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How Assassin’s Creed is bolstering tourism in Ireland, Italy, and beyond

Video games are all about escaping from reality. Now they’re being used to market real-life escapes.

How Assassin’s Creed is bolstering tourism in Ireland, Italy, and beyond
[Image: Ubisoft]
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Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is the newest addition to the long-running Ubisoft gaming franchise. Released in 2020, it takes place in 872 to 878 AD and revolves around a fictional story set during the Viking invasion of Britain. Players control Eivor Varinsdottir, a Viking raider who becomes involved in a conflict between the Assassin Brotherhood and the Templar Order. So far, the series has crisscrossed the Crusades, the American Revolution, pirate ships, Victorian London, and more. Now, it’s also a tourism ad for Ireland.

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The game’s first extra downloadable content level is called Wrath of the Druids, bringing Eivor to Ireland, and in and around landmarks like Benbulbin, Hill of Tara, the Giant’s Causeway, and the city of Dublin. Tourism Ireland is partnering with popular gaming influencers, who regularly stream their gameplay, to showcase the  landscapes, rich culture, and folklore of Ireland to their hundreds of thousands of followers. Marketing director for Tourism Ireland Mark Henry says the goal is to highlight those places to gaming communities and encourage them to go beyond the screen. “We want to spike players’ curiosity about the featured locations and inspire them to come and explore them in the real world,” Henry said, in a statement.

Tourism Ireland reached out to Ubisoft about using the game as a marketing opportunity, and the game maker saw it as a win-win opportunity for both parties. There was no financial aspect to the deal. Tourism Ireland has a penchant for pop culture, having previously created marketing campaigns around both Star Wars and Game of Thrones.

It’s a first-of-its-kind tourism partnership for Ubisoft, but not the first time Assassin’s Creed has been uses for tourism. With more than 155 million copies sold, it’s one of the most popular video game franchises ever, and players have spent countless hours wandering its landscapes and scenes. During the pandemic, the franchise’s meticulous recreations of historic cities and locales was hailed as a travel alternative while stuck at home. An Italian tour operator has also licensed Assassin’s Creed II (released in 2009) as a setting for tours of Florence.

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Ubisoft’s strategic alliances director Amy Jenkins says that during the video game development phase, Ubisoft works with internal and external historians and experts to interpret real-life buildings and landmarks at that particular period of history. “While, of course, the settings are revisited for the purposes of the game, many of the in-game environments can still be visited in real life. This has inspired, ‘virtual tourism’ for our players,” Jenkins says in an email. “We also work with teachers, museums, and locations to use content from our games to show off real locations at the historical period in question. Discovery Tour is a fine illustration of this.”

In 2019, Ubisoft created its own virtual tours of ancient Greece, as bonus content around 2018’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey dubbed Discovery Tour mode. Assassin’s Creed Origins had an Ancient Egypt Discovery Tour, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla becomes the third version of the game with the feature, in which players can tour around the game’s surroundings without the threat of imminent (virtual) death.

About the author

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

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