Hey, it’s been a bit of a rough PR week for Sony. We all know by now that the PS2 is the target of a long-rumored price break originally thought to be intended for the PS3. While a $99 PS2 would have been awesome back in 2002, it’s fairly easy to say that Sony has some work to do in convincing the gaming public that PS3 is a great platform for… wait for it… wait for it… gaming.
Today, Sony takes an excellent step in the right direction. Releasing over the PSN network today, Behind the Bullet is a free download which essentially turns a 30-second commercial into a three minute interactive experience. The Bullet Journey ad, featured for a while now on U.S. television, follows the path of a bullet during a battle between the ISA and Helghast (yes, I am a huge Killzone 2 fan, so it may get a little nerdy soon). The ad, a joint project between Guerrilla Games and Deutsch, is impressive not only in how it manages to display the scope and drama of a battle in Killzone 2, but also for the fact that it uses the Killzone 2 in-game engine entirely. No CGI folks, so we don’t have to rehash any E3 arguments. Let’s not go there.
Now players get to take control of the advertisement through the download on PSN. Viewers of the ad will be able to manipulate the camera to follow the bullet. In addition, the interactive ad will feature highlighted scenes and commentary from the director and visual artitsts involved on the project. Breaking through the clutter of traditional advertising, Behind the Bullet lets users become part of the ad. This creates a whole new level of immersion, and in a day and age where user-generated content is all the rage, Behind the Bullet lets the viewer become the director. This form of interactive advertising promotes a level of user engagement that fits very well with the gaming audience it intends to reach.
Are there any flaws to this approach in advertising? Well for one thing, this ad is more targeted for those who already own a PS3. After all, you need to have access to the PSN in order to view it. This may not sell consoles immediately, but it should help promote Killzone 2 and extend its user base. This in turn should help boost the positive word-of-mouth marketing already going for Killzone 2. And since Killzone 2 is a PS3 exclusive, ultimately Sony has to hope Killzone 2 is the “killer app” that will push PS3 off shelves. In a market crowded with excellent games and under tight economic constraints, games no longer have to launch as system-sellers. The “Halo effect” perhaps is a phenomenon that died last generation. Now, more planned-out, longer campaigns, such as the launch of the Behind the Bullet over a month after the release of the game, can be more effective in promoting and selling games and consoles.
I could easily see sports video games taking a similar approach in interactive advertising in the future. Who wouldn’t love to follow the pigskin as in lands in the hands of a receiver for a Superbowl-winning touchdown grab? In any event, I’m excited to download this today and try it out for myself. Killzone 2 has been just as compelling to play as any sports game this generation, and my hunt to secure a 1:1 K:D ratio (uber-nerdiness time) is all but .02 away from success (for those not so good at math, it is at .98 right now). I don’t need to be sold on Killzone 2 and PS3, but many in the gaming world still do. Sure the PS3 is not $99, but Sony is trying new things with advertising, something that anyone in this industry can respect and in my opinion, emulate in the future.