PR was the lead discipline used to launch Activision’s flagship video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) and Frank PR was briefed to make the launch the entertainment story of the year.
Just like in the movie industry, it is of immense commercial importance to focus all PR activity around the opening weekend of a video game to ensure maximum consumer hype and most importantly a huge sales spike.
As such Frank PR’s idea was to treat the release of MW2 like the most highly anticipated theatrical movie of 2009 and undertake a world’s first, by hosting a star studded red carpet premiere for the game in Leicester Square – home of the Hollywood Blockbuster.
As a result, MW2 sold 1.23m copies on the day of launch grossing £47m (Source. ELSPA, 11 Nov 09). This smashed the current Box Office record held by the movie Batman The Dark Knight, which took £33m in its first weekend, establishing MW2 as the biggest entertainment launch of all time.
Meanwhile the coverage generated around the launch amassed a PR value in excess of £9m
To create a launch platform that would lead the news agenda, taking MW2 out of gaming pages and into the mainstream media. We were also tasked with driving activity that transcended the interest of the gaming community without alienating hardcore fans of the franchise. With such a broad target audience ranging from teenagers to adults and from hardcore to casual gamers, our approach and activity also needed to appeal to a wide spectrum of media in order to deliver blanket coverage.
Additional considerations were to ensure that MW2 wasn’t perceived as just ‘another game’, positioning it as an entertainment entity on par with a Hollywood Blockbuster by undertaking something that had never been accomplished before… whilst making the game a ‘must have’ title for any console owner.
The PR approach at launch was therefore to produce an event that would set a new precedent for the video games industry, generate an unrivalled amount of coverage and Talkability®, help to drive sales figures and deliver the biggest entertainment launch of all time.
The launch was therefore engineered to generate news angles for social networking sites, as well as the lifestyle & gaming - online, print and broadcast media sectors
On the 9th November 2009 we unveiled the first ever red carpet launch for a video game at The VUE cinema in London’s Leicester Square – home of the Hollywood film premiere.
The premiere was attended by 300 VIPs, influencers and consumers and over 30 UK and US celebrity fans of the game - including Dom Joly, Vernon Kay, Goldie, Matthew Horne, Jessie Metcalfe and The Black Eyed Peas.
MW2 voice over talent Bill Murray and Craig Fairbrass were our spokespeople in front of the national TV and radio crews in the broadcast pen along with Hollywood Hero Kevin McKidd, of Grey’s Anatomy fame, who flew in from LA especially for the occasion. The broad mix of additional celebrity guests in attendance ensured fantastic picture and gossip story pick up the following day in the tabloids and online on celeb & lifestyle sites.
BBC Radio 1 Presenter Vernon Kay hosted the 90 minute long premiere, which included interviews with the game’s developers, a specially created featurette on the evolution of the Call of Duty series Smoke, search lights, flash bangs and the game’s emotive soundtrack emanated from the red carpet providing atmosphere and intrigue for the crowds building up in Leicester Square. The activity was supported with an army of ‘soldiers’ patrolling central London in branded military vehicles, interacting with consumers and escorting VIPs / celebrities between the premiere, store opening and party.
The soldiers also ensured the safe delivery of the first batch of games to HMV on the stroke of midnight creating theatre for both the media who covered the launch activity and for the thousands of queuing fans who waited outside the store from the early hours to get their hands on the first copies of the game.
The premiere was supported with a midnight opening of the Trocadero HMV store in Piccadilly Circus and a celebrity / VIP party in a never used before underground bunker in Baker Street headlined by Dizzee Rascal.
The three tiered approach (premiere, party and store opening) allowed MW2 to invade London’s city centre, creating a consumer and media journey that offered UK press a wealth of angles on which to peg their stories.
‘Week One’ feature coverage talking about the premiere and describing the game as the “biggest entertainment launch of all time” appeared in every national daily and Sunday paper, Reuters TV, Sky News, Channel 4 News and Channel Five’s Gadget Show.
The BBC gave it unprecedented coverage with four live links from Leicester Square throughout the night and hourly news articles the following morning on BBC Breakfast.
Digital coverage was key for our tech and gaming audience so a film crew was hired to capture the event on ‘b’ and ‘d’ roll. A multimedia package was then created overnight and disseminated to all online and broadcast media. The content was used by more than 40 key online, gaming and ISP sites as well as by Channel 4 and Sky News the next day in their reports.
The Launch in Numbers:
1: The total number of video games to launch with a Leicester Square premiere
45: Minutes of TV coverage focusing on the launch including BBC News, Channel 4 News and Sky News
22: National newspaper articles that covered the MW2 premiere and launch activity
85: Percentage of growth in online media coverage for Activision on the previous months figures (Source. Apollo Research Dec 09)
197: Minutes of national and regional radio coverage taking about the first video game premiere in Leicester Square
1,782,363: Units sold in the first week totalling £67,405,920 in sales revenue (Source. ChartTrack 09)
£9,076,219: The PR value of the coverage generated around the launch of MW2 (AVE x 2.5)
The Final Word:
“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was undoubtedly the leading entertainment story of year and firmly established videogames as one of the leading forms of entertainment in the UK,”
Michael Rawlinson, Director General (E.L.S.P.A.)
“With huge crowds awaiting a parade of celebrities in Leicester Square and the obligatory after-party, at which Dizzee Rascal was due to perform, the first night of Modern Warfare 2 appeared to be a typically glamorous West End premiere. The carpet, however, was camouflage, not red. And Modern Warfare 2 is a computer game, not a film.”
Steve Boxer, Technology Correspondent, The Guardian