Kris Manchester, Creative Director
Alex Bernier, Creative Director
David Allard, Copywriter
Andrew Lord, Copywriter
Tommy Vincent-Mathieu, Art Director
Alexandre Pellerin, Art Director
Joachim Coste, Strategist
Jean-Sébastien Martel, Content Developer
Alicia Allardyce, Community Manager
Pier-Luc Beaulieu, Group Account Director
Pia Savoie, Account Executive
Stephanie Merizzi, Agency Producer
Eloi Arsenault, Editor
David Leclerc, Motion Designer
Nancy Thibodeau, Executive Producer
Marc Simpson, Director of photography
David Pelletier, Set Art Direction
Denis Charest, Casting Director
Elisabeth Morad, Stylist
|Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):||November 2016 - April 2017|
|Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: ||November 2016|
|Base Period as a Benchmark: ||September 2013 - March 2015 (Outlast 1 releases)|
|Geographic Area: ||Global|
|Budget for this effort: ||$50,000 - $100,000|
When a small independent video game developer stands up to big brands and manages to capture the hearts, minds and wallets of gamers worldwide. When carefully listening to your community unlocks a powerful insight that not only matters to them but also resonates beyond your fan base. When you reach 752M impressions with under $1,000 in media.
That’s what happened when Red Barrels launched Outlast 2, the highly anticipated sequel to their first survival horror game. To help promote it, we didn’t follow the usual patterns of releasing a game teaser and trailer before launching the full experience. Instead, we listened to our fans. When they told us they “sh*t their pants” playing the demo, we sought to solve this rather peculiar problem the only way we knew how – with our tongue firmly planted in cheek.
And so we created the best way to get ready for the scariest game in the world: the ultimate gamer diaper.
To help fans enjoy the release of Outlast 2 without worrying about the release of number 2, we launched a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund the development of Underscares™, a completely real adult diaper for sh*t-scared gamers.
Red Barrels, our client – an independent developer with obviously limited means – was going up against industry giants. Our campaign delivered the buzz-worthy initiative they needed to live up to their first big hit, defend their turf from other industry giants, and engage gamers around the world.
The elusive art of the sequel
Red Barrels Inc. is an independent Canadian video game developer founded in 2011. It achieved major success with the 2013 launch of Outlast, a first-person survival horror game celebrated as one of the scariest games of all times and downloaded more than 8 million times, a remarkable feat for an independent developer.
In 2016, the developer was about to launch Outlast 2 and needed to stand out again in the hearts and minds of gamers around the world.
Standing out in a near-saturated market
The business issue was clear. We had to create hype for the game five months ahead of its release and in a busy pre-Christmas season. At the time of the campaign, large studios were also releasing highly anticipated games, such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill, with much heavier media investment and support.
So the tricky question was: How could we break through the clutter created by industry giants and generate global hype for the release of our game with the small indie developer’s $1,000 media budget?
1. Increase awareness of the upcoming sequel
We needed to grab people’s attention and get them talking to create a sense of excitement leading up to the game’s release. This would be measured by video views and impressions, and through our ability to get the content to spread organically, since we had such a small budget to reach our target market.
2. Drive engagement amongst existing fans and beyond
The first instalment of Outlast created a natural community of enthusiastic fans worldwide, and so for the sequel, the opportunity was to not only engage this niche community of fans again, but also appeal to a broader audience of action gamers, horror film fans, and so on. We would measure this through the interactions, shares and conversations we could generate among fans and beyond our community members.
3. Drive consideration and leads
Since we were five months ahead of the game’s release, our main objective was to drive interest and consideration, making sure gamers would add Outlast 2 to their wishlist and ultimately buy it as soon as it was released.
To achieve maximum amplification on the web, we needed to tap into the internet gaming subculture with its codes, tone and manner, and distinct brand of humour, which is particularly keen on sarcasm and self-mockery. And by listening to our community, we found the perfect springboard to do just that.
Indeed, after the Outlast 2 demo came out, gamers and journalists seemed to all agree on one thing: Outlast 2 would make you sh*t your pants.
When analyzing our social media feeds, we realized that they were so vocal in their reactions, that it became an inside joke and widespread meme – funny and accurate enough to be shared over and over within the community.
Inspired by community reactions, we wanted to allow gamers to play Outlast 2 without worrying about their underpants.
To help them enjoy our horror game and feel protected at the same time, we launched a crowdfunding campaign for the Underscares™ Companion Diaper for Outlast 2, the ultimate gamer diaper.
We knew that we had an authentic insight to play with and that creating the ultimate game diaper was a fun message for a campaign. However, we also knew our community could smell a “BS” communications strategy a mile away. To prove that we were dead-serious about the Outlast 2 scare factor, we had to be real and commit to actually developing the product.
In terms of roll-out, we wanted to start by engaging our community. We were lucky enough to be in the position of having an actively engaged group of followers who already loved the first release of the game. Creating a campaign directly inspired by their feedback gave us the right to credibly engage them and gain their support to spread the story further.
Creating far-reaching buzz
The idea of creating a diaper for gamers worked on many levels:
- It first and foremost highlighted the fact that Outlast 2 was even scarier than its predecessor and could thus engage and motivate our existing community of fans.
- It focused on the feeling of fear vs. the intricacies of the game’s storyline, thus giving us a chance to attract a broader audience motivated by an experience of fear.
- It gave us a springboard for a gossip-worthy and entertaining story we could foresee would easily spread virally and in PR, thus extending our reach.
Teaming up with the perfect partners
Our campaign was all about gaining organic and PR support using our own social media channels and the Kickstarter platform as a host and promoter.
In fact, the indie gaming community is particularly active on Kickstarter, where an important number of games get funded. With Red Barrels being an indie developer with a limited budget and Kickstarter being a free platform, it couldn’t have been a more perfect fit.
We first teamed up with local partners to develop a stylish, one-of-a-kind prototype of a real, usable and washable gamer diaper.
Once the prototype was ready, we launched the Underscares on Kickstarter and Outlast’s social platforms with the help of a humorous “making of” video to boost interest in the product, along with photos of the prototype production process.
On Kickstarter, gamers could pledge various sums of money in exchange for rewards that included an Outlast 2 Steam key with the diaper, making it an extra-sweet deal.
Once the campaign launched, we engaged the conversation daily with fans and journalists on social media and Kickstarter. We also used our Twitter account to promote the idea outside of the Outlast community by interacting with brands like Pampers, Huggies and Mountain Dew, to name a few.
After a few days, we became a Kickstarter Staff Pick, and the project was featured on the home page of the gaming section for the remainder of the campaign.
Moreover, we gave the campaign an extra push with a small Facebook ad campaign driving users to the Kickstarter page.
Turning our fans into advocates
Red Barrels strives to keep its fan base engaged year-round and to build relationships with opinion leaders, influencers and journalists. With our limited media budget, we thus decided to reach out to this community and turn them into amplifiers of our message.
We spent $800 to purchase targeted Facebook ads between November 17 and December 8, 2016.The ads were used to promote the video among fans of the Outlast page and make sure they would all be exposed to the campaign. We relied on them becoming advocates for our message.
Unlimited worldwide reach & engagement
Within a week, gamers, horror fans, bloggers and journalists had shared the story. On Kickstarter, the project received the “Staff Pick” mention and was featured on the home page of the gaming section. Although we were fully committed to developing the diaper and sending it out to fans, that was never the objective of our campaign. And so despite not reaching our Kickstarter pledge goal of $40,000, the enthusiasm of close to 300 contributors was enough to get the entire community talking.
At the end of the campaign, we had reached over 2.1M Facebook fans with more than 200K reactions, comments, and shares; 79,000 Twitter impressions; and a whopping 760,000 video views (Facebook, YouTube, and Kickstarter combined). We witnessed animated conversations on Twitter between fans from all over the world, even all the way in Russia and Japan. Overall, our story achieved 752M potential impressions and drove engagement among existing fans and beyond, while our social media budget remained under CA$1,000.
We were delighted with the exposure the campaign had outside of our
community. Mentions in countless gaming and UGC sites took off, notably on the Daily Vice video channel, PC Gamer, Gamespot, Gamezone, Unilad, Nerdist and the Escapist. In addition to organic mentions on 9GAG and Reddit, these gave our views a boost and, more importantly, kept people engaged with the brand while they patiently waited for the release of Outlast 2.
All in all, we received over 80,000 online mentions.
Promising momentum five months ahead of the launch
In 2016, Outlast 2 was added to 306,459 gamer wishlists on Steam, the ultimate online gaming platform. Fans were clearly stating their purchase intent, demonstrating the promising momentum built by the campaign and the increased awareness created for the upcoming sequel before the game’s launch in spring 2017.
Most important was the game’s success within the first week of release. We sold 146,000 online PC versions of the game, compared to 77,000 for Outlast 1. That week was the most profitable in the history of Red Barrels, reaching $6M in revenue in just one week.
When the game came out, Red Barrels also had an unparalleled spike in revenue on Steam.
Our campaign received noteworthy industry praise. At Concours Créa, one of the most important creative award shows in Quebec, we took home the grand prize for best digital campaign, and a prize for international each.
The total budget spent on the game (development and marketing) was close to $8M and generated $13M in revenue, equalling a $5M profit.
The campaign took place five months before the game’s release, so the best proof of success is to show the anticipation it created for the game. With more than 300K gamers adding it to their wishlist, and tangible excitement within the first week of release, we got exactly what we were hoping for.
Campaign spend vs. history and competition:
Just before we launched Outlast 2, Resident Evil, the largest horror game franchise was also coming out with a new game. This February release could have been a major bump in the road for us as we had to demonstrate that amidst the hype for Resident Evil, Outlast 2 was still relevant and exciting for the gaming community.
Pre-existing Brand momentum:
The sales results were not a continuation of prior trends as a long period of time has gone by since the first release.
Outlast 2 was much more expensive than Outlast 1 ($29.99 vs. $19.99 – a significant price difference for an online game). Our price point was quite high for a game in this category and could have been a barrier to purchase.
Changes in Distribution/Availability:
The releases are hard to compare because Outlast 1 was released sequentially for different platforms (PC, PS4 & Xbox 1), whereas Outlast 2 was released at once on all platforms, but ultimately the distribution of both games was the same.
Unusual Promotional Activity:
Any other factors: