Every so often, we comment on here about how Sega never advertises their games unless they have a blue hedgehog in them.
Well... here we have a game with a blue hedgehog in it, so... how was the promotion for the game? Now before we begin, I'm going to say that the focus of this is going to be mainly on Sega and not Sumo, the reason being is that Sega ultimately decides how the game is going to be promoted and what will be shown at what period of time. This is something that has been said constantly. Notice how the Sumo guys can't talk about stuff that people have found on the disk. But will talk about stuff that has been annoinced.
So how was the promotion by Sega handled? In my opinion, not very good at all.
Here we have what is Segas big end of year title, which by all accounts has recieved universal praise from both critics and gamers... yet the only one not singing it's praise would be Sega. Shall we take a look at the promotion for this game and see why I think it's been quite bad?
So initially there were a few leaks and rumors and then after a few interesting tweets, people figured out that Sumo was making a new Sonic game of some kind, then we got the whole 'it's ASRT with transforming vehicles!' and it looked quite cool, nobody was really saying they thought it was terrible idea and the reaction was quite positive, even in the wider gaming world, the reaction was more or less 'Hey the first one was quite cool, will be keeping an eye on this!'
We've had a number of games recently which had a marketing plot of 'this game has multiple characters from several series.' Smash Bros Brawl, Playstation All-Stars, Mortal Kombat (Vs DC, MK 9 etc etc), Marvel Vs Capcom 3, Mario Kart, that urm... DC beat em up game thats coming out and I'm sure theres one or two others...
Now... there are a few exceptions with this... but usually, the make a great big fuss over a character reveal. In fact most of Brawls entire marketing was around character reveals. Had it not all been leaked. Marvel Vs Capcom had a similar idea before they left all the characters on the
Now lets look at how Sega handled...
WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD! WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD!
A bit of a disclaimer, these are going off my own memory based on the impact said announcement had. So if I miss anyone out, put it down to the fact it didn't have much impact when it was announced. Anyway...
We got the initial band of characters with the announcements, and then... well... Would I be wrong in thinking that out of the entire character roster, only the following had any form of 'announcement.'
Danica, Ralph, Nights and Reala.
No really, that was it, and even then theres one big 'well technically' from those which I'll explain later.
From memory, this is how we found out about some of the characters.
Gum: a single line from Nintendo Power (some Nintendo magazine). We wouldn't actually see her until the game came out (not sure on that one).
MeeMee: First spotted at that random games event Sumo went to. This wasn't announced, even S0L admitted that it was an oversight and that Sega would probably be having words, and we wouldn't have seen her had it not been for that guy who filmed the event.
Ulala & Shadow: They were included in some random screenshots that got randomly released on a random rainy thursday. No big reveal or anything.
In fact, this was the screen which was the first time we ever saw Ulala in the game.
Ok... Ulala is in the game... so... that's exciting I guess? Shadow was the same, only he appeared in two screenshots.
Joe: This is how we found out joe would be in the game.
No really, that was the announcement. From an IGN article on the game.
The only ones that I can think of which got revealed in a trailer of sorts before a still screen or tidbit like Gum was the following.
and... that was about it... ok remember these are going off my own memory based on the impact they had. The only reason I remeber Gilius is because I did the TSS update for it and screen capped the image of him holding his hands above his head since I couldn't find a screenshot. Vyse, because in the CG sequence, he shoots missiles at Sonic which I thought was cool.
Theres probably more... but like I said, these are going by memory.
So then... lets go back to the 4 which did have some sort of fanfare announcement.
Ralph: Announced at Sonic Boom in the USA about a week after SOS. Now lets look at this for a moment.
That is.... AWESOME! The director of Wreck it Ralph gets on stage, talks about the movie, shows some clips of the Sonic cameos... then Steve Lycett gets on stage and before anyone can say 'what the heck are you doing there!? HE DROPS THE MEGATON! Here comes the announcement of Ralph, here comes the gameplay footage and the crowd goes wild!
This was an awesome announcement, it went down really well and was one hell of a bomshell, nobody saw this coming and the reaction was main positive.
And yet it was never announced outside of Boom...
Ok well there was an announcement of sorts, one random website got some still screenshots of Ralph, but the video never made it outside of Boom, in fact it wasn't for weeks later that we saw some video of Ralph, and about a month before the game was released that we got an official Ralph trailer.
Remember, Boom never had a live stream, it never had an official website of it's own, had it not been for people filming Boom, nobody outside of it would ever have seen this scene.
Why not? The video was clearly good enough to be shown at a live public event, why not as it's own trailer?
Nights & Reala:
This is a similar story to Ralph, only it's even more strange how unannounced this ended up being. Nights and Reala got announced at Summer of Sonic. However, again, had it not been for the live stream or people there at the venue filming it, this again would have gone unoticed with the exception of written reports. However, unlike Ralph we didn't even get screenshots. We just had the video that S0L made which was never released outside of the SOS website... which is a fan controlled thing, not by Sega.
And why not? It was clearly good enough to be shown off via official channels, yet it didn't.
So theres someone we're missing... who have I forgot
Oh there she is.
Does anyone remember the moments before it was announced. Sega tweeted and hinted that it was a major announcement and character reveal. Everybody was excited, nobody was off limits as to who it was. The usual suspects were being named as well as some wildcards. Then we got this picture tweeted.
Oh god! Excitement was at it's peak! Nothing was going to stop Sega now and then... this happened.
"Danica Patrick is joining the cast of ASRT!"
Needless to say... it didn't go down well... A lot of people agreed, "this decision was fucking stupid" Now, lets not slag off Danica herself here. Danica is a really great driver, behind the wheel she can drive rings around every member of this forum and most likely the entire Sonic fanbase... The problem was that this was a marketing stunt in it's most obvious and obnoxious form. Nobody interested in the game saw it as anything other than that.
In fact it wasn't until S0L told people that she was an extra and not replacement for anyone that people calmed down.
But... lets look at this announcement in another way shall we.
It's been confirmed that Danica was almost cut from the EU version of the game. That alone speaks volumes. Sega knew that this character/sport has virtually no interest outside the USA, and even then from people talking on here, it's only a few states in the south of the country that Nascar is a big popular thing.
So who exactly was this supposed to appeal to? Nascar fans? Well... heres my question. Why would Nascar fans buy a game that plays nothing like Nascar? The cars are not Nascar, the tracks are not Nascar, even the number of racers isn't the same as Nascar?
Despite a really really obvious joke I could make now, I doubt the fans of Nascar are stupid, I doubt they look at this game and say 'thats a Nascar game!' and I doubt Sega are that stupid to think that they'd go 'hey thats a Nascar game!'
So again... who exactly was this announcement aimed at?
Now this leads me to my next question.
What exactly did this deal do for the game?
Again, not slagging off Danica here. But what did Danica's inclusion/the deal between Sega & Danica's people do for the game? If the intention was promotion and increase in Sales, exactly how did this work?
Well... we had the initial E3 announcement which totally bombed and backfired... though we had the awesome looking ASRT themed car... which doesn't appear in the game... These are all the things I can think of.
The Texas Motor Speedway Race: The ASRT themed car makes its debut! And SSMB attempts to watch it! So Danica is driving around in the ASRT themed car in a race watched by... .. .. a lot of people! And she actually does really well.
So... what... ASRT gets more pre-orders? The car looks cool, but unless Danica won the race and shocked the Nascar world, I really can't see this doing much in terms of selling the game and promoting it.
Speeding To Read: This was by far one of the most random promotional things for this game. The racetrack, Texas Motor Speedway has a pro reading campaign for kids. The Nascar drivers take part in it, including Danica Patrick... and then Sonic just randomly decided to turn up. No really. Up until this point, Sega had not done anything towards this (that I can find), Danica comes on stage and Sonic hands out some ASRT promotional items, holds up some books, poses for photos with the kids... and thats it. Even the official promotional things for this campaign barely mention Sonic being there, let alone ASRT.
Danica's Tweets: To be fair here, Danica has tweeted a lot about this game, when her inclusion was announced, when the first screens of her appeared, and on the games release date. Danica has actually promoted the game via twitter.
For me, looking at this, it doesn't appear that this promotion has done exactly much for the game... But lets look at it another way.
So Danica was nearly cut from the EU game? And in it's place was...?
Yes, Danica was almost removed from the EU version of the game (I can't find the exact line, but it has been mentioned by S0L somewhere on SSMB). Ok, lets put aside the whole fact that the EU would be one character down for just a while... lets look at this.
If Danica's inclusion was such a marketing promotional tool, what was in it's place for the rest of the EU? In fact, what is in it's place? Nascar is not popular at all outside of the southern US states, so the rest of the world? Exactly how is this supposed to appeal, or even remotely sell the game?
Remember the race that the ASRT themed car that Danica drove in that race? The only way to see it outside of the US was via Sky TV on one of the lesser known sports channels. There is no way that unless you had an interest in Nascar you'd ever find the channel it was on, let alone accidentally stumble upon it.
So what exactly was there for the EU/rest of the world?
Theres nothing. No really, theres nothing. If Nascar/Danica was one of the main driving forces of promotion, a device to appeal to both gamers and non gamers who had an interest in motor racing...
The only thing to sell the game to people outside the US is the game itself, which is fine, it's certainly strong enough but... . ... anyone seen anything other than the usual trailers which do this? Theres no TV spots here in the EU, theres no specific promotionals for the EU other than the limited edition of the game. Yet theres no song and dance about it.
Now some may say, well theres Wreck it Ralph. For the US, yes I agree, this was a great promotional tie in and the release date of the movie and the game isn't too far away. But for Europe? We have to wait until 2013 to see it!
With regards to the rest of the world, the only thing I've seen here in the UK with regards to promotion would be an entire back page cover advert on the newest issue of the Simpsons comic. Otherwise... very little else.
The TV Spot
Now... I for one... don't like this... but a lot of other people do. Many people have said that they got a 90's vibe from the advert and that it reminded them of the old videogame comercials that they grew up with.
Yeah I can understand that.
But... I have a number of problems with it that can be summerised in one point.
1: It doesn't tell/show you anything that the game is about!
In that 33 seconds less than 5 actually show you the game, and what does it show you? Danica. Yup, the focus is on Danica in the entire 5 seconds, you get a glimpse of Sonic and Tails, but otherwise, it's just Danica, and I've already gone over why I don't think her use as an advertising tool works that well. And what course do we see? Panzar Dragoon. Panzar dragoon is a really awesome stage where you drive, sail and fly around a canyon thats being bombarded by dragons... here we see... none of that... Oh theres also about 2 seconds worth of Seaside Hill, and you get a tiny glimpse of the seaside hill monster.. but otherwise... nothing...
Would it not have been more interesting to show the giant skelleton from Golden Axe? How about the entire monster from Seaside Hill? Or... I dunno... ANYTHING OTHER THAN A BROWN ROAD!?
But I admit, I think I'm alone on this as many people seem to like this. But I would say as a counter to that. These adverts are to be shown on TV, they're going to be seen by people who are not gamers and are not old enough to remember the 90's adverts. Furthermore, they're also going to be seen by a contemporary audience that is being blasted on a daily basis by advertising that is of a '2012' standard... for that audience, this is an advert that I just don't think works.
Whilst I said I would focus mainly on Sega, If there is any gold star award for promoting a product, Sumo wins it. We've had constant talks and conversations with them during the entire production of the game, they've come to conferences and game conventions to talk about the game openly and show it off. Heck even S0L agreed to be a special guest on Summer of Sonic's Never Mind the Buzzbombers.
They even opened the doors to let fans of the game and videogame design students come to Sumo and work on the game. Whilst they can't talk about the game and what they saw, it gets people talking about the game because it's very rare for a development company to do anything like this.
Also lets not forget.... it's not Sumos job to do this! It's segas job to promote and advertise the game, Sumo doesn't have to do this, yet they have, and it's given people an insight into the development as well as get people excited about the game. You really can't complain about their role in promoting the game at all.
Whatever happened to...
During the development of the game, several things were announced or hinted at and some even came out, yet they never got promoted or made and in one case... not really ever shown outside of one posting.
Showing us the Limited Edition content: This has annoyed me. Metal Sonic is a very popular character, the Outrun track is considered by some to be one of the best tracks in the game... yet we've had no video showing it. Even as an advertising tool to get people to pre-order the game, no footage of either Metal Sonic or the outrun track... why not?
The Collectors Edition: I actually pitched this question to S0L not long after ASRT was announced, it was well before we heard about the limited edition and it is on SSMB (somewhere) I asked if there were any news about a possible limited/collectors edition of the game... this was the reply.
Actually, it is something we've suggested. SEGA's marketing team approached us for ideas of cool things we could do - and they got more than they expected! One of them was special collectors editions with some in-box stuff - but it's all a little in the air right now. If I find out it's a potential I'll vaguely hint at it
Now... plans may have fallen through, they always do, but the fact that the marketting team approached them and asked about potential content, there must at one point have been the budget or the plans to do something other than a digital promotional code.
So what was it? The obvious one is a toy car or an OST CD. But all what we got was the download code and a shiny cover, which is pretty cool in itself, however I'm really curious to know what exactly was planned.
The Jazwares toys: Very early in the year at a toy convention, Jazwares added fuel to the unannounced ASRT fire by letting slip that they were making some new toys based on ASR. Heres my question... what where they talking about? I might be wrong with this, but Jazwares havn't made any new ASR toys this year. Whilst there have been some new toys based on ASR, they were made by Niko & Meccano. Jazwares havn't made any... So... what were they? And where are they?
Furthermore, there have been no toys based on ASRT, they've all been based on the original ASR.... there is... one exception.
The Hot Wheels Danicar: Sega, you did a deal with Danica Patrick... you got Hot Wheels to let you use their Danicar design... so... what exactly happened to this?
This thing might have been what S0L was hinting at with the 'collectors edition' idea. But what happened to it? It got announced on the Sega blogs and was even hinted at being a pre-order/day 1 purchase incentive. Even Hot Wheels announced it on their own facebook page! Yet it's never come out. It's never appeared on ebay, nor has anyone found it for sale. This got so many collectors on here excited, heck I was even prepared to pay for another copy of the game if it were a US exclusive.... the only hope for it? Well... its something else which seems to have been... lost..
The portable versions of the game: Now I might be wrong with this... But with the exception of about 3 seconds of video and a handful of screenshots of the 3DS version... have we ever seen video of the portable versions of the game? This version was due out a few weeks ago, yet we've seen nothing of either the Vita or 3DS version at all, for a game which was due out this month, thats practically unheard of, even if the new release dates of February 2013 are right, thats still very strange.
Sega havn't commented on it, and Sumo can't comment on it until they do... so whats going on here?
So I've gone on for a while... thats my thoughts on it. In many ways it feels like Sega could have done a lot more than they did, many characters were simply announced by randomly being included in general trailers about the game or in random screenshots... But there could have been dedicated trailers to both characters and tracks. Similar to what they did with Generations, but they could have stopped with announcing them all.
So if you're still here, here is a link to a funny segment from Sesame Street as a reward.