Resident Evil 5 is one of the hottest games of the year, and Capcom wouldn't have it any other way. Resident Evil 4 was one of the most acclaimed games of the previous generation, so hype had been steadily building for the next iteration in the blockbuster survival horror franchise. Capcom stoked the fire and has managed to turn the anticipation into a frenzy.
How did they do it? Like marketing for any large game these days, it involved a composite campaign of elements both online and off. We got the 411 from Chris Kramer, Senior Communications Director at Capcom, and Mike Webster, Director of Marketing for Resident Evil.
Just in time for the fireworks show!
Any campaign is still bulwarked by solid online trailers and TV advertising. Resident Evil 5 is no exception, having been largely introduced via a trailer at E3 2007. Of course, these early previews led to initial discomfort and accusations of racism because of the game's setting and the portrayal of a white protagonist killing black zombies. That controversy has mostly subsided, however, leaving most people anticipating the full game.
"The production team in Japan... those guys are amazing storytellers, so the theme of the trailers was 'What story do we want to tell?' on both the PR and marketing side," expressed Webster. "If we want to talk about the relationship between Chris and Sheva or about the village we can, and that's what we focused on the Leipzig/TGS trailers. In the last trailers, we introduced Excella, Wesker and the mysterious hooded character at the end. It's a last tease before [gamers] get to play the game itself; we tried to hint at the story without giving it all away."
"We wanted to stay consistent, so [the TV spots] linked to the viral campaign we've been rolling out," he continued. "We wanted to showcase the depth of the game and doing that in 30 seconds is hard, so we've done full 60-second ads. One of the events that you should look at in this time of year is March Madness, which gives us the most reach we can get. Expect to see ads on Spike, Comedy Central, ESPN and the like. We feel like this is a real big win for us, and we feel it's going to generate a lot of water cooler talk."
Just what happened at Kijuju?
Speaking of the game's viral campaign, last year an email was sent out with 'It came from Kijuju' printed over and over again in the body, with a link included for a corresponding website. The site itself slowly unveiled various trailers and exclusive materials, helping to spread the word and draw more people in.
"When we were thinking about what we wanted to do, we thought again about how the folks in Japan are great storytellers, we wanted to leverage the best asset we had and tell our own story," Webster explained. "We focused on these viral videos to provide content to those that follow the brand on a daily basis and also worked in conjunction with PR to leverage the game and include content within those videos that was going to be featured in a lot of events PR is doing. Sometimes text can be limiting and doesn't give the full picture, but with something like this, we can release videos and tie it to the story about Chris Redfield and his life after Kijuju. Similar to how his experiences there made such an impression on him, we think it's comparable with the jump to the next gen platforms that Resident Evil is making."
"With regards to the viral campaign, we looked to broaden the audience with a website, where people were able to discover what the password is for the site," he added. "When they shared [it with friends], they'd receive exclusive backgrounds, screensavers and the like. We achieved a high level of success asking the audience to get the word out and one in two people shared it with friends. We had about 19 or 20 shares per person and it solidified our strategy to reach more people than with Resident Evil 4."
Pretend like you're Sheva in Home.
Not all of the promotions for Resident Evil 5 are of the conventional sort, however. Capcom recently announced that they are implementing an area devoted to Resident Evil 5 in PlayStation Home. In a slightly odder mover, the company also announced a blood drive in Resident Evil 5's name, appropriate for a series that has drawn so much virtual blood over the years.
"The Home thing is being led by the Resident Evil 5 developers and it just launched on March 5 to correspond with the Japanese release," commented Kramer. "There are items that you can buy within Home that are Resident Evil flavored, like t-shirts and items around your Home, but there's also things you can unlock, like models of Chris and Sheva. There's also a Resident Evil space that looks like the village of Kijuju."
"We work with a public relations company called 47, and they put it out," said Webster about the blood drive. "We thought, 'What's better than to leverage the brand and do something good that saves some lives?' That's something Capcom looks to do... how we can give back a little bit."
"We've had over 100 people pledge to give blood," noted Kramer.
Resident Evil 5 is going to be big!
One of the last (and maybe most important) ways that Resident Evil 5 was promoted was through its demo. Demos aren't always a clear indicator of success, but with a high download total you know there's certainly a lot of interest in at least trying the game.
"We basically shattered all the records to date on the first day, first week, first month. We've just posted 4.5 million downloads for both platforms [360 & PS3] worldwide," beamed Webster. "It certainly is promising to us, and it speaks to the quality of the partnerships with Microsoft and the coordination with PR in getting people to try it out."
Ultimately, Capcom is hugely optimistic for RE5's success, not only in reaching the traditional core demographic, but also by expanding to new gamers who might never have played a Resident Evil game before. Marketing certainly did its part. "We took a cut down on the final trailer to two minutes, and we're airing it on FX, VHI and Spike so that's pretty unprecedented. We're looking to broaden the audience and reach out and really encourage people to ask questions about the game," Webster concluded.