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PlayStation Is Using Content To Build Communities Around Video Game Launches

Ahead of “Call of Duty: World War II” launch, head of Playstation Network Eric Lempel talks about creating unique experiences for a digital audience.

PlayStation Is Using Content To Build Communities Around Video Game Launches
[Photo: JESHOOTS.COM/Unsplash]

It’s been declared the top-selling console video game franchise of 2016, and with more than 250 million Call of Duty games sold around the world since it launched in 2003, ranks as one of the best-selling ever. This Friday marks the release of Call of Duty: World War II, and like any major entertainment property, there have been waves of hype and anticipation since the game was first announced.

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Turn back the clock 10 years, and it’s the type of game that would trigger fans to break out the lawn chairs and sleeping bags to camp overnight outside stores to be among the first to get their hands on a copy. But in the age of digital content, where gamers can download games directly to their console, that cultural moment is largely dead. It’s something Sony Playstation is trying to recreate in its own way by giving gamers new, modern ways to mark the launch of new games that bring that old school sense of community and experience into the digital realm.

The brand’s new “countdown-to-launch” program is a new initiative based on insights from consumer research that ultimately reflected how much gamers really miss midnight launch events. Head of Playstation Network Eric Lempel says they wanted to create a community experience, something for gamers to continue to follow the hype right up to the minute they can play the game. A few years ago, new technology allowed people to download the game before it released, and it would unlock and become playable the minute it was officially released.

“The idea is pretty simple, we’ve created virtual events on the console, taking members of our community team who are the hardest of hardcore gamers to host these launches, bringing in special guests like developers and voice actors to come talk about the game, right up to launch,” says Lempel.

Playstation built a site where you can see all the teasers and trailers, but also do little quests and challenges to learn more about the games, and get rewarded with things like avatars, themes, and IRL prizes. So far the brand has done countdown content events for Horizon Zero Dawn, MLB: The Show, Uncharted: Lost Legacy, and most recently Destiny 2.

“We listen to the gamers to see what they like about this program,” says Lempel. “With Call of Duty, we’re going to have the team behind the zombies mode talk about that, and likely revealing some things no one has heard before. It’s perfect for the hardcore Call of Duty gamers, who are rabid for any information on that title.”

As the cultural hype cycle often judges entertainment properties on opening week sales, creating exclusive content around game launches is a fun way to boost interest at the right time. But Lempel says it’s about more than that.

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“This isn’t really about boosting the opening week per se, it’s really about doing something for the community,” he says. “Giving them more access and excitement around the games. I will say, it probably won’t hurt sales, but it’s really just about figuring out how to celebrate these launches in a bigger way with our community.”

The next launch event will be leading up to the release of Star Wars: Battlefront II on November 17.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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