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Case Studies Retro Vs Next generation game campaign Retro Vs Next generation game campaign

Winner of the IMRG Best Marketing Initiative Award 2009.


Acquiring new and encouraging repeat visitors to a website is never easy, and for GAME is only half the story.  We want our visitors to engage with our brand and develop a relationship that leads to conversion, repeat sales, loyalty and positive ‘word of mouth’ within our core target audience of enthusiastic gamers. 

The objective was very simple – drive the gaming community to the website to create their wishlists for Christmas and beyond. As a specialist retailer, both online and offline, is always looking for innovative ways to drive its core audience to the site and to encourage repeat visits and sales.

Our experience shows that users who create wish lists are the perfect customer.  They visit regularly, buy frequently and share their lists with friends and family which leads to additional sales and greater brand advocacy.

In addition we have found the wish list owners are more likely to have GAME Reward cards and regularly submit valuable user reviews which support the sales process.  As a result, our focus for online acquisition was on this target segment.


Simple in idea and innovative in approach, we created a new viral game which gives players the opportunity to win the entire contents of their wish list.

The concept of the game tapped in to the great debate among gamers: which consoles are best?  It’s an emotive subject which is split between the ‘retro’ crew, who grew up with PacMan and Asteroids, and the ‘next generation’players of consoles such as the Wii and PS3.

So to settle the debate once and for all, created a ‘Real Time Strategy’ game called Retro Vs Next generation where players represent their chosen team.  This in itself created a buzz within the target audience.

Twenty levels were initially launched. The more levels that players completed, the greater chances of winning. The contest was unique because players could literally choose what they win, which drives browsing of our website and the creation of wish lists.  To set up a wish list, users had to register with the site which provides us with valuable data and the ability to talk to them. 

The game itself is, as perhaps you would expect from Europe’s premier game retailer, is the best online game ever created.  A bold statement, but all of the gaming experts that were involved in its creation and the players have given it glowing references. 

The quality of the game was key for us; there are online games all over the internet so we had to create a game that truly stood out from the crowd to attract and engage our audiences – integrated with a compelling call to action.

Each level included hidden crates that players could find; this was tied in to a weekly competition which enabled us to keep talking to players, release ongoing positive stories and more importantly – gave the gamers and bloggers an additional story line to find and share where the hidden crates were located.

The game was integrated with an ongoing communication plan for all players; a weekly branded email was sent with hints, tips and links to strategy guides to maintain momentum.  Those players that had not yet set up a wish list received a custom email, with specific messaging driving the creation of wish lists as we pointed out that without one – they would not win anything!

Viral games as a concept for online acquisition are not in themselves innovative; but the quality of the game so closely integrated with a strong call to action has never been achieved before.

This was not a ‘viral branding’ project; it was routed in driving acquisition and sales among a specific target segment.  The ongoing communication programme supplemented the quality of the game and the prize on offer; it ensured a growing player base, true engagement and the viral effect truly kicked in.


The idea took off and exploded during the planning stages; it felt right that GAME should be able to create a viral game, but the key was making it stand out from the crowd and tying in a commercial call to action. Building the brand is great but at the end of the day we are a retailer!

The teams from GAME and 4T2 gelled instantly and the finished project was better than either party first envisaged - true team work.

Mike Hawkyard from 4T2 commented, “The shared passion for games and desire to make something awesome helped the teams click, it was a case of making sure it stayed achievable within the budget and time frame as opposed to working hard to find ideas.”

However, there were two ideas in particular that did not make the final version which the project team would have loved to have implemented.  The first issue was the desire to make the game ‘full screen’ as opposed to the ‘limited’ screen size that it is.

The game is a complex piece of programming so it was important to keep down the file size for streaming to online players.

After tests the optimum file size was agreed, which dictated the resulting screen size of the game – and the full screen idea was abandoned.  Thankfully people who play online games are aware of this limitation so it has not distracted from the playability of the game.

The second idea which did not make the final version was having a multi-player version.

The concept of two friends playing against each other representing their teams was very compelling and we knew would create even greater buzz and excitement, but the additional complexity added too much additional cost for a piece of guerrilla marketing. We are monitoring results and player feedback closely, and the idea may be included in a future version.

The results

The campaign launched mid November and within a month the game had over 500,000 unique players with an average play time of over 12 minutes, well above the industry average of 2.5 minutes. 

The game was picked up and profiled on many other websites (as we had hoped) and feedback from the players featured  on their discussion boards.


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