Activision: TV advertising still needed for "blockbuster" games

Call of Duty publisher's VP of global marketing says if you want to sell 10 million or more copies of a console game, you can't bypass TV.

Despite the power of social media like Twitter and Facebook, traditional TV advertising remains critical for publishers who want to have a "blockbuster" game on their hands, according to Call of Duty publisher Activision's VP of global marketing Jonathan Anastas.

"If you want to sell 10 million or more copies of a console game, TV is not going away yet," he told the [a]list daily. "At that point, you're breaking into the 'blockbuster' game buyer, who may only buy one or two games a year and is not a deep follower of the genre or your brand."

"They may buy Halo in 2012 and GTA in 2013 and play Words With Friends in-between the two when not watching Netflix or playing Minecraft," he added. "I'm not going to convert that buyer on my Twitter feed."

Activision historically supports its yearly Call of Duty games with a traditional TV advertising campaign, while Electronic Arts' Titanfall, Namco Bandai's Dark Souls II, and Ubisoft's South Park: The Stick of Truth all enjoyed a healthy TV marketing push this year. All of these games made the top 10 sales list for March 2014 in the United States.

This is not to say that advertising through social media channels is not important, because it is, Anastas says. "Now, brands can build, aggregate and engage their own audiences, often with greater reach than the old media third parties," he said.

Advertising through social media has its own set of challenges, Anastas pointed out. "There's a huge amount of platform proliferation and fragmentation. SnapChat and WhatsApp have more [monthly active users] than Twitter."

"Brand consistency is fairly easy. That's style guide enforcement. What's hard is the development of true effective uses for each platform--best practices--as well as normalizing reporting and metrics. Is a Re-tweet the same as a share? Is a re-pin better or worse?"

This year's Call of Duty game is currently in development at Modern Warfare 3 co-developer Sledgehammer Games. The first image from this game appeared last week.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Discussion

26 comments
nl_skipper
nl_skipper

Doesn't Minecraft say hello...?


Maybe they have TV ads, I donno... but I really think with the availability of free advertising due to social media,  TV's ads are antiquated and overly expensive, and probably don't reach their intended audience the majority of times.


though I can't forget the lowest common denominator audience that this franchise goes after... they're probably the only people still watching TV with commercials.

stuff238
stuff238

T...V? Call of duty? TV? TV! TV! TV! TV! Call of duty!.......... Is this article about the xbone?

SpiderLuke
SpiderLuke

This is the age of streaming. Screw TV.

KimCheeWarriorX
KimCheeWarriorX

the best advertising for a game that comes to mind in recent memory is for black ops ii. first we had the initial ad, it featured known icons like robert downey jr, the fps russia guy, among others. however, my favorites were the ones starring peter stormare as the replacements for the dlc packs. i think its the first time in my life that i ever laughed at an advertisement for a game. if only all advertisements for games were that entertaining. i dont know if treyarch had a hand in the idea for the ads since they developed bo2 but if they did then kudos to them.

Hurvl
Hurvl

"if you want to sell 10 million or more copies of a console game, you can't bypass TV" Has Minecraft for 360 had a tv commercial? That game has sold 12 million, but I can't remember seeing or hearing about a tv commercial for it. I only rarely see commercials for games on TV, though, here in Sweden.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Well sure, how else would you reach your target audience if you couldn't advertise on "Real Housewives of New Jersey"?

Senor_Kami
Senor_Kami

TV is still a major platform for advertising a product to the masses.  No shit, Sherlock.

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

Some games can benefit from TV advertising . Ones that are military/action/shooter and or sci fi can benefit from advertising on channels like the SCI FI channel.  Like for example Destiny, there are lots of people I'm sure that are interested in that game but don't/can't/won't visit a gaming site. A good commercial showing gameplay would go a long way on the SYFY channel and CW. Other games I'm not so sure about.

19James89
19James89

Any form of media is vital for marketing, TV is expensive but it is damn sure extremely effective.

BabeNewelll
BabeNewelll

Or buy your own game millions of times to artificially inflate you're figures like you already do with call of doody.

DARREN636
DARREN636

I have absolutely no idea what that man is talking about.

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

The only people watching tv nowadays are the older generation.. the ones who don't care about video games. TV advertising is a waste of money imo. 

Vast majority of us in the gamer generation are on our PCs watching streaming shows.

nl_skipper
nl_skipper

@KimCheeWarriorX  Too bad they spend about double or more on their marketing campaign compared to the ACTUAL GAME DEVELOPMENT...

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

@Hurvl You have a point, but I disagree with it.  Yes, there are games that become widely popular with no t.v. promotion, like Minecraft, Candy Crush, Flappy Bird, Angry Birds (back in the day), etc.  However they are anomalies or outliers out of many thousands of games.  Their example illustrates the "person who" folly, which is saying a trend is incorrect b/c I know individuals that don't follow the predictions of the trend.  Trends are trends, not absolutes. 


You can bet over the years a powerhouse like Activision has run pilots of their t.v. ads and have found ways to find out if they correlate with increased sales, and if those increased sales were worth the cost of advertising, probably by doing tests in certain markets.  And they probably very scientific of when and where to advertise on t.v. as well (channel, time, day of week, certain shows to advertise during, etc).  Even using crappy Eminem music was helpful as well, since he's sells music so well (for some reason).

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@Hurvl No, you're right, they're just lying through their teeth.  I have never seen a Minecraft commercial.

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

@Thanatos2k The housewives don't have a job, and are likely watched by a lot of housewives and other people with no jobs, and people without jobs have more time to game. :)

hystavito
hystavito

@Senor_Kami  But In think this is actually an important thing to take note of for the many "Sherlocks" we often have in Gamespot comments :).  I don't mean that to be insulting, it's not that they are stupid.  It's just easy for them to forget that there are masses of people out there that buy video games but do not read/follow/research gaming news or communities at all.

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

@Senor_Kami I think Nintendo Could have benefited  lot from good advertising when they launched the Wii U. But they waited over a year before doing any on TV. And then the commercials are questionable at best.

Malaphisis
Malaphisis

@spartanx169x  yea even for cod, gameplay would be way better, stupid eminem and explosions does not showcase the superior tdm that cod has.

Gallowhand
Gallowhand

@GSGuy321  - That's quite a sweeping statement, and not really accurate.  There are plenty of younger people not interested in games, and plenty of older people who are, and vice versa when it comes to TV.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@spacecadet25 @HurvlI wasn't trying to prove them wrong by pointing out *one* exception, I mostly just wanted to be a bit obstinate and at the same time show that not all games get successful with one method. CoD games probably have a lot of fans that might not play many other games and wouldn't read about games, even if an article blew into their face. TV ads are important to catch their attention, to stimulate brand awareness and all that jazz.

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

@spartanx169x @Senor_Kami Totally agree, Nintendo sorely needed t.v. advertisement.  The Wii U was practically launched silently.  I didn't know it was out until long after the launch, and even more importantly, when I first heard of it I assumed it was yet another Nintendo handheld.  Neither thing would have happened if they had commercials.

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

@Malaphisis @spartanx169x Yes, gameplay is huge, even when I just watch trailers for games online, if it's all just a bunch of cut-scenes, no matter how cool they look, I still stop the trailer, since gameplay is king, not cutscenes.


And yes Eminem is annoying as hell, this is what his song sounds like on the Call of Duty Trailer, "bah, bah, bah, blah, habba, hab, ha...I'll smack you in the face!  Blah, blah, ha, blobba, ha, ha, bop... I'm gonna cut you bitch" (or MF'r, whatever).