Videogame marketers to turn up ad firepower

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Electronic Arts, Hasbro Interactive and Midway Entertainment are among the many videogame publishers that will feed a deluge of advertising triggered by the growing acceptance of next-generation machines.

While an even greater onslaught is expected next year, this fall will prove numbing, with publishers particularly chasing Sony Computer Entertainment's PlayStation and even PC players.

Estimates are that videogame sales will reach $4 billion this year, up 100% from last year.


Midway will spend $20 million through June 1998 against nine titles, with most of it promoting three games now being introduced: Mortal Kombat Mythologies: The Adventures of Sub-Zero; San Francisco Rush; and Wayne Gretzky's 3-D Hockey '98.

With versions for both PlayStation and Nintendo Corp. of America's N64, analysts believe Midway will have a strong Christmas, especially since Nintendo won't be able to bring to market three key N64 titles of its own.

Electronic Arts will flood the airwaves with $30 million in media support for its powerful EA Sports brand over the next four months, up 30% from last year.

Odiorne Wilde Narraway & Partners, San Francisco, has crafted one overall brand spot and multiple spots for each of the four main titles.

Also in the works is a TV campaign for EA's Nuclear Strike game.

Most publishers are buying the TV programming that teen-age and young adult consumers watch, ranging from ESPN and MTV to syndicated fare like "Hercules" and "The X-Files."


EA's media budget for sports titles allows it to buy pricey sports programming, even including one unit on ABC's "NFL Monday Night Football.

It also has tie-ins with Fox Sports and Fox Sports Net. A 15-second spot for one of its sports titles will be sandwiched with a 15-second tune-in for Fox programming.

"The category has gone more mass market and we're going to a medium that has more of a mass reach," said Dave Neubecker, EA's director of promotions.

He added that the industry shift from cartridge to CD platforms has reduced costs and made TV spending more affordable.

The marketing mayhem also is being driven by the growth seen in the PC sector.

"Now that the PC market is made up of more consumers, mass-marketing tactics are more effective for them," said Sean McGowan, toy analyst for Gerard Klauer Mattison.


That's why Hasbro Interactive will launch in November a $3 million campaign, created by Griffin Bacal, New York, supporting Frogger for Windows 95 and Sony PlayStation.

Smaller TV pushes will back console and computer games inspired by Hasbro brands such as Monopoly, Pictionary and Tonka.

GT Interactive is supporting Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee on PlayStation and Windows 95 with a $10 million marketing campaign that began late last week, with ads by RDA International.

"We're doing things we've done before, but now just more of it--more TV, more print, more Internet promotion," said Holly Newman, GT's VP-marketing.

The artillery fire from these companies will compete against the megabuck marketing salvos from Nintendo, Sony and Sega Corp. of America for their own games, as well as hardware.

Sony is in the midst of a $100 million push consisting of individual campaigns for scores of titles from TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif.; Nintendo will soon break a single campaign from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, that encompasses both platform and games.

Sega, endeavoring to stay competitive with its Saturn system, has Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, shooting a TV campaign to break later this fall targeting core gamers with the tagline "Sega hard stuff."

Copyright September 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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