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.

SXSW panel snippets – ‘HOWTO: 149 Surprising Ways to Turbocharge Your Blog With Credibility!’

Merlin Mann (43 Folders, You Look Nice Today)
John Gruber (Daring Fireball)

Abstract: John Gruber (DaringFireball.net) and Merlin Mann (43Folders.com) discuss the current state of blogging as a medium for creative expression, weighing the opportunities and challenges of building a thoughtful online presence in a world where everybody owns a printing press. They’ll consider the ascendance of Digg-friendly “problogs” and debate the subtler pleasures of careful writing that reaches smaller, but potentially less “profitable” audiences.

Acknowledging the silliness of their title, Merlin and John did a great job of being entertaining whilst also being interesting and useful. Well worth listening to the podcast of this one, whenever it comes out.

Snippets:

  • Mann: Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ talks about ‘the ideal reader’. Others call it ‘the first reader’. Have a picture in your head, the face in the monitor. Who are you writing for?
  • Mann: I think social media is important enough to take seriously. Social media is not about what you have to say, it’s about having the tolerance to cope with what people say to you. It’s a giant set of extremely sharp knives. You can use it for good or for ill.
  • Mann: How do you know you should start a blog? Because people keep telling you to shut up. You just won’t shut up about a subject. “You love the Cowboys so much? Either gay marry them, or start a blog”. It’s OK to have a strong voice about something. The opportunities are not through the ads, they’re through being awesome at what you do. Ancillary revenue streams and opportunities …
  • Gruber: human attention is valuable and limited. There’s nothing you can do to give yourself more attention in a day. “You can’t pay your rent with attention … but it has value. You’d be surprised at what you can do with it when it builds up.”
  • Mann: Don’t have a blog about star wars, have a blog about Jawas
    in fact, have a blog about that one Jawa who is only the scene for a minute. It’s going to be so much easier for you to dominate.
  • When writing, include not just what happened, but what does it mean, what do you think about it. There’s a ton of people who can tell you something happened.
  • Gruber: relating Mann’s tips for success:
    1. Give away more stuff than you think is sensible, and make it easy to get to.
    2. Focus on diverse rev streams and always be looking for new ones
    3. Don’t do stuff that seems profitable but potentially messes up the reasons people like you

Update: you can listen to the session on 43 Folders and read what John has to say about it too.

SXSW panel snippets – ‘Is Privacy Dead or Just Very Confused?’

danah boyd (Researcher, Microsoft Research)
Judith Donath (MIT Media Laboratory)
Alice Marwick (PhD Candidate, New York University)
Siva Vaidhyanathan (Assoc Professor, University of Virginia)

Abstract: While many assert that “privacy is dead,” the complex ways in which people try to control access and visibility suggest that it’s just very confused. Rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water, let’s discuss people’s understanding and experiences of privacy and find ways to 2.0-ify it.

Some snippets from the four speakers:

Siva Vaidhyanathan

  • Writing a book: The Googlization of Everything
  • Myth: privacy is the opposite of publicity
  • Putting information about yourself on websites doesn’t mean you don’t care about what you don’t share. ‘Over-sharers’ still want control over how they’re represented
  • Myth: privacy is a substance that can be traded away. He’d been frustrated by recent “people are willing to trade a little bit of privacy for a better user experience” quote from Google, but this assumes it’s something you can trade in little bits
  • But: personal information is a form of currency

Alice Marwick

  • Need to recognise the value of sharing, but also that it’s useful to data miners
  • Information can be aggregated into valuable profiles
  • Microcelebrities are different to real celebrities because they know who is reading their blog etc, but there’s still a power inequality.

Judith Donath

  • Your history is to online as your body is to the physical-world
  • We’re largely unaware of the information companies hold on us.
  • Need to design spaces in a way that makes it obvious how much is public, and what is seen by whom
  • If we saw it we’d make more intelligent choices.
  • Your data trail is invisible to you. We need an every day experience of our data selves, in the same way a mirror provides a reflection of our physical self
  • Children don’t regard their home as private, because they don’t have control there

danah boyd

  • Information is currency not just in economic sense, but in social sense
  • We’ve gained a lot by sharing information about ourselves and our thoughts, but current design is not allowing us to negotiate control of context
  • See Jane Jacobs on surveillance – we invite a level of surveillance that is useful to us.

At this point, with about 10 minutes to go, I was becoming frustrated that it had not opened up for questions. I don’t think I was alone, because while Vaidhyanathan complained about the way that Facebook can “unliaterally change its policies” without having to act in a way that was accountable to its users people in the audience were desperate to join in the discussion, literally shouting “but they did!” from their seats. Finally, when questions from the floor were invites, Jeff Jarvis was straight up. Voicing what Tom Coates was obviously also thinking, Jeff said

“we have to see the positive here. there is economic widsom in giving us visibility and control over our data.”

and you should read Jeff’s post about the panel too.

I love Donath’s digital mirror concept. Also, I need to read Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

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