The mobile game “The Walking Dead: Road to Survival” was downloaded four million times in its first week on the market, and about 2.5 million of those downloads were last weekend alone, according to Scopely, the development company behind the new app.
The game went viral thanks, in part, to a hefty promotional campaign featuring traditional TV commercials, ads on social media that encourage users to install the app, and, naturally, a zombified PewDiePie – the YouTube star known for wacky video game commentary sprinkled with foul language.
Scopely, the mobile developer behind the game, said that “Road to Survival” is emblematic of the new stakes in marketing mobile games. The game was developed by Scopely in conjunction with “The Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman and his firm Skybound Entertainment. (AMC is not involved with the title.)
To ensure the success of new games, mobile game developers in the last several years have relied on ads in social networks and in mobile apps that push users to download their games. In fact, app-install ads have been cited as a big driver of Facebook’s mobile ad growth.
Those ads, which urge people to download games directly from Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, are still crucial. According to Scopely Chief Executive Walter Driver, the company’s pre-launch marketing efforts for “Road to Survival” include 56 million ad impressions on social media platforms.
However, competition among mobile games is increasing, and true hits generate hundreds of millions of dollars (the mobile game developer Supercell, for example, pulled in $1.7 billion last year). That means just running ads encouraging app downloads no longer cuts it, said Mr. Driver, which is why there have been more mobile game companies running, say, Super Bowl ads.
For “Road to Survival,” Scopely ran a TV campaign promoting the title on Comedy Central, FX, ESPN and other networks, compiling 160 million ad impressions over the past month or so.
Plus, Scopely was able to generate four million video views on YouTube and Facebook with a combination of ads and videos created by social influencers, including PewDiePie – a.k.a. Felix Kjellberg, who boasts of nearly 40 million subscribers on YouTube. Scopely had the video game enthusiast Mr. Kjellberg and other YouTube creators appear in videos dressed up like “Walking Dead” zombies.
That sort of tactic may be atypical for many mobile game developers, who tend to be analytics-driven and obsessed with tracking the direct impact of every media dollar they spend on game downloads. But it’s the nature of mobile game marketing in 2015, said Mr. Driver.
“The stakes are getting higher, and the revenue for these games is getting exponentially larger, so the marketing is really escalating,” he said. “That’s resulting in us trying things that may not have made sense before.”
Scopely declined to disclose any revenue data on its overall business or this particularly game. The company has raised over $43 million in venture funding since launching about four years ago.
“We are very data-driven and capital efficient,” Mr. Driver added. “But we also need to create things people care about.”
It surely helps that so many fans watch “The Walking Dead”–not to mention the fact that AMC just launched a spinoff of the show, “Fear The Walking Dead,” which debuted to record cable ratings.
But Mr. Driver also noted that since Scopely now has now amassed a collection of 50 million people playing its other games, such as “Mini Golf Matchup,” the firm has a solid base of fans to market new games to. “Mobile game marketing is really starting to favor incumbents,” he said.
Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly attributed data on the number of downloads for the game “The Walking Dead: Road to Survival,” to App Annie. The data comes from Scopely directly.
SOURCE: THE WALL STREET JOURNAL