The world of games marketing can be a weird and wonderful place. Constantly having to find new and innovative ways to get the news of your upcoming title out there to the masses in the hope that it will drive up sales. Do you go for a viral Tik Tok video? Pay for a big name streamer to play your game before launch? Send some cool merch to a select pool of influencers in the hopes of getting those all-important social media likes?
The latter option is the one most commonly seen in gaming. I can’t even begin to guess how many T-shirts, keyrings, stickers etc I have collected over the years from gaming expos such as EGX, Gamescom etc ( by Nimah I bloody miss gaming expos!) and it is usually a cost-effective way of getting the word out about your game. Why pay for expensive advertising when you can give out a few dozen T-shirts at an expo and have people walking around advertising your game for you!
The wonderful folks over at Marvelous Europe decide to take the option of sending something out to reviewers/influencers but with a bit twist….by doing so they are also going to save the Pine Hoverfly from extinction!! To find out just exactly how the PR Campaign for Story of Seasons Pioneers of Olive Town is going to save an entire species from extinction I asked Sam Brace, PR Director at Decibel PR, exactly what the campaign is all about…thankfully he answered my questions.
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town (SOSPOOT) is due to launch on the 26th of March and you have a pretty unique campaign to go alongside the launch. Can you explain exactly what the campaign is?
We wanted to get a bit more real life participation from media on this one so I came up with the idea of doing something that mirrored the activity in the game world – a competition involving growing stuff! Well, seeds to be precise… once entered, each journo/influencer will receive a press pack which includes a seed growing kit. They need to post their progress online each week for 4 weeks from launch (26th March) using #SOSPOOT so we can track the journey and ultimately judge the winner!.
At the same time, we/Marvelous Europe has incorporated a conservation angle by sponsoring the RZSS (Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park) £20k to help save a real-life species, the Pine Hoverfly. These little dudes are now only found in one spot in the wild in the UK and are listed as critically endangered. The link here is Pine as you start your journey in SOSPOOT in a Pine Forest! The winner of our Seed Grower comp will get to name the new Pine Hoverfly incubation room at the Park and all entrants get to name one breeding jar which will each contain a Hoverfly larvae.
The marketing team all agreed that while everyone is still locked down, getting involved in the SOSPOOT Seed Grower Comp might be a good distraction from routine and in turn help to promote the game in a slightly alternative kind of way.
You gotta admit this is a pretty mental PR campaign lol. How did the idea for this campaign come about?
The competition idea is something that came from a similar thing I did for UFC Personal Trainer back in 2012 when we did a nifty videogame industry challenge in partnership with MCV. Everyone had 4 weeks to workout as hard as they could using the game as their ‘trainer’ and post weekly progress updates. In the final week, UFC fighter Brad Pickett came to THQ office and chose the winner from before and after pics. It was a pretty cool activity and I figured it might work similarly well adapted for SOSPOOT! The Pine Hoverfly angle actually came from one of our partner agencies, Jelly. We loved their idea too and thought why not incorporate both?
Is this the first time Marvelous have done a bizarre campaign for a game launch?
We’ve done loads of weird stuff with Marvelous over the years, (live action vids/fanservice mouse mats/press packs etc), but this is probably the most engaging one we’ve come up with to date. It feels as if Marvelous are actively moving towards more Farming Sim style titles (SOS/Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin), and away from their fanservice origins which is great for everyone as I think there’s a little bit of a Lost In Translation thing happening down that avenue of games. I think by going the more wholesome route, we will be able to do much more interesting campaigns that folks will want to engage a little more with from here on out.
I absolutely adore the idea that you have taken farming from Pioneer Town and into the real world. How many seed packs have you sent out to reviews and influencers?
Well we have 100 packs for the UK and some of the other territories are involved as well but I don’t know how the distributors have got on, they have their own allocation. Am glad to say we have some great entrants so am excited to see people’s posts from launch next week. I still have a few remaining if anyone wants to sign up?! Better late than never, ping me on twitter @themule 😉
What are the contents of the seeds packs? And how easy is it to grow a crop from them? Do you need any expertise?
It’s kind of a surprise what’s in the packs… but, they will contain all of the things you need to grow the seeds which include spring onions and runner beans, I believe these are the fastest to germinate and grow in a short time. You won’t need much space, a window ledge would do, as long as they’re watered, I think people will see success… I heard they grow extra fast if you spend a bit more time on them though, you know, maybe try talking to them or playing music for them…
Stereotypically PR campaigns involve sending some cool merch to influencers. Your campaign for SOSPOOT requires a lot of engagement from reviewers/influencers. Do you envisage a high percentage of engagement?
I guess we’ll see. I hope so!
WIll the seed packs be available to selected reviewers/influencers only or will fans of SOSPOOT be able to purchase their own seed packs?
We only have 100 for press, that’s all!
Saving the critically endangered Pine Hoverfly is a noble cause but not a well-known insect. How did Marvelous come to be part of its conservation?
It was an idea by Jelly but as soon as they suggested it, it resonated with us as we’re all interested in sustainability and helping wildlife/our planet in any small way we can. This seemed like an awesome opportunity to do just that.
According to the RZSS website, it has been more than 7 years since an adult pine hoverfly was observed in the wild. How can the general public help to save this wonderful pollinator?
Right now, the only way to help would be to spread the word on social media or donate to RZSS charity through the website.
Marvelous Europe is sponsoring the Royal Zoological Society Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park to the tune of £20,000. That is an incredible amount of money but will it be enough to save the pine hoverfly from extinction?
I really hope so, it’s going to give them a much better shot. The £20k will pay for a whole new incubation room which they wouldn’t have had otherwise, it gives the team resources to spend more time exclusively focussing on Pine Hoverfly and restoring the numbers over the next few years.
As part of the competition, everybody who enters will get to name a pine hoverfly at the RZSS Highland Wildlife Park. Exactly how does that work? Does everyone who entered receive a certificate? Can they visit their pine hoverfly?
Yep, almost exactly that, each entrant will get to name a fly or a jar that contains the larvae of a Pine Hoverfly. They would be more than welcome to go visit the incubation room should they wish to make the trip!
The star prize for growing the biggest crop during this campaign is getting to name the Pine Hoverfly Incubation Room. That is a bloody cool and unique prize. How did that idea come about?
We needed a cool prize and the pine hoverfly activity helped myself and Jon Bond (Product Manager of SOSPOOT over at Marvelous @bondj02) have a joint ‘eureka’ moment on a call earlier this year.
Everyone who enters the SOSPOOT growing competition gets a fly named after them, Marvellous are paying £20,000 to help save the entire species of Pine Hoverfly. Why isn’t the incubation room been called the Marvelous Incubation Room?
It could, but we thought it would be cooler to offer the honours to the winner of the comp.
Again I think this is an amazing campaign and thank you for giving me the opportunity to be involved in a small way to saving an entire species! Is there anything I have missed in these questions that you would like to tell my readers?
I think you covered it all! Thanks for asking me to do a QA!
Finally, and completely of topic but since I have you here, The animals in SOSPOOT are so unbelievably cute (and if you pre-order from game.co.uk you will receive a buffalo plushie) is there any plans to release plushies of the rest of the animals?
Seriously where can I get a cow plushie from? I need one!
lol. If you pester Marvelous on Twitter, especially Scott Emsen (Community and PR Manager) @marvelous_games, you might influence them to make more available in the future!
So there we go. That is how you go from launching a game on Nintendo Switch to saving a critically endangered species in the UK! I am looking forward to receiving my Seed Growing Pack so make sure you follow Stoffel Presents on Twitter to keep up to date with my progress…or lack of and be sure to follow Marvelous Games and the #SOSPOOT
You can also check out all the great work and donate directly to the Royal Zoological Society Scotland Highland Wildlife Park by visiting their website here
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town launches on 26th March in the UK for Nintendo Switch. Our review will be published on Tues 23rd March so be sure to check back for that review.
If you can’t wait till the 23rd for the review or 26th for the release I am currently playing SOSPOOT every weeknight 8 pm – 11 pm over on Twitch so pop by and say hi, and I will happily answer any questions you have.
Right, now please excuse me I’m off to pester a man about a plushie cow…