A Slight Change in Focus: Grand Theft Auto V and why it took over the gaming world

Ever since beta feedback was received for my project, it had come to my attention that my focus had become too wide and there are many aspects that need to be refined and focused on. I realise that I need to focus on games that advertised really well or really badly, the techniques that were used and ensure that I define what constitutes good or bad advertising. My research was not focused enough and this hopefully will now reel me in a bit to get the project back to what was originally pitched. So, without further-a-do, let me introduce to you one of the biggest games of the past decade, GTA5.

I seriously doubt there is anyone who is reading this who has not heard to Grand Theft Auto V. The game was released in 2013 and in the first 24 hours of its release it made just over $800 million (USD). This game went on to actually break 7 World Records and even though its 7 years old, it is still one of the biggest games on the market. So, what did Rockstar Games do so well? How did they advertise the game and what were the techniques that were obviously utilised so effectively? That’s what we are looking into here, so let start with how this game was originally advertised.

A very good point was made in an article that I read, it stated that one of the reasons that the game was so successful was because the marketing campaign did not start when the game was released, in fact the first trailer for the game was released 2 years in advance! Imagine having the foresight to begin advertising for a game that far before its release. Rockstar games had an original $150 budget for advertising and man did they use it well.

So what did this early taste of the game do to all keen video game consumers? Well, this brilliant marketing strategy instantly put the game in the front of the consumers mind. There were four previous GTA games that came before GTA 5, meaning there was an already established universe and fan base. The anticipation and potential that the new game could hold is what kept consumers on the edge of their seats and waiting for any new updates for a game that could bring everything they wanted to a game universe that already existed. This is a marketing technique that is used effectively by other game developers. Nintendo used it with the new Pokemon games and the subsequent expansion packs. Early footage of the game was released for Pokemon Sword and Shield almost a year before its release. The game showed revolutionary gameplay updates never seen before in the franchise and this created the hype that made the games sell so well when it was eventually released in November of 2019. Rockstar did the same thing with GTA 5 and it worked in the same way.

A very important aspect of marketing for any campaign is something called Earned Media. If you want to find out more about earned media press the hyper-link but put simply, earned media is when a product is originally advertised and then continued to be promoted through methods that do not cost any extra money to the developer. The gaming industry takes a very interesting stance on earned media, something that is very unique to the industry. After the game trailer was released, fans made their own trailers in the existing game, recreating it scene by scene. This speaks volumes to how involved the fans are in the community and the want for a new game and becoming involved in the new game. I mean, the game was not even out yet and the word was already being recreated. This kind of promotion from fans in the exisiting GTA community is awesome earned media as now Rockstar have created hype and intrigue surrounding their game early. In the following years, many more “leaked” footage and maps were dropped which were probably strategic releases from Rockstar to keep fans invested in the release and other forms of earned media flowing.

So why does all this constitute as good advertising? From what I have described, it seems like these points, especially the one about earned media, demonstrated that Rockstar did very little, however, thats not quite the point I’m making. When you attempt to evaluate what makes a good marketing campaign, there are a few things that need to be addressed. Who your target market is and shape your campaign accordingly, promotion and distribution of your campaign are critical and what content you have produced for you campaign. All of these, when compared to what Rockstar did even in the early stages it is clear it was an effective advertising campaign. They had a very clearly defined audience, that defined audience encouraged promotion and extra distribution through some earned media marketing techniques and the the video content that was being produced gave a very visual sample to the prospective consumer it what is a very visual industry.

The word hype has been thrown around a lot in this post and for good reason. The advertising campaign and the techniques used by Rockstar for GTA 5 all were used to create hype around a new game in a community that was already heavily involved in the franchise. The thousands of forums that exist discussing the games would have gone nuts talking and sharing and trying to predict what would come next. GTA 5 is such an awesome example of what a well planned campaign can do and also the power of earned media, un-paid promotion gives validity and helps the distribution of content. All this helped GTA 5 become one of the biggest games in the world.

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