Doctoring a game’s image
Ice-Pick Lodge were looking to enhance their image and break out of the ‘weird niche indie game’ bubble they had occupied for some time. With Pathologic 2 (then known simply as Pathologic), they were hoping to achieve wider media attention – their recent news having only been covered by a few core sites. With an imminent release of an alpha build to Kickstarter backers, now was the perfect time to analyse the opportunities for Ice-Pick Lodge, build a new strategy to accommodate, and run a small test campaign that we could learn from and build upon in the future.
What We Did
We began by working to understand what was not appealing in the way it should about the game. We interviewed a range of games journalists in an off-the-record capacity, presenting them with Pathologic 2’s current elevator pitch and assets, and asked them why they would or wouldn’t be interested in covering the game. This produced some genuinely interesting results, and we were able to spot patterns in what was likely to be putting people off.
We used this as a basis to subtly rebrand the game, re-writing the main descriptive copy and changing the focus of the elevator pitch. We also began to talk about the upcoming Kickstarter demo launch and what sort of a campaign we could build around that.
We opted to take an approach that would appeal to both the existing Pathologic community and the wider gaming media – releasing a series of vignette videos in the run-up to the demo’s launch, and providing a copy of the demo to the press a couple of weeks before its release. This allowed us to simultaneously reach for short-form news coverage and longer-form feature coverage, in addition to giving the community something to talk about. A range of coverage plans were organised with some of the world’s biggest games publications – including Rock Paper Shotgun and PC Gamer for news content; PCGamesN and VG247 for feature content; and IGN, Kotaku and Destructoid for content later down the line. Additionally, a discussion about the teaser videos was seeded on Reddit, where it remained on the front page of popular channel r/games for almost 24 hours.
What We Achieved
In the week running up to the Kickstarter demo’s release, Pathologic was covered by Rock Paper Shotgun, PC Gamer, GameReactor, GameWatcher and more. On the evening of its release, both VG247 and PCGamesN went live with feature content that heavily praised the game – VG247 saying: “Wow. You’re in for a treat.” We were also able to secure future coverage ahead of time, agreeing opportunities with Destructoid, Kotaku and IGN for later down the line.
By coordinating the press activities with Ice-Pick Lodge’s own community activities, and additionally seeding discussions on Reddit, we were able to ensure that the teaser videos were viewed more than 30,000 times on YouTube alone in the week leading up to the demo’s launch, without any media spend. And by opting to encourage Kickstarter backers to publish their own experiences of the demo, we were able to achieve many thousands of additional views of people’s own Let’s Play videos.
The campaign allowed us not only to achieve new press coverage and community interest, but also gave us a perfect opportunity to test out a new communications strategy to pave the way for future campaigns. Ice-Pick Lodge subsequently signed with Devolver Digital to publish the game.