GMC Session: Nontraditional Marketing for Games

Comments by Doug Scott, Director of Entertainment Marketing, EA

The entertainment marketing function is essentially looking at the inherent entertainment value of gaming and a lot of the lifestyles and cultures around it, and trying to find ways to translate that into different media, whether that be online, television, or mobile. We’ve had some success with that. Strictly focusing on the TV space for a little bit: in the last year, we’ve worked on short-form integrations focused on partnering with networks like MTV or ESPN to integrate game assets into an existing show, for example, Battlegrounds, a show about basketball on MTV and MTV2.

We also did an integration with Entourage on HBO. That was the best kind of integration because it was organic and came from the writers of Entourage, who are fans of Fight Night and wanted to integrate it into the show. Video Mods is a program on MTV that we co-funded, where we took character models and environments from our games and re-animated them to make music videos.

We’ve also started to create a lot of events. A couple of months back, we partnered with an entity to close down Fillmore Street and put a bunch of snow on it; it happened to coincide with an 80 degree day — probably the only 80 degree day in the history of San Francisco, and it was a perfect match for the title.

We’ve started to move into original productions as well, where we actually produce the shows and then approach distribution partners whether that be television networks or online sites and work with them to distribute something. This is footage from a half-hour show on MTV and MTV2 which was called This Sims Life, and we produced it ourselves in close conjunction with MTV, and really dove into the stories of Sims players — how they play, why they play, and using some unique capture to help them tell those stories.

Finally, we started to tiptoe into something that hopefully will become an ongoing franchise for us, something that really gets at the core of just how valuable and interesting video game content can be when translated for another medium. This was Madden Nation, which was an eight-part half-hour series that we did with ESPN2 this year. Basically, the concept was: take sixteen gamers and pair them up with top NFL talent, put them on a bus and send them around the country, your classic reality TV type format, and have them battle to see who could with $100K.

We tried to make competition interesting to watch on TV, which has been the constant knock on video gaming and TV; we took a couple of steps forward by introducing things like coach-cam that help you get inside the mind of the player and help you understand the skill and strategy that they bring to the mix. We co-produced this with ESPN, which means we get to share in the upside of the show if it’s successful.

A bunch of Madden fansites picked up and tracked the show; they went into great depth and the blogging was out of control. And ultimately, with very little promotion, it was over 30% of the average household rating across 40 different areas. The moral of that story is that as long as the content is treated appropriately for the medium, you can create content that’s relevant and drives other mediums and business models. And that becomes a highly effective form of marketing.

[Audience question]: when you’re working with MTV, are you able to re-purpose that content at all, or does MTV have ownership as well?

It really depends on the situation, but I’d say that 50% of my time talking to MTV is spent talking to their business affairs department. The long-term goal for us is to prove the value of our content as something that helps to drive their business model, and as something that is ultimately interesting to people who watch their various screens. And if we can do that, that will put us in the power position in terms of negotiations, and so we have been more and more successful at driving down restrictions on usage… for the most part, its still restricted for a certain amount of time to MTVs use. And that’s reasonable, particularly if they’re starting with financial skin in the game.

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