Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the last installment of the Uncharted series developed by Naughty Dog, Inc. and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PlayStation 4 console. It was released worldwide on May 10, 2016, and is currently the best-selling PlayStation 4 video game.
The game is an *inhales* … action-adventure, third-person shooter, cinematic, platformer which follows Nathan “Nate” Drake, a treasure hunter, as he travels around the world following clues for Captain Henry Avery’s treasure after being reunited with his older brother.
All four Uncharted console games use the most advanced technology available aiming to create photo-realistic characters, settings, and graphics. Motion capture technology is also used with the actors, which provides most of the motion capture and voice work for scenes in the series. Uncharted 4 has been reported to be the most advanced game yet, pushing the PS4 to its technological limits.
In theory, it would not seem too hard to market a game from an acclaimed studio, with previously successful games, and a built fan base; but the fourth installation of the game had its share of difficulties. In 2014, months after the original teaser trailer debuted, Amy Hennig the series writer and creative director left the studio and was replaced by Neil Druckmann, who was behind the highly successful PS3 exclusive game, The Last of Us.
Along with changes within Naughty Dog, the company also ran into technical problems in development, as well as the release date being pushed back several times. A marketing manager for Sony Interactive said the game was “PlayStation’s largest ever software investment” while also being “biggest ever marketing campaign” in the United Kingdom.
Integrated Marketing: Beyond the Traditional Campaign
The Nathan Drake Collection
In October of 2015, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, a remastered collection of the three previous games (Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception) was announced for the PlayStation 4 in anticipation for the fourth installment of the game. This came after it was announced that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End would be released for the PlayStation 4, which did not allow for backward compatibility with PS3 games. Players who pre-ordered the remastered collection were allowed access to Uncharted 4‘s beta multiplayer.
Special Editions & Pre-Orders
In August of 2015, Naughty Dog announced not only a Special Edition of the game but also Libertalia Collector’s Edition and Digital Deluxe Edition which each offered a variety of in-game bonus, limited edition items, and branded merchandise. During the 2016 Christmas season, Sony released a limited time PS4 bundle that included A Thief’s End with console and dual-shock controller.
A TV spot titled “Man Behind the Treasure” was aired numerous times during popular televisions shows around the world. This was even more notable in the UK where it ran during The Walking Dead‘s season 6 finale, the season premiere of Game of Thrones, and for an entire ad block on Britain’s Channel 4. The feature also has almost 7 million views on YouTube.
Around the world, there was a plethora of outdoor advertising for Uncharted 4. From billboards to bus sides, the cover of A Thief’s End was common in many metropolitan areas. Also notable was the game’s 2015 E3 convention billboard which was draped over the entrance of the Los Angeles Convention Center.
The “Man Behind the Treasure” clip also made its way into movie theaters in both the United States and the United Kingdom premiering before blockbusters like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men Apocalypse, and Bad Neighbors 2.
Traditional Game Promotion
Like most games, Uncharted 4 made many eye-catching point of sale displays featuring Nathan Drake to promote the game. Sony also gave the game a large amount of PR coverage, targeted at gaming magazines and websites as well as launching a large digital campaign on YouTube and other outlets. The digital campaign released exclusive interviews with actors and developers as well as releasing behind the scenes footage of the motion capture recordings and actual game development.
What Sony could have added?
The only thing I think Sony could have added to make this already well-executed campaign better was to possibly have created interactive set pieces for people to interact with at conventions and in public places. The whole idea behind Uncharted, besides the excellent story and characters, is a sense of adventure. I believe that recreating a part of a level using branded inflatable bounce-houses and props would have been fun for fans and an innovative way to promote the game not only in the news but also in the digital campaign.
Overall, I believe that Sony did a phenomenal job at marketing Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Not only did they use some of the traditional advertising that most games do with digital adverting, PR coverage, and retail point of sale displays but they also brought the teaser clip “Man Behind the Treasure” to theaters which is something few games have done before. They also did more out of home advertising than I’ve seen other games do and used the remastered versions and special edition pre-orders to help drum up hype.
The game has now gone on to sell over 8.7 million copies, as well as be the best selling game on the PS4. A Thief’s End also received critical acclaim and has been nominated for several “Game of the Year” awards. The game has a great story, as well as engaging game-play, and excellent acting. Not only does it wrap the series, with Nathan Drake as the lead, up nicely it also leaves room for other expansions featuring other characters.
Overall, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is an excellent game, but that isn’t what has helped make it a best seller. The work and money put behind the marketing campaign of this title are what helped make it a best seller for PlayStation.