Contact: Becca Wright, VP of Marketing Solutions
Location: San Francisco, CA
Industry: Gaming and Entertainment, Collaborative (Social) Publishing
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: 130
The words "engagement" and "hypertargeting" are on everyone's lips, but what happens when you combine the two? Gaming giant Bethesda Softworks found out when it ran a diverse campaign on Wikia that captured the interest of core, active, and casual fans.
In the months leading up to the holiday season, video-game makers unleash the biggest titles of the year. In 2011, pre-existing AAA franchises, such as Gears of War, Call of Duty, Batman, and Assassin's Creed were all vying to have the hottest sequel among the new fall releases.
Bethesda Softworks, maker of popular titles Fallout 3 and Rage, knew it was releasing the next chapter of the Elder Scrolls saga into a crowded, competitive market. It tasked its agency, the New York-based Fearless Media, with the challenge of capturing the attention of videogame players.
Specifically, Bethesda's goals were to do the following:
- Break through the clutter of fall gaming launch season
- Drive pre-order sales
- Build awareness among the M18-34 demographic
- Connect with core, active, and casual fans
As part of its strategic media plan, Fearless turned to Wikia, a collaborative publishing and Top 5 gaming site, with a wiki dedicated entirely to the Elder Scrolls series.
Since The Elder Scrolls Wiki (TESW) was founded in January 2008, it has been the No. 1 source for detailed information about the game's ongoing storyline, characters, weapons, and real-time news updates. TESW currently gets 5.2 million monthly unique visitors worldwide. As a self-regulated community, the quality of the content has remained high even as the amount of content has exponentially grown. Six of the most active users (or "administrators") keep watch over the site's content and help other users contribute and participate in activities, such as chat, Top 10 lists, and polls.
As a brand, getting involved in a community like TESW is invaluable for reaching a game's power players—those whose voices are strong and influential within the video game community. But Fearless and Bethesda wanted to reach a wide variety of users, from those who might consider buying their products for a friend after seeing a display ad, to gamers who play other games but who might be converted after watching the trailer.
They wanted to run a sophisticated campaign that would target users by level of engagement.
By understanding each type of user, how vested she already is in the brand, and her motivations for interacting with it, Wikia was able to provide a set of solutions that addressed each group:
"It was a no-brainer. The audience was already there, and it was just a matter of leveraging that audience. Banner ads are fine, however our strategy around Wikia was to establish a platform for users to engage with content and other users, nurturing organic community growth."
- Richard Oh–Digital Media Supervisor, Fearless Media
The campaign began in August and ran through the end of the year. Before the year's end, it had already proven to be one of Wikia's most successful gaming campaigns to date.
- 30,000 entries
- In five weeks, over 6,300 fans had played the Elder Scrolls Trivia game.
- In four weeks, fans had ranked over 1,300 games and interacted with the widget 50,000 times.
One of the most exciting responses came from the core group of fans. The "History of the Elder Scrolls" blog post Wikia elicited from the game developers was a huge hit, with more than 300 comments from fans expressing their enthusiasm for Bethesda's involvement.
Here are two of those fan quotes:
"The developers of the game we worship!"
"A blog post created by Bethesda Softworks? Excuse me, while I must go down to the cellar and open the finest bottle of wine I have got."
An equally surprising side benefit that boosted the results of the campaign was the incredible growth of the wiki in a short amount of time. A few days before the 11-11-11 release date, Wikia staff member JoePlay congratulated the community on reaching 7,000 pages. Just two weeks later, on November 22— two days before Black Friday—the site had grown by nearly 30% to 9,000 pages, and traffic skyrocketed. Suddenly, a campaign that reached 2.5 million people now was reaching 5 million.
"Wikia was not only a natural fit endemically, but was able to activate an audience hungry to engage with their passions. Beyond the standard brand presence, Wikia's intimate knowledge of the gaming vertical, as well as the ability to create custom executions, provides a compelling value for users."
- Daniel Finnegan–Senior Media Planner at Fearless Media
"The program exceeded all of our expectations."
- Richard Oh–Digital Media Supervisor, Fearless Media
- Use "fan type" categories: core, active, and casual. Sure, you may know the exact demographics of your target audience, but if you take it one step further, you'll be able to gain a deeper understanding of what to communicate, and how.
- Reward accordingly. For the different fan categories, think about what that customer would want as a reward. For the video sweepstakes, Wikia offered a prize reward for watching the trailer and interacting with the brand because that type of user required it. But for the series retrospective, fans were already vested, so the brand itself became the reward. Those fans value the brand so much that the exclusive content from the game developers was more than enough.
- Build from existing enthusiasm. For sequel releases, enough brand equity usually exists to both attract new customers and deepen the commitment of your hardcore fans. Provide the right content and experiences, and you'll increase that level of enthusiasm even more.
- Invest in an active, growing audience. Game releases create a lot of buzz in editorial media, but they are soon eclipsed by tomorrow's news. Consider applying your budget to a living and thriving destination with visitors and contributors that won't burn out in a few days.
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