Rockstar’s communication – or lack of it – is not something that has gone unnoticed by either fans of the GTA series or the world’s media since the release of the announcement trailer in November last year. It was followed by a period of silence lasting eight months before fans were finally treated to two impressive screenshots in July. The silence continued until the 20th of August, with the beginning of a stream of eight further screenshots, over the course of four days. This change away from the silent treatment points towards the beginning of a wider marketing plan as the eyes of the world’s media watch Rockstar’s every move. It looks as though Rockstar’s marketing machine is gearing up for a big announcement, with recent communications suggesting a fresh release of information within the next few weeks. In the wake of such a long period of silence it might be useful to have a look at Rockstar’s possible marketing strategy; to discover how and why they’ve managed to keep so many of us watching for so long.
Rockstar’s strategy could be seen as an example of what is often termed ‘anticipation marketing’. This refers to how brands create hype amongst fans and the media before the launch of a product. Companies such as Apple frequently use similar techniques, which results in small pieces of official information becoming comparable to gold dust. As simple as it appears, getting fans and the media hyped about a product involves a complicated and well thought out marketing strategy.
One frequently used – and often very frustrating – method of building hype involves the drip-feeding of carefully designed information. In the case of GTA V, this scarcity was taken to the extreme with only an eighty five second launch trailer and two screenshots released within an eight month period. In the case of Rockstar’s releases its design was just as important as its scarcity in building hype.
Both the screenshots and announcement trailer were designed in such a way that they provided very basic amounts of information, about lots of areas within the game. This has allowed fans to use their imagination to speculate and create an understanding of what they believe the game might be like upon its release. You just need to take a look at any active forum to see the depth of analysis and discussion which the released information has lead to. Thousands of ideas and discussions surround every possible aspect of the game. These discussions cannot only be great fun for fans but are fuelling the hype around V without Rockstar spending a penny on expensive marketing practices. They also do another very important thing – give fans a reason to frequently log onto the forums to discuss the game, and continue to look for more information.
When new information is finally released both the forums and media become hives of activity. There is an overwhelming buzz of excitement as fans further their understanding and build hype collectively. The lack of information, although some fans might disagree, exaggerates their pleasure and excitement when new information is released. Although these positive emotions are paired with the distress and frustration of months of silence, it is part of the journey which Rockstar wants fans to experience towards finally getting their hands on the game.
Giving fans a reason to return, in the hope of finding new information is another common feature of hype building anticipation marketing. This is sometimes done by placing a countdown timer on a website or simply by stating ‘more info soon…’. Rockstar’s recent actions have done just that. They have not just given hardcore GTA fans a reason to keep looking, but also anyone with an interest in the GTA series as well as the world’s media. The updated website, the release of a larger number of screenshots in quick succession and the statement “we will be back with some more to see in a few weeks or so” points towards the start of a coordinated marketing campaign which holds a different purpose to previous communications. They appear to be addressing a wider audience, and, as increasing numbers of media sources start to report on their actions the stage is set for the release of something big within the next few weeks.
So what does this mean for fans of the GTA series? From a business viewpoint it makes perfect sense for Rockstar to release a second trailer, a release date or possibly both at some point in the very near future. Recent activities should also be paired with a wider marketing campaign to gain the attention of ‘non-believers’ – yes there are people out there that still need to be convinced to buy GTA V. This should include a wider spread of more detailed information to ensure that it achieves the record breaking sales it is capable of on release. Fans should expect to see more from Rockstar over the coming months. Looking to the future, it looks as though the success of adopting a silent strategy will mean that any communications surrounding future Rockstar titles will continue to be worth their weight in gold.
Before you write off Rockstar’s strategy, I ask you to think about the last game you bought. With so much information now available, by the time you finally buy the game, it can feel as though you have already played through it. What Rockstar is doing doing is keeping an air of mystery and magic around V, something that certainly seems to be lacking today. Would you really prefer GTA V to be mass marketed like every other big release? Or does the silence and mystery add to what will undoubtedly be another groundbreakingly brilliant title?
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