When creating the campaign for God of War Ragnarok’s launch we were tasked with two main commercial objectives to meet. The first was to top the performance of the previous entry in the franchise God of War 2018’s sales performance. God of War 2018 sold 5 million units in its first month and 10 million in its first year. The second commercial objective was for the title to become the most successful first party launch in PlayStation’s history, a distinction that was held by the last of us with 4.1 million sales in its first week. In order to do that our marketing objective was to significantly increase the penetration of God of War into the mainstream audience in order to expose the franchise to people who weren’t yet familiar with the game with the desire to grab their attention in a way that was truly unexpected and have them interested in knowing more. In doing so, we set out to communicate God of War to the rest of the world in a way that shifted it away from being ‘just a game’ to something more relatable and extremely entertaining. By increasing the overall awareness of the title we set out to attract an entirely new audience by crafting a new image and attitude for the franchise rooted in relatability and humor.
With an objective to reach a more mainstream audience in order to position God of War as a broader cultural presence we set out to first understand the game and the fans that were loving it for nearly two decades. In our research we discovered that the franchise itself had gone through a major transformation, especially our protagonist Kratos. Once a raging character that sought vengeance in each installment, a massive change shook the franchise in 2018 - Kratos had a son. This father son dynamic suddenly took a seemingly one-dimensional violent character and transformed him into something shockingly relatable - a parent. The players rallied around the change in Kratos and embraced him with a sentiment that wasn’t found before - humor. With the relatability of being a parent and the ability to use humor, it was simply about packaging them both up in a way that the mainstream audience wouldn’t be able to ignore. One of the many things we know about parents is that they stick together. The proliferation of parent influencers and resources across the internet coupled with the countless in person meetups and support groups prove that to be true. And mixed in with all those groups are people who believe in a wide range of parenting styles and preach the benefits to others. So we asked ourselves - what if the person sharing was someone who resonates so deeply with Kratos as a father? The creative expression of this answer allowed us to achieve our goal of connecting this game to a mainstream audience leveraging the aspect of humor that we saw the fanbase already adopt. Now this is where our celebrity dads, their children, a buckskin loincloth and one awesome ax come into play. We looked to cast a group of individuals that were instantly recognizable to our target audience and demographics and opened us up to entertainment interests adjacent to gaming like sports and film/television. Enter Ben Stiller, dressed in perfect Kratos attire down to the Leviathan axe paired with his son Quin, gathering his good celebrity friends LeBron James and John Travolta together with their kids Bronny and Ella Bleu to sit down and hear about the God of War way of parenting. Three fathers you’d never expect to see in a room together talking about something you’d never expect them to talk about with one another. A recipe that would grab everyone’s attention, get them laughing, have them sharing, and most importantly become interested in the game.
God of War Ragnarok became the fastest selling first party launch in PlayStation’s history selling 5.1M copies in the first 5 days. It set a new franchise record beating the 5 million units that 2018 sold in its first month in a week. 3 months after release, God of War Ragnarok eclipsed 11M sales, while 2018 took a year plus to break 10M. The expansion of God of War to a non-gaming audience was best demonstrated by the earned media: God of War was no stranger to coverage in the likes of IGN, but the celebrities selected were chosen to expand us beyond gaming trades and the franchise found itself written about in Forbes, ESPN, HypeBeast, Huffington Post, ScreenRant, Bleacher Report, Fatherly et al.
Simply put, the campaign demonstrated the accessibility of non-traditional video game audiences when universally relatable moments core to the game are extrapolated - in this case through humor. The spot was lauded by fans of the franchise for playing into the fatherhood aspect they had already been rallying around, with humor opening up an even broader conversation. The gaming industry praised the creative as return to Playstation’s advertising heyday - which took place during its PS3 days - through the effective use of celebrity. Social sentiment was marked by over 92% positive comments across platforms. In sum - it took a gaming industry milestone and made it an entire entertainment industry milestone by showing how to effectively leverage celebrity to reach audiences far beyond the expected.
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