The BioShock 2 promotional campaign went way above and beyond what we’re used to seeing for a videogame. The “Something in the Sea” website was cool enough in itself, but the viral marketing campaign that launched months before the game hit the shelves was absolutely inspired, featuring retro telegrams and bottles of wine from a fictitious Rapture winery washing ashore on beaches, along with some truly awesome conventional ads on television and the internet. One of the big reasons the campaign was so aggressive, according to two of the men behind it, was the success of the original BioShock and the strong feelings it aroused in fans.
“One of the main things that was ‘a blessing and a curse’ was BioShock 1. You had many scores that were 100 and you had a lot of people who felt it was a contained, finite experience,” 2K Games Marketing Director Tom Bass told the-a-listdaily. “So you had hardcore fans that weren’t convinced that they needed a sequel and here we were two years later with BioShock 2.”
On the other side of the coin were those who didn’t play the original game and for whom a “return to Rapture” would have little appeal. Explaining that knowledge of the first game wouldn’t be necessary to enjoy the second was one of the big challenges facing the marketing team. “We had campaigns for the hardcore and we had one for those who weren’t fans, with the understanding that the same message would not work for everyone,” he noted.
“The hardcore gamer has a higher level of aesthetic experience,” added 2K Vice President of Marketing Matt Gorman. “Then there’s the gamer who wants to go, ‘What is it? Is it a shooter, RPG, basketball game?’ What we do find is there’s a bit of confusion from the consumer, so part of our strategy was to say that it is a shooter with an incredible amount of depth.”
“One of the great things about BioShock (and troublesome parts for us) is that you can’t describe it in the elevator ride!” Bass said. “The brand sort of engenders risk; for instance, for the ad we were using the music from the period, which we were initially scared to do! Not everyone is like, ‘lets use a music from 1931’ for it, but fans like the uniqueness. So we were careful to not make it ‘Call of Duty meets X under the sea!'”