Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m a Borderlands 2 addict. I think something about the oodles of loot to be collected speaks to my hunter-gatherer caveman brain. Gearbox Software did a lot of things right with this title, but they did one thing that I find particularly innovative: they created strong ties between their game and social media channels.
Social media has become more than just a buzzword; it’s free advertising and viral marketing, it’s getting existing customers invested in your brand. Okay so maybe it is just a bunch of buzz words but I think there is no denying that it is powerful. This is the medium that single-handedly launched Gotye‘s career (345 million YouTube hits and counting).
Gearbox obviously knew this (they may or may not be Gotye fans) and actively planned for a system that almost guarantees their customers will get involved in their social media channels. How’d they do it? With free stuff of course!
Right in the central hub of the game world is a big, sexy treasure chest that you just know is stuffed full of delicious equipment for your character. But alas! You can’t open it! Not without a Golden Key. And how do you obtain a Golden Key? By signing up for the Gearbox social media service Shift. Oh but what’s that? You’ve had a touch of this tasty treasure and now you want more? Where can you get more Golden Keys? By following Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford on Twitter, of course! As a bonus, you can find even more by watching the YouTube videos “produced” by one of the in-game characters, like this one below:
So Gearbox is getting tons of followers for their social media streams that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. These
suckers customers are now all ears for all kinds of nifty news: downloadable content (DLC) they can purchase, upcoming titles they can pre-order, etc.
Gearbox nailed this one on the head. To summarize, I’ll leave a list of all the features that make this social media tie in work so well:
- It’s built right into the game experience. The player will receive items that make their experience better. It’s not some sort of arbitrary hub that exists outside of the game (ahem, Call of Duty Elite).
- It’s free! It’s free for you and me and it’s free for Gearbox. They offer up some digital items in game that don’t cost them a dime. Randy Pitchford can post to Twitter for free. The YouTube videos need someone to produce them but it costs nothing to distribute them.
- It’s repeatable! If you just got the first key as part of this arrangement, this would be a one and done affair. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. But because they are releasing new keys all the time at random intervals, the audience is captive. They are almost foaming at the mouth for new keys to drop.