SXSW 2009: EA Dead Space - A Deep Media Case Study

One of SXSW's panels that showed off the effects of Panelitis Fakeoutitis (where a panel sounds much better on paper than it actually is) was "EA Dead Space: A Deep Case Media Study," which sounded like it would be a dissection of the game and what went into creating it.

A closer reading of the synopsis noted that it was all about "the method and the madness behind Electronic Arts' use of cross-platform marketing." Wait? What? Marketing?! Well, we went anyhow, and you can check out the highlights beyond the break.

The panel was basically just a pat on the back fest about how EA churned out the comic book, the "No Known Survivors" website and the animated series Downfall to amp up awareness of the game. But did it all pay off? The game was critically well-received, but it hasn't been burning up the sales charts. It's obvious that EA spent a lot of money marketing this new IP, and it plans on spending even more on marketing this year. But will it continue to be on this level?

Deep Focus definitely went above and beyond normal marketing on this game. From getting Film Roman to animate Downfall ("They were so excited not to have to draw yellow characters with spiky hair anymore, and they were so happy to do something with gore in it."), to hiring Antony Johnston and Ben Templeton to work on the graphic novel. Ian Schafer from the company explained the game document EA provided to them was full of tons of details that aren't apparent in the game. It'd built such a rich backstory and world to draw from, that it gave Deep Focus a lot to work with.

Andrew Green, the online marketing manager for EA, called the process a two-way street, and said what they were doing, "Helped get both EA and Deep Focus team members even more excited about the game, and they were able to pass that excitement along to outsiders." He went to to say developers and marketing people shouldn't ignore something as simple as Wikipedia. "Wikipedia drove the lion's share of the traffic to the website. It should not be underestimated. That was all from a simple link at the end of the web entry for the game."

While it remains to be seen if providing this much detail and marketing on a brand-new IP will continue, Green feels like it was a success, and it wouldn't be surprising to see EA try it again. "It is a sequel business. And launching a new IP when Gears of War 2 was coming out, or a 3 or a 4 of anything else, was very hard. All of the community work we did helped that pay off." Ian Schafer was amazed it could have happened at all, "If you know EA, you'll know that it was really amazing that they could do this. They're a huge company, and this was just incredible."

The Q&A didn't yield anything terribly exciting except for this nugget about DLC: Chuck Beaver, the senior producer on the project said, "DLC has become a consumer expectation. We're happy to do it, but it's a tax on the development team. But, if done properly, people can keep touching the brand and keep buying the brand, and that's important."