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Indie Lessons from the Fallout 4 Announcement

Lessons learned from the launch of the teaser campaign for Bethesda's Fallout 4. Indies can't - and shouldn't - emulate the marketing plans of a AAA studio, but we can all learn from these concentrated communications campaigns when they launch.

Astrid Rosemarin, Blogger

June 4, 2015

4 Min Read

I originally wrote this out as a short list of takeaways for the network of alumni studios at Execution Labs. A few people said I should make it into a blog post, so this is that plus elaboration on a few points.

It’s my belief that while small game studios can’t-and shouldn’t-emulate the marketing strategies of the AAA houses, we can still learn from whatever campaign happens to be rolling out all over the internet.

In the case of Fallout 4’s teaser campaign, it was a little rocky at times. Here are some thoughts on how the announcement played out over the past couple days, basically in chronological order.

At first the campaign was going great!

  • Bethesda announced a press event for the first time ever at E3 this year. The Fallout rumours were flying, and everyone was keeping close attention to any leaks or additional news.

  • The initial tease-the mysterious countdown timer on the official website-was obviously super exciting and buzz worthy. It focused fans into a specific time window, created expectation, so people would pay attention to the launch all at once.

Then a small hiccup.

  • Thursday morning, over an hour before the countdown timer was set to hit zero, the website went live. Presumably this was an accident because it was quickly taken back down again.

  • This isn’t actually a bad thing though. Some press outlets only had time to grab a couple screenshots, so really it only added more fuel to the hype fire online.

Official Fallout 4 web presence. The magic word is consistency (or lack thereof)!

  • The website, aka the game’s central communications hub, crashed. Especially because there was a timer showing exactly when a massive influx of traffic would hit the site, the servers should have been prepped for this.

  • Oddly, www.fallout4.com and fallout.bethsoft.com led to similar but different experiences.

  • The front page of the website is predominantly the trailer, which was hosted on YouTube. This means that the Bethesda YouTube channel was updated immediately alongside the website.

  • However, Facebook and Twitter were not updated simultaneously nor were they maximized as platforms and community tools.

  • The Fallout Facebook page was updated at the beginning of the hype train with a new banner image, but was not updated with the trailer alongside the website and YouTube. We know that a video uploaded to Facebook sees better engagement metrics, so this was a lost opportunity to cater specifically to Fallout fans that hang out on Facebook.

  • The Fallout Twitter account sent out a tweet with a great looking promo image plus a link to the trailer. If they had left out the image and just linked to YouTube, the video would have been playable right inside people’s home feeds as a Twitter Card.

  • There is a Fallout Vine account listed on the website that hasn’t been updated since 2013. So, you know, either that should have been updated with a teaser of the trailer…or that link should have been removed from the site.

Finally,  the pre-orders.

  • When the website launched, if fans hit the pre-order button and went through the work of choosing their country and retailer they would end up on the retailer’s website with…zero information about anything. The only hits on the retailer website were for Fallout 3 and New Vegas.

The Fallout 4 trailer launch and lead up campaign to the E3 press conference generally went very well. One look at Twitter and you can see that excitement is all over the place! We can, however, learn some simple lessons about resource allocation for those of us working with a small team.

Indie studios can do lots to keep their marketing campaigns simple enough to manage so that small things like linking to an unused social account don’t slip through the cracks. Here are just a handful of ideas:

  • Maintain only one website as the HQ for your studio and point your game domains to specific parts of the site.

  • Stay consistent and active on fewer social channels rather than being mostly inactive on lots.

  • Use the social platforms where your audience already is. If there is a low engagement rate with fans on, say, Vine, then don’t be afraid to drop it entirely.

  • Take advantage of platform-specific tools: Twitter Cards on Twitter, videos uploaded directly to Facebook, etc.

  • Be unique but consistent. It’s great to have different content on each social platform to keep people engaged with each of them, but that ‘voice’ should always be the same.

What about you? Have you launched teasers to utter awesome excitement and/or complete disaster?

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