How to ‘break the mould’ of a video game launch

How to ‘break the mould’ of a video game launch
The Media Plan

THQ Nordic, with the help of Havas Entertainment, recreated the haunted house from the 1992 single-player video game Alone in the Dark and invited 20 influencers to visit it to mark the game’s reboot.

Content creators including AngryJoeShow, Gnu, MissMikkaa, PewDiePie and Rubius were first sent hand-crafted Alone in the Dark-themed puzzle boxes to solve on a coordinated live stream before making their way to the haunted house in the dead of night.

Realm Pictures converted a Victorian building on D’Oyly Carte Island to become the Derceto Manor of the original game, with influencers filming their adventure with Go-Pros while CCTV cameras also captured footage of them completing tasks similar to that in the game.

The attendees posted content of their experience to fans around the world via Twitch, TikTok, Twitch, Instagram and YouTube, while footage was also turned into a hero edit on YouTube.

A chance to break the mould

With a significant number of AAA games penned for release in Q1, THQ Nordic and Havas Entertainment saw “an opportunity to stand out by breaking the mould of traditional marketing” and set out to create “a never-been-done-before campaign” immersing the world’s biggest gaming influencers in an iconic scene from a game. In building an entire haunted house, they decided to “sacrifice reach for impact” in order to pack a punch.

“If there’s one thing we know, it’s that gamers are discerning and can spot a cynical marketing campaign a mile away,” explained Alexandra Etzine, client partner at Havas Entertainment. “That’s why we set out to build an activation that creates a meaningful moment in their culture — reintroducing gamers to the Alone in the Dark franchise by immersing their favourite influencers in the world.”

The campaign leveraged first-party data from endemic media partners to accurately target survival horror gamers. However, Havas Entertainment recognised that solely targeting them would miss “a large tract” of potential enthusiasts, such as people who had played the original Alone in the Dark but are no longer gamers and general horror film enthusiasts.

To target fans of horror entertainment more widely, the campaign partnered with horror-focused media company Bloody Disgusting, including a podcast episode dedicated to Alone in the Dark, podcast reads across the Bloody Disgusting Podcast Network, custom editorial and social amplification.

Meanwhile, an integration with publisher Future involved contextual horror content targeting to speak more to this audience.

A supporting digital campaign was planned for four weeks around the March launch date of the reboot, with accompanying OOH activity featuring the two protagonists of the game.

Partnerships with gaming publishers including IGN and Publisher Collective, as well as horror and entertainment media outlets such as Den of Geek, allow the game to expand into pop culture segments where there was a high crossover between film and gaming fans, in particular appealing to fans of David Harbour and Jodie Comer, who voiced the lead characters.

In addition, using first-party data, runs were posted on PlayStation News, which is displayed on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation apps to gamers who either follow Alone in the Dark or have played its demo.

More than a big budget

The campaign spanned two years of planning, 40 creators and the haunted house experience itself took place over nine days.

Sven Dwulecki, head of marketing at THQ Nordic, said: “This campaign is a perfect example of what you can achieve with creativity and passion, instead of just a big budget.

“We crafted the haunted house experience by pooling our collective creativity and focusing on what truly engages our audience. If you take a close look, you will find myriad references to both the original Alone in the Dark and our new game — it’s an extension of the world without spoiling a single moment of gameplay.

“Planning an activation like this is about smart ideas and teamwork, not just spending. This approach not only improved budget efficiency, but also created a memorable experience that stands out and makes people talk about what might or might not be in the game. It shows that, with the right vision and dedication, you can make a big impact, regardless of budget.”

Traditional metrics like cost per click could not quantify the success of the campaign, since it was an experiential activation. As such, Havas Entertainment created a bespoke social listening dashboard to track uplift in volume of mentions, engagement and sentiment. Mentions for Alone in the Dark increased by 234% week on week at the time of the experience. 

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