If you're even tangentially related to the world of video games, if you play them, or know someone who does, you're probably aware that a major new title, called Portal 2, was released this week from Valve. It's a puzzle/adventure game that requires players to use special guns that create portal doorways in and out of hard to reach places. It is insanely popular and the original sold 4 million copies. Indeed, some of my favorite geek-run websites have been ghost towns this week.
But while Portal 2 sounds like a cool game (Christopho will have to tell us, since I don't have a console anymore), what I really want to talk about is the in-game advertisement for the upcoming J.J. Abrams film, Super 8. It's... revolutionary. The ad is basically a small-scale version of a playable Portal 2 level, only themed for Super 8.
Let's back up first... and show you the incredible Super 8 trailer (which calls to mind some of the classic early Spielberg films):
I could probably write an entire article on what a great trailer that is... but really I just wanted you to experience a bit of the look and feel of the Super 8 world so you'd be able to better appreciate the in-game ad in Portal 2. It's really a playable level, and it puts you at the scene of the trailer's big train accident. I do wish the guy filming the ad would talk a little less, but still, my mind was blown:
J.J. Abrams is a promotional master. He's the genius behind Lost, which set new benchmarks for promotional and entertainment material outside the broadcast as there was a book, several alternate reality games, fake websites, and more. He also created Cloverfield, as well as the guerrilla marketing campaign for that film.
So it's nothing new to see this man getting creative with an advertisement. But it's still the first playable-level advertisement in a video game I've ever seen or heard of. And it's fairly brilliant to tie your upcoming sci-fi movie to the year's biggest sci-fi video game release, he knows his audience well. There have already been articles on ComingSoon.net, Kotaku.com, DarkHorizons.com, and many more.
Millions will see and "play" this Super 8 ad, and millions more will read about it and talk about it. Heck, the video above showing off how the ad works is at 120,000 viewers after only two days. And a quick look at the suggested videos on the YouTube page shows several more people who have uploaded video of the playable Super 8 ad, and several are over 10,000 views. How cool is this ad? Many people are referring to it as an Easter Egg instead of an ad, like it's a piece of bonus content instead of a piece of promotional material.
If you want to split hairs about a playable video game level not being a true video, then "boo" to you, you hater of fun. Video games are video, unless you're looking for a semantic debate. Plus, the YouTube clips of the easter egg is going viral itself, giving me the perfect excuse to write about it.
Interactive is where video is headed. Audiences want to be able to control what they're seeing and help dictate the outcome--especially with advertising. A more engaged viewer is more likely to remember what they've seen and eventually convert into a paying customer. It doesn't get much more interactive than a playable video game level. Kudos to J.J. Abrams and his Super 8 marketing team--and to Valve and the Portal 2 team--on a truly innovative and immersive video ad.