the publisher's distinct PR strategies for three of its largest recent titles, including Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie
and two upcoming titles, the Wii-exclusive Red Steel
and the much-hyped Assassin's Creed
Peter Jackson's King Kong, Promoted
According to Beadle, Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie
was, from the very beginning, meant to appeal to a wide range of audience while establishing credibility among the core videogame playing population. To do this, Ubisoft's goal for promoting the game focused on its strength as a quality movie tie-in title, maximize buzz as an Xbox 360 launch title, and – somewhat uniquely – focus on the collaboration between game designer Michel Ancel and film director Peter Jackson.
“The plan was really to hit the key print and online folks,” said Beadle. “We needed to make sure we had a 'game-centric' approach; that is, it was a game first, for gamers.”
Because of apt timing, King Kong appeared on three game magazine covers simultaneously, during the crucial holiday season. Additionally, MTV News revealed the first trailer that focused on the Xbox 360 version of the product, as an exclusive venue to a large audience.
“We wanted to make sure in all of our communication that Ubisoft was taking a different approach in using our creative partnerships with people who owned the IP, and with Peter Jackson working directly with Michel Ancel,” said Beadle. “We didn't have access to Peter Jackson. The mainstream coverage could have been even greater if we did.”
“We knew that we had a lot invested on Ubisoft's side. We had to make all the internal agencies aware that it was a good game, and that people were excited, but understand that expectations were that we didn't want something overhyped.”
“We wanted people to understand that this game wasn't, for lack of a better phrase, Halo 3
Red Steel's Wii Attitude
As a first-person perspective action/adventure title developed exclusively for the Wii, and set to be released alongside the console's launch on November 19, the main focus of Ubisoft's marketing campaign focused on making the title a 'must-have' for the launch.
“We wanted to be the first to mind, the first cover story, the first in mind among hardcore gamers,” said Beadle. “We also wanted to take full advantage of the control features, and we wanted to work closely with Nintendo just as we did with Microsoft [on King Kong
Game Informer's cover story on Red Steel
, published just before E3 2006, was the first major preview of a game for the system. Additionally, Red Steel
was the only third party title demonstrated at Nintendo's E3 press conference.
“We wanted to differentiate ourselves,” added Beadle. “Red Steel
is an action/adventure game, not just a first person shooter.”
The Story Behind Assassin's Creed
A large part of the marketing plan behind next year's PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC action title Assassin's Creed
was to demonstrate Ubisoft's commitment to creating new IPs. Another large focus was on the developers itself; Ubisoft Montreal was the highly respected developer behind Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
“The credibility of the team was a huge PR factor for us,” said Beadle. “It's really a matter of making sure that what the media covered and the messages are really coming through.”
Game Informer, like King Kong
and Red Steel
before it, focused a large cover story on Assassin's Creed
, though this is a trend that Beadle insisted during a later Q&A was entirely coincidental.
[Gamasutra will be running an in-depth write-up from the PR For Games Conference every day this week - articles thus far include a talk on the state of video game PR, a discussion of the interaction between PR and business media and how bloggers are reaching a new audience.]