By James Brightman
Several weeks ago, we witnessed the first Battlefield 3 TV spots during prime time, at least six or seven months in advance of the game’s actual launch. EA’s very serious about taking the shooter category back from Activision, and the publisher expects to go toe-to-toe in a heavyweight fight this fall with Call of Duty. We were certainly surprised to see television ads as early as we did, however. IndustryGamers recently discussed the marketing approach with Lincoln Hirshberger, Senior Director of Marketing on Battlefield 3.
IndustryGamers: Can you talk about the strategy of marketing BF3 on prime time TV so far in advance of launch? How does getting the word out this early help?
Lincoln Hirshberger: With Battlefield 3, we believe that we have superior technology and gameplay. The gaming press validated this at GDC with a slew of accolades. We just need for everyone else in the mainstream to know that too. Last year, Battlefield Bad Company 2 earned better scores than the competition but, because Battlefield released in March, a lot of the mainstream Holiday hit buyers just weren’t aware that Battlefield was the better game. This year, we’re playing offence by launching Battlefield 3 in the holiday and we’re starting to get the word out early by kicking off our campaign to the mass market. We decided to go big early in order to establish a beachhead with a larger audience and so far the results have been fantastic.
IG: What does this say about EA’s attempt to capture the mainstream audience that associates “shooters” with Halo and Call of Duty?
LH: It says a lot. Before Halo and Call of Duty, there was Medal of honour. EA created that. So we know what it means to capture the mainstream audience, and it all starts with a great game. Armed with the advanced technology of the Frostbite 2 engine, signature Battlefield destruction, vehicles and multiplayer, and the advantage of a seasoned, experienced team who’ve been working together for over 6 years, we are confident that we are in position to grow our audience. We’d be crazy not to invest marketing resources targeting a mainstream audience early.
IG: Do you have any feedback on how well received the TV ad has been? Have you seen a major uptick in visitors to the BF3 site?
LH: Comments on message boards have been stellar and it scored a 9.5 on Gametrailers. In terms of the metrics, preorders are up 700% at the same point compared with our previous launch of Battlefield Bad Company 2. Website traffic, video views and other metrics are on a similar trajectory. Another key part of our strategy has been to fan the flames and create a network effect with the Battlefield community. The power of social networks is amazing and fun to watch. The TV campaign has jumped-started that effort by enlisting a lot of new FPS fans looking for something new and better.
IG: Will we see a constant flow of advertising from now until BF3’s launch, given that you’ve kicked off the campaign on TV?
LH: We have an aggressive campaign in place that will employ a variety of tactics, not just advertising. From now until launch you’ll see a constant flow of Publicity, Promotions, Retail, Community, SEO and Social activity.
IG: Has EA or other games companies ever started marketing this soon before release? I can’t remember EA doing it…
LH: One of the great things about EA is the world-class marketing team we’re able to draw experience from. Our EA SPORTS team pioneered some great early advertising for Madden NFL on the NFL draft. Other examples of early marketing include investments around creating marketing trailers for key events like E3. The Mass Effecttrailers from BioWare are good examples of early, epic marketing. That said, we spend a lot of time engineering the right spend to ensure we don’t over-invest too early, in order to be sure we also have the right share of voice at launch.
IG: One analyst told us that by marketing now, EA is “putting its stake in the ground.” Is this a message you’re sending to the industry and your competition?
LH: Yes, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Battlefield 3 is a great game. We all know that, and want to make sure everyone else does too. It’s up to the marketing campaign to ensure gamers know they have options this holiday.
IG: John Riccitiello recently indicated that there would be a couple hundred million thrown against BF3 and the next CoD. Can you talk about some of the unique ways these marketing dollars are being spent?
LH: Sure. I’ll give you three: 1. We’re investing a lot more focus in social networks. We built a Facebook tool that lets the community unlock special content. In just one week, our first effort more than doubled the Battlefield Facebook community (from 400K to +900K). 2. We’ve created a great offer for the Limited Edition – that includes our first expansion pack called Back to Karkand. Battlefield has always delivered a lot of great post launch expansion packs. 3. We’re building an online destination that will not only unify the Battlefield brands, but create a more immersive social network experience for Battlefield players. Whether you’re interested in the Play 4 Free type experience or full on HD console & PC gameplay, we’re investing in a Battlefield portal to ensure FPS fans find what they’re looking for.
IG: Are you concerned about the risk inherent in spending so much on marketing and development for a single title?
LH: We’re extremely focused on value. A key part of the new EA vision is to focus more on fewer, bigger games. Battlefield 3 is a perfect example of one of those outstanding games that we will support globally to give it the marketing campaign it deserves.