SXSW panel snippets – ‘EA Dead Space: A Deep Media Case Study’

Andrew Green (Online Marketing Manager, Electronic Arts)
Frank Rose (Contributing Editor, Wired Magazine)
Ian Schafer (CEO, Deep Focus)
Chuck Beaver (Senior Producer, Electronic Arts)
Ben Templesmith (Director, Singularity7)

Abstract: This in-depth case-study reveals the method and the madness behind Electronic Arts use of cross platform marketing to communicate separate, self-contained elements of the much anticipated release of their first survival horror game, Dead Space. For this release, EA packaged a comic book, a prequel DVD, and an online experience in order to build, create, and cultivate an audience around the Dead Space brand prior to the official ‘street date’ launch.

  • Rose: We’ve had a century of linear storytelling, now the internet makes a new kind of narrative possible. Not just watch, but participate. Entertainment can be immersive. e.g. Battlestar Gallactica tells its story through TV, online video, multiple blogs, etc. EA has a new strategy, IP cubed, rich storylines that can be extended into other media, not just as spin-offs but as a core way of telling the story. Dead Space was the prototype. It’s an example of Deep Media.
    1. Comic book
    2. Animated feature
    3. No known survivors‘ web experience
    4. The game itself
  • Green: Challenge – how do we build a community and build an audience around 500 years of back story? Content that also works as marketing. Each component should stand on its own. The marketing is the content.
  • Templesmith: 6 episodes make the comic valuable thing in its own right. It wasn’t perceived as pure marketing.
  • Q – Which element was most successful?
    A – (Green) The comic and the animated short. Website was deep and rewarding, but the comics made use of dissemination. easier to port & share content (youtube etc). Much wider viewership by creating value everywhere. Website, as linear narrative, is only going to give you so much benefit. Microsites are always inherently limited because they are a destination. If you have to drive people to a destination, it’s important that its coupled with content that allow it to be shared
  • “The content is the marketing” – someone in the audience thought that was ‘pretty insightful’. [Personally, it makes me concerned for people in marketing who don’t think this way already.]
  • Shafer: in this case, the story was art. In other cases we can listen to the community, understand what they want and be nimble enough to change based on their input.. that will drive success in the long haul.
  • Q – How much resource does each component take? Can you do it without all the components.
    A – (Green) I don’t think you need any budget. You need a community platform with a passionate, creative centre. Give it to the community and allow them to participate and create around it, and maybe even help write it. It’s all about starting. Start building a community.
  • Q – Would you do the website again?
    A – (Green) Yes. From ROI perspective it was high. Also useful to get the analytics, which you wouldn’t get from offsite services.
  • Q – for the website, what were the biggest sources of traffic?
    A – Editorial mentions creating organic traffic. Getting on Kotaku and the link from Wikipedia.
  • Q – Does the website still get traffic?
    A – (Green) Yes. We still get 100-200k visitors from main website. 10k new visitors a week
    A – (Schafer) One fifth of the traffic to site has come after launch of game.
  • Q – How important is having premium downloadable content
    A – it’s become a consumer expectation.
  • Q – How hard is it to break new IP in games industry?
    A – it’s risky. That’s why EA has (up to now) built a career on licensed IP. Budget levels for new games are hard. It’s also a sequel business.

Rose’s thoughts on Dead Space as Deep Media can also be found in this post on his Deep Media blog.