'Alan Wake' Online Video Prequel Series

When You Can't Buy a Ton of TV, Go Deep With Your Core

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If you don't know who Alan Wake is, you're probably not a gamer. "Alan Wake" is a video game for Xbox 360 that was highly anticipated before its release. The traditional blueprint for launching a major video game tends to involve posters everywhere and a lot of TV. Broadcast media works, but it is expensive and was beyond the budget for the launch of "Alan Wake."

To put gaming budgets in perspective, a blockbuster video game can have a media spend of £2.5 million ($3.9 million) in the UK; "Alan Wake," however, had to achieve blockbuster results with a similar budget covering the whole of Europe. "Alan Wake" was launched last May after a considerable delay -- a full five years after its initial announcement. This delay afforded the title a degree of notoriety among gamers -- the hardcore young men who live and breathe gaming. The general public may not have heard of "Alan Wake," but informed gamers were intrigued, and informed gamers buy games.

The "Alan Wake" team chose to use this situation to their advantage. Their idea was to build on this intrigue and create genuine anticipation. But instead of taking a simple message to a wide audience, they would deliver a rich experience to a small, core group and elevate the mythic status of Alan Wake.

Today's TV dramas use a series of techniques to ramp up the tension and leave the audience wanting more: Cliff-hangers, fades to black, "Tune in next week to find out what happens." The "Alan Wake" strategy was to mimic this trick. Knowing that gamers are happy to download content, its marketers developed an online video series serving as a prequel. The series would tell the tale of the mysterious town of Bright Falls, where the game's action takes place. These episodes were released in the weeks preceding launch, with the final film ending at the starting point of the game. Consumers had to buy the "Alan Wake" game to find out what happens next.

But reach was still a goal -- and a benefit. Buying in scale across markets delivered cheaper ad rates, as much as 25% lower, than "Alan Wake" would have achieved if it made smaller buys in each individual market. A highly targeted Facebook strategy achieved 100 million impressions; Machinima, the video platform favored by gamers, attracted more than 11 million impacts against the core gamer audience. To date, the five-minute episodes have been viewed 3.8 million times. During launch week on Xbox "Alan Wake" outsold the Official FIFA 2010 World Cup game and went straight to No. 1 in the best-seller charts.

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