Advertising Games for Dummies

Game advertising is strange.  Gaming enthusiasts aren’t persuaded to buy their games through the commercials they see alone, at least not anymore.  We have press conferences, conventions, and websites, to name a few.  By the time TV ads air, it has been years after we’ve been obsessing over trailers, live streams, and media coverage.

It’s rare to view interesting or memorable TV spots for the games we’re so excited about.  But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Instead, we can remind developers that it just takes a little creativity to make an entertaining and memorable commercial for their games.

Let’s look at one of the greatest ad campaigns for gaming I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing first.  In 2011, a marketing prodigy at Electronic Arts began the “Your Mom Hates Dead Space” commercial series.  The premise was very simple: bring in mothers to view the current trailer for their newest video game Dead Space 2, and film their reactions.  Priceless and unfiltered, these moms did exactly as EA hoped.  They provided a hilarious look at a purposely violent and bloody horror game.  There is no fast food or product placement here folks.

This approach is so much more appealing compared to a heavily cut trailer with quotes from reviewers popping up everywhere.  This is because EA is focusing on both grabbing your attention and entertaining you, regardless as to whether you’re familiar with the game or not.

The Monster Hunter Tri advertising campaign is another great example.  In 2012, Capcom released the next installment of their incredibly successful Monster Hunter series in Japan for North America.  But how do you sell something that’s big in Japan in a place where it wasn’t popular yet?  Meet Ironbeard.

Ironbeard in all his glory. YouTube screengrab by me
Ironbeard in all his…bearded glory?

You sell your game by getting an awesome guy to dress up as a hunter from the game with a giant sword on his back, the flagship monster from the game in the back of his truck and send him to mall parking lots and fast food drive-thrus preaching the word of Monster Hunter to the world.  It’s so bizarre, yet simultaneously comedic, that you cannot possibly forget about Monster Hunter.  I had the honor of meeting Capcom’s marketing man at Wonder Con 2015 and told him how much I enjoyed these commercials.  He laughed and replied, “Could you tell that to a few CEO’s I know?”

Last but not least, I’d like to present a gem from Nintendo themselves.  Nintendo has had a reputation for being very family friendly, but they break this image every so often.  One instance was when the original Smash Bros released and Nintendo cooked up this ad.  It isn’t long before a walk through a meadow gets old and Mario and Pikachu are never friends again, huh?  This is humorous and lighthearted enough to get Nintendo fans interested while still being memorable and worthy of the Smash Bros. legacy.

So come on game companies!  You’ve already proven your creativity!  Let’s see more of these in the future.


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4 years ago

Great article! I think I might have to correct the videos though, it seems you accidentally put them in as HTML video (you just need the video URL instead)