Prepping for the fall launch of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, its follow-up to last year’s top-selling feature-based vidgame Spider-Man 3, Activision is giving the property’s 13- to 24-year-old male fanbase what it wants most – control. In an unprecedented move, the Santa Monica, California-based video game publisher has turned over a good chunk of the decision-making behind the upcoming title’s marketing campaign to Spidey’s VIP web community.
Says Byron Beede, Activision’s director of global brand management: ‘Through our consumer research, we’ve learned that fans want more control over the Spider-Man experience, determining the game’s outcome, who he teams up with, etc. We’re delivering that in the game, and want it to permeate the marketing; we want the consumer to feel like they’re in control of everything.’ And in the months leading up to the game’s launch, Activision has put a number of Web of Shadows’ elements, including voice talent, packaging design and presale gifts, up for vote on SeizeControl.com, a highly active global portal devoted to all things Spidey.
The company got the ball rolling last February at New York ComicCon, where it invited Spider-Man fans to audition for the chance to voice a bit character who gets attacked by Venom-led henchmen called the Symbiotes. Activision posted the resulting voice clips on SeizeControl.com and invited the site’s VIPs (who submitted email addresses when they joined) to pick a winner. Beede and his team then followed up with the biggest voting push to date – Spidey VIPs would make the call on packaging design, one of the single most important marketing tools in any retail product’s aresenal.
‘We wanted at least one massive vote,’ says Beede. To that end, Activision partnered with Yahoo! this past July to get the word out on the web. To complement the voting area on the dedicated website, Yahoo! built a Web of Shadows hub to host the vote and hype the release with trailers, editorial coverage, interviews with the game’s developers and screen shots. The mini-site was versioned in several languages and rolled out on Yahoo!’s global network.
On the voting side of the hub, Activision posted the top two contenders culled from more than 150 packaging design concepts generated by its in-house creative team. It was a close vote that tripled VIP membership and helped double time spent on the site by existing members. In the end, a cross-armed Spider-Man headshot came out as the winner, featuring Wolverine’s image in one fist and Venom’s in the other. ‘It indicates the control you have as a player,’ says Beede. ‘Will you side with Spider-Man, or will you be a rebel Symbiote?’
At press time, the next decision was hanging in the balance – what gift will accompany the presale of the game? Beede says more votes are in the works, and the company is also considering applying some of these tactics to other brands in its portfolio. One thing is for certain, however; online seems to be the platform for reaching Activision’s core audience. ‘They’re online all the time, probing for information and searching,’ says Beede. ‘It’s the most efficient way to contact this audience.’