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Promoting Controversy: The Buzz and the Backlash Surrounding Grand Theft Auto V
Posted on by Pamela S.
Steal cars, drive fast, beat up and kill both men and women, and get 4,539,711 “likes” on your Facebook page. That’s what Grand Theft Auto V has accomplished. We aren’t promoting the violent video game, but we are going to show you how you can steal some marketing ideas from this controversial video game franchise and take advantage of the promotional methods used by the big video game companies. Grand Theft Auto V is the fifteenth title in the series created by Rockstar Games. It was released on September 17, 2013, to record sales. Yes, the graphics are spectacular, and apparently the story line is good, but the game isn’t for children, pacifists, or anyone who abhors violence. As a purely technical creation, it’s a marvel; as something that has an impact on our culture, it could be considered destructive. Grand Theft Auto V is the biggest selling digital release of all time for PlayStation. It’s also at the top of Xbox’s list. This isn’t a review of the game and we aren’t going to go into detail about the action. We aren’t even going to show you any of the promotional videos — it was difficult enough finding a screen shot that wasn’t potentially offensive to some people. However, obviously the game is fun to play or it wouldn’t have all those followers, and it’s sales speak for themselves. So the question is… how did they achieve this success?
Controversy isn’t Always a Bad Thing
This latest release has renewed the controversy, and while it’s still up for debate whether or not video games cause violent behavior any more than watching a movie or reading a book (should all of us literary types reading Cormac McCarthy be taking our fingers off the keyboard and taking up arms?), most users claim they know the difference between real and pretend violence. Of course, there are some people who have mental health issues and they may have been influenced by this type of game, and additionally, it’s inappropriate for children to play this game. But how does this controversy add up to high sales?
According to a number of news articles, when the first GTA game hit the market, the creators hired high-profile publicist Max Clifford to promote the more controversial aspects of the game by planting stories in the media. Whether people checked out the product due to curiosity or because some people are drawn to violent action, it worked. Once the public was hooked, the outcry over the senseless violence just fueled the fire and made it more popular. “Succès de scandale” or “success by scandal” has been a popular marketing concept since the days of the Belle Époque. Negative publicity doesn’t seem to have an impact on sales because their customers know what they want and don’t care what people think.
Back To the Business of Marketing: How You Can Promote Your Video Game
Rockstar makes the big bucks, so they can afford to put a lot of money into a huge marketing campaign, but there are many techies out there with budding dreams of developing a successful game franchise such as Grand Theft Auto. While there are video games for children and some softer games that are made to attract women, the top selling games are of the same ilk as GTA.
If you’re marketing a new game, build up anticipation by leaking small bits of information at a time. Try using trailers that don’t disclose too much at one time. The gaming community hasn’t fallen into into the same trap as the movie business. Movie trailers today give away almost the entire plot line. People complain about this, but the trailer is still the motivating factor in seeing the film. Game trailers do the same thing, but don’t give everything away. Surprises sell. The build-up to the release could also include special offers such as branded clothing and collectibles. A heavy social media campaign should also include contests.
Email marketing is also a great way to inspire followers of your game, so that you can become a franchise. Gamers read reviews, just like movie goers. There are dozens of gaming websites and blogs. Sharing your news through a secure email message is the best way to get the information out there, especially if you are providing reviewers with advance information that you don’t want leaked to the public . Connect all your marketing channels through your email campaign. Take advantage of the good and bad press. Controversy sells, but be respectful of the people who have concerns about your product and don’t be afraid to address those issues.