For the first time, Ubisoft has tapped into the creative talents and audiences of three YouTube influencers to create a 30-minute short film that tells the back stories of four Division agents for the upcoming action game, Tom Clancy’s The Division. The game publisher worked with RocketJump and devinsupertramp to develop Agent Origins, which was produced by Corridor Digital.
Agent Origins will be released as four separate episodes on YouTube, each featured on the respective creator’s and Ubisoft’s channels, and will debut in its entirety with exclusive scenes on Amazon’s Prime Instant Video service on January 19.
Ann Hamilton, brand representative at Ubisoft, explains how this project came to be, and why the game maker is tapping into YouTube talent and digital distribution, in this exclusive interview.
What were the goals with this live action film to market Tom Clancy’s The Division game?
As an entertainment company with a new IP, we were looking for a way to immerse an audience into the world of The Division before the game’s anticipated release.
Why did you choose these particular YouTube creators for this project?
Corridor Digital, RocketJump, and devinsupertramp each have a strong track record of creating high-quality creative content that we felt was a perfect fit to bring these Division agent back stories to life. We have worked with each of them on projects in the past, but this was the first time that the three worked together on a single short film.
From a quick look at their videos they have mostly non-gaming content. How does tapping into these channels factor into the marketing plan for this short film?
Each of them has super strong fan base within our target demographic, which gives us a reach beyond our endemic sites. They are all video game fans themselves and have a creative approach that celebrates the game stories in a unique way. They just get it and know what people want to see. It’s like reaching out to J.J. Abrams to direct Star Trek and Star Wars.
How did these YouTubers work with Ubisoft game developers in this project?
They coordinated on the scripts and, of course, distributed their portions of the series through their channels. In addition, Devin was an additional director on set for his episode. Each episode was tailored to the specific creators. For example, RocketJump’s episode was the most humorous approach; devinsupertramp’s involved parkour.
Creatively, what has YouTube opened up from an influencer marketing perspective for video games?
YouTube is an amazing channel for the video game industry. It allows us to share our video content with our consumers directly through our own channels. It has been a great tool at building communities for each of our games. We release a variety of content including gameplay walkthroughs, interviews with game development teams, game trailers, as well as partnering with major creative talents on projects like Agent Origins. Additionally, it’s a venue for fans to create their own content based around our games and share it.
How did Amazon become part of this marketing campaign and how will they promote Agent Origins?
We have a great partnership with Amazon video games, but this is the first time we have worked with Amazon Prime to distribute an exclusive short film. With their audience share and an existing video game marketplace, they are the perfect partner for us to reach a wide audience and introduce the lore of The Division prior to game release. Amazon Prime members will be able to watch the 30-minute short film with five minutes of exclusive scenes via the Amazon Video app on TVs, connected devices, and mobile devices or online at www.amazon.com/PrimeVideo.
Tom Clancy has a history of film and transmedia projects. What does that background open up for games set within this brand?
Ubisoft is an entertainment company with a lot of opportunities to develop projects for our IPs beyond games, not just limited to Tom Clancy. Of course, having a parent IP that has had many years of movies, games, books and more establishes credibility for any new venture. We are hopeful to continue these types of cross-pollinating projects in the future of our brands.
The Division is also a brand new IP. What are the challenges of introducing a new game to today’s audience?
Awareness is a huge issue. So many of the top selling video games are successful franchises with many years of hits, including our own Assassin’s Creed. Being part of the Tom Clancy family definitely helps because we can tap into fans of our other Clancy games like Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six for a head start on awareness. With a new IP within Clancy, we have to determine what is unique about this particular game and find interesting ways to share this distinct experience with as wide an audience as possible. The Agent Origins project is one of those efforts – allowing us to bring the agents of The Division to life before the game launch.
Are you looking at this as an experiment in some ways to see the potential of reaching YouTube creators’ audiences, as well as their talent – which is one of the hallmarks of influencer marketing?
We have been working with YouTube creators for a number of years, so we knew going into this project that the chances for success were good. But this is our first time working with three creators on a single project and we are very happy with the results.
What excites you about the potential of gaining access to these types of huge audience bases digitally, versus the old-fashioned way of just blitzing TV ads?
The reach of Amazon Prime and YouTube is huge and it is where our consumers are going for their entertainment more and more in the future of our business. YouTube celebrities are just as influential now as TV and movie celebrities. Digital is now another way we put content in front of audiences to enjoy.