With all the main lights suddenly extinguished, Oracle Arena, the home of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, is very dark. No one can see Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry, and the always-formidable opponents, the San Antonio Spurs, are nowhere to be found.
Then, just as suddenly as the arena went black, there’s brightness: The Jumbotron hanging over center court lights up, and on it appears two animated characters, Kratos, a fearsome warrior, and Atreus, his small son. The father exhorts his child to do better with his bow and arrow.
And then, a chance to perform: The court itself lights up, itself looking oddly like a giant screen. And on it, amid a snowy, forest landscape, father and son find themselves fighting for their lives against oncoming attackers. This time, the son does not miss, and one by one, the marauders go down.
This strange spectacle, showcased tonight during halftime of the Warriors-Spurs game, is the two-minute long “War on the Floor,” a promotion for the forthcoming Sony PlayStation 4 game God of War.
The exhibition is an example of a technology called projection mapping. Produced by BBH New York, the halftime show is an exquisite artistic achievement, generated by the actual God of War game engine, and perfectly by eight DLP within the confines of the basketball court, and looking every bit like it is itself a giant video game.
“We leverage a lot of traditional marketing and media, [things like] traditional broadcast and digital [ads], but sometimes we want to do things that transcend gaming,” says Asad Qizilbash, vice president of marketing for Sony PlayStation. “We want to do things that go into cultural conversations.”
There’s no guarantee, of course, that anyone will do Sony’s bidding, but the idea is that the nearly 20,000 people in attendance will be shooting video on their phones while the “War on the Floor” show is in action, and will then quickly post what they saw to any number of social platforms. At the same ESPN showed a 30-second TV commercial just before the end of halftime of the Warriors-Spurs game that highlighted the “War on the Floor” spectacle.
To Sony, the idea is to reach beyond the core gamers PlayStation marketing usually aims for. Qizilbash knows that there is a lot of crossover, though, between basketball fans and gamers, and believes that “War on the Floor” will quickly become, for a moment at least, part of the zeitgeist. And while Sony has never done anything like projection-mapping a video game scene on an NBA floor before, it recently “blew up the internet for a couple days” with a video showcasing a PlayStation partnership with Nike.
PlayStation’s headquarters is in Foster City, California, not far from the Warriors’ Oakland home, and Sony’s gaming arm is already a Warriors partner, so it made sense to pull off the “War on the Floor” spectacle in front of the reigning champions’ rabid fans. But Qizilbash knows that it’s not enough for just the 20,000 in attendance tonight to see the show. They also have to share it far and wide–and so do people who see a longer video showing the actual in-arena experience that will drop online tomorrow.
Qizilbash says PlayStation and its partners at BBH New York spent about a month working on the “War on the Floor” story, along with the technology powering the activation. And he says that project’s biggest challenge was trying to tell a story about God of War in a two-minute presentation on an NBA floor–something no one who went to the game was expecting. But in the end, the video does illustrate all of God of War‘s most essential elements, he says: Big boss battles, beautiful environments, and a whole lot of combat.
“The measure for us is the social amplification,” he says. “The conversation and engagement. The way we look at it, yeah, you could spend money on advertising [but] for us, it all starts with a great sharable piece of content. The network effect of those 20,000 people, sharing the video on their phones, tweeting it out on social, [plus the commercial on ESPN], it creates a lot of conversation and sharing, and that’s the ROI we’re going to measure.”