Sunday, October 31, 2010

Undead Nightmare Anything But for Rockstar Games

Just in time for Halloween, Rockstar Games has released its Undead Nightmare downloadable content (DLC), and the company might have a hit on its hands. Only time will tell, but one thing that's for certain is that the actions taken by Rockstar and its affiliates surrounding this release seem pretty smart. Perhaps it's just another example of the ever-growing gaming industry doing some smart PR.

If you aren't familiar with the video game world, DLC is content that gamers can download directly to their Xboxes and Playstations, usually as an add-on chapter to a full game they've already purchased in disc form. In this case, Undead Nightmare is a horror-themed add-on for the hit game Red Dead Redemption, the open-world Western journey of an outlaw across the American frontier in the early 1900s. What the new DLC does is essentially transform that world into a horror film, bringing back characters from the dead as zombies into the world players have already explored.

There are several reasons that Rockstar deserves credit from the business/advertising/PR standpoint for this move:

1. Zombies are a hot topic right now in pop culture, regardless of what season it is. The success of books such as World War Z, podcasts like We're Alive, movies in the vein of Zombieland and new TV releases such as The Walking Dead, have fed the market. While video games like Resident Evil and Left 4 Dead have been popular for years, capitalizing on the current popularity of zombies is likely a good idea.

2. Rockstar isn't just cashing in on an opportunity in the marketplace here, though. The company is known for making quality games, not just putting out products to make a quick dime. The fact that this DLC is a followup to one of the year's best-reviewed games means Rockstar is giving gamers more of what they want.

3. What really grabbed my attention here was that Undead Nightmare was advertised on TV, and the release being coordinated with Halloween (with ads on channels playing Halloween movies about zombies and such) is just one great promotional move by everyone involved with the project. Also, please leave comments on this blog post if I'm wrong, but I think this is the first time I have ever seen DLC advertised on TV instead of just a standalone game. (Note: Is this a first? I've tried confirming online but can't seem to find out. I've been thinking really hard about this and can't think of another ad for DLC on TV before. Unless they did this before with some of the extra GTA content?)

4. The coordination with Halloween audiences on TV was great, but just the idea of getting the word out about DLC is also a good idea. How often does new content release for video games but gamers have already moved on to another title? Giving them a little reminder somewhere other than their Xbox Live dashboard (because let's face it, that thing requires a lot of scrolling to find anything) certainly seems like a great piece of the strategic communication strategy behind this DLC's launch.

What else do you think Rockstar has done right/wrong with the communication about its products? Leave it in the comments!