When a PlayStation teaser video  hit YouTube last week, it caused due speculation. Did the video, depicting two soldiers entering a tavern in the woods, herald a new game? Or new hardware?
Now they know: The full ad, debuting online today and shown here, is part of a PlayStation brand campaign, "Long Live Play," in which Sony celebrates gaming itself by bringing well known game characters to a live action film.
The campaign revolves around a two minute spot that features 25 game characters from Kratos to Sackboy paying homage to an omnipotent being, Michael, who stands in for gamers everywhere. "We have this incredible who's who, this hall-of-fame list of characters," says Scott Steinberg, Vice President of Product Marketing at Sony. So, the thinking goes, why not put them to work in the campaign?
For gamers, this was a chance to see some of their favorite characters from the over sixteen years of PlayStation history reimagined for the real world. Produced with a high attention to detail, the spot even features the voice actors from the games to lend authenticity. And though Sony is well represented in the ad, with Nathan Drake from Uncharted and Sweet Tooth from Twisted Metal, characters from other companies were also present: Ezio from Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed  series, Snake from Konami's Metal Gear Solid series, and even a cameo by Chell from Valve's Portal  series. Jason Elm, the executive creator director at Deutsch, says "We got all of the developers on board. And they helped us, giving us costumes they had, or giving us digital assets we used to create the weapons."
The commercial's creators wanted these recognizable figures from games to feel real, so what the game companies couldn't provide, Hollywood costume designers and prop makers carefully crafted. Even with that careful approach, some video-game makers were hesitant. "There was a little bit of reticence at first, but because people liked the idea so much, they trusted us," said Elm. "Sometimes we had to beg a little, and sometimes they were right on board." It took Deutsh and Sony five months to put it all together, working with 15 publishers to get all the characters just right. "No one has ever done a spot with multiple characters from many different games. No one has ever done anything with all those characters in one commercial, especially live action," said Elm. "There was a lot of headscratching about whether we would be able to pull this off. We didn't want this to feel like a costume party."
A 60-second version of the ad will run on ESPN, during Sunday and Monday Night Football. "We are focusing on a teen boy gamer, and we are going to be very aggressive in the media vehicles that target audience is either in or connected to," said Steinberg. And they expect the link to the full ad will be shared extensively, to the tune of 50 million impressions--the teaser currently has 2.4 million views. The campaign will then spread to Facebook, with an interactive component. Steinberg says, "We have a lot more of the campaign coming out in social and digital marketing, that turns over some aspects to our fans to personalize. That kind of customization is almost a game itself. It's very interactive and very personal." It all adds up to a campaign intended to push the PlayStation brand through the holiday season.
And while seeing digital characters fleshed out will impress players first, it is the message of the piece that Sony wants stay with them. "The hero of the spot is actually Michael. And that is a unique approach to gaming," said Steinberg.
Says Elm, "We wanted to make something that really demonstrated what it's like to play games and why gaming is so amazing. We want them to say, 'Yes! That's how I feel.'"