8 video game marketing campaigns we can’t help but love

It doesn’t matter whether it’s developed by one person in their bedroom or hundreds of people at a world-class studio; any upcoming video game needs a good marketing campaign to help it stand out from the crowd and drum up hype amongst players. 

But with literally hundreds of games being released every week, finding an imaginative way to get people excited for your new title is far from easy – even for studios with massive marketing budgets to play with. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of outstanding examples from video game marketers with more brains than Professor Layton to take inspiration from. So, without further ado, let’s dive in. 


When Halo 3 was about to launch in 2007, it had been several years since the release of Halo 2. Hype was already high for the sequel, meaning Microsoft and Bungie could have played it relatively safe by simply showing off fancy gameplay and still achieved decent results – but they didn’t.

Instead, they came up with Halo 3: Believe, which has become one of the best video game marketing campaigns ever conceived, thanks to its effect on driving up sales for the title. 

Microsoft and Bungie commissioned an enormous 1200 sq ft diorama featuring dozens of handcrafted UNSC and Covenant figures. To put that scale into perspective, the pair actually rented out an entire warehouse to put it all together.

The model itself was very carefully crafted, with the Director behind it having real-life actors stand in for the Marines, capturing their facial expressions and using them as the basis of the miniatures. Character assets from Bungie, including Covenant models and armour, were also recreated to ensure the model was almost photo-realistic.  

It all culminated in an enigmatic trailer called “Believe”, which managed to capture the attention of gamers and non-gamers alike thanks to its absence of actual video game footage. 

The trailer was complemented by an online interactive fly-through of the diorama, featuring voice-acted soundbites from ‘UNSC veterans’ who shared emotional stories of serving alongside the Master Chief – almost as if it all really happened. 

It’s worth noting that, at the time, it was almost unheard of to see a video game universe so faithfully recreated in real life, which made this all the more mindblowing. 

The results speak for themselves. Halo 3 garnered an estimated $170 million in sales in the United States alone in the first 24 hours, making it the biggest entertainment launch in history (at the time). It did so well that some people blamed it for poor box office sales!


Everyone loves chocolate. But you know what could make it even sweeter? That’s right, hordes of demons and blazing hellfire. 

Lilith & Co was an over-18s-only “goremet” pop-up chocolate shop which opened last year in Soho, London, to promote the launch of the latest instalment in Blizzard’s demonic role-playing franchise, Diablo IV. 

The shop sold all kinds of tasty (yet diabolical) creations based on the world of Diablo, from miniature creations like skulls and bones to a life-sized Loot Goblin corpse. There was also an unfinished bust of the Khazra demon, demonstrating the chocolate-making process used to craft the lifelike replicas. 

Guests could purchase some of the smaller items (prices started at £6.66) while the larger pieces were auctioned off. All proceeds went to SpecialEffect, a charity that supports people with physical disabilities by helping them continue to enjoy video games.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been a Diablo event without some gameplay, so the store had early-access previews of the new title downstairs where visitors could try out the game before its official launch date. 

The unusual mix of demon slaying and chocolate munching caught the press’s attention, with everything from PCGames to Techrader and the NME popping along to see what the despicable treats tasted like. 

While we’re sure this chocolate shop alone wasn’t the only contributing factor behind the tremendous success of Diablo IV, which rapidly surpassed $666 Million in sales and broke several sales records for Blizzard, it indeed must have made a significant impact. 


As the sequel to one of the most acclaimed first-person shooters of all time, Bioshock 2 had Big Daddy-sized shoes to fill. Fans were desperate for information, too, as the game had already been teased via a hidden trailer in the PlayStation 3 version of the original BioShock.

Rather than fight off the horde of rabid fans, the 2K Games marketing team decided to play into their hunger with a cryptic campaign called “Something in the Sea”. It began with a mysterious website launched in March 2009, which hinted at the return to Rapture and invited players to explore its depths. 

Over the next few months, visitors were greeted with eerie audio recordings, enigmatic messages and hidden clues, all hinting at secrets beneath the waves. These detailed the story of a fictional father, Mark Meltzer, who had been searching for his abducted daughter and ultimately discovered Rapture. 

The website was quite an undertaking in itself. Still, the campaign only really began to make a splash in August 2009, when video game media outlets worldwide received ominous letters from Mark Meltzer, who claimed he would be at Jones Beach, Long Island, on 8 August.

The letters also specified Mark’s expected latitude and longitude and the times and locations of nine other key beach spots to check out that day (including Brighton Beach in England and Rimini Beach in Italy). Similar details were also uploaded to the mysterious website.  

Since Bioshock 2 was still not fully unveiled, the gaming community was filled with anticipation and curiosity as no one knew what awaited them at these locations.

On the day, hundreds of fans gathered around beaches worldwide, hoping to uncover the mystery, generating a ton of social media activity. At each site, wine bottles produced by a fictional Rapture vineyard containing posters and other artefacts from Bioshock washed up on the shore.

Bioshock 2 wine

While the posters withheld details about the game’s plot, leaving some disappointed, they added to the enigmatic aura surrounding BioShock 2, intensifying the buzz surrounding its release.

When it was finally released, BioShock 2 topped the sales charts and was considered a success for 2K Games. Within the first month of its release in February 2010, BioShock 2 sold over 3 million copies worldwide across multiple platforms, including Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. 


You’d be forgiven for not giving Hideo Kojima’s survival horror demo, P.T., much attention when it was first unveiled at Sony’s Gamescom presentation in 2014. It had a very short blink-and-you’ll-miss-it trailer and was created by a seemingly unknown developer, 7780s Studio. 

The only real noteworthy thing about this ‘“interactive teaser” (as it was described) was that it was released for free immediately onto the PlayStation Store, which is where things started to get interesting. 

P.T. sees players stepping into an eerie hallway that appears stuck in an endless loop, with a sinister ghost haunting their every move. It has a meticulously crafted atmosphere, unsettling audio design and chilling visuals, instilling a horrific sense of dread.

Word of mouth rapidly spread and went viral quickly, sending gaming forums and social media into a frenzy. Players tried to uncover precisely what this unusual “teaser” hinted at by studying every nook and cranny of its looping hallway.

Eventually, some clever folks figured out a specific sequence you had to follow to end the nightmare, which revealed a trailer for a new instalment in the long-running horror series Silent Hill, starring Norman Reedus (perhaps most known for his role in The Walking Dead) and created by none other than Hideo Kojima (as well as Guillermo Del Toro).

It was a brilliant act of marketing deception, demonstrating that sometimes the best way to sell a game is to let people play it simply. P.T. garnered mass critical acclaim, with many journalists calling it their Game of the Year – no small feat for what was just a demo. 

Those familiar with P.T. will know that despite its overwhelming reception, Silent Hills was ultimately cancelled due to a reported breakdown in the relationship between Hideo Kojima and Konami and subsequently removed from the PlayStation store. 

The only way to access P.T. now is if you installed it onto a PlayStation 4 before its removal from the store, which at one point caused the consoles to reach up to $1,800 on eBay!

While it might not have a happy ending, the game’s clever marketing campaign undoubtedly helped cement its place in horror history. 


Stardew Valley is one of the most celebrated indie games in video game history, marking its place in the hearts of more than 20 million players across various platforms through its relaxing farm life simulation gameplay. Even its soundtrack has a huge following, with an Orchestral Tour set to travel the world next year (promoted by yours truly).  

stardew valley

However, most would agree that the most impressive thing about Stardew Valley is that this indie darling was developed and marketed by just one man, Eric Barone (also known as ConcernedApe).

Because of that, Stardew Valley’s marketing strategy was distinct in that it primarily relied on word-of-mouth, social media and community engagement.

For example, throughout the development of Stardew Valley, Eric provided regular updates on social media platforms and forums on how the title was shaping up, helping to create early anticipation among fans who were intrigued by the game’s concept and nostalgic appeal reminiscent of classic farming simulation games like Harvest Moon.

Barone was an incredibly active member of the game’s burgeoning fandom on Reddit, answering questions and sharing new content, which helped the title become a mainstay on the popular Games subreddit months before its debut.

Barone also blogged about his work on the game’s website, giving a behind-the-scenes look you wouldn’t usually see. Eric would also respond to fan inquiries and make changes to various aspects of the game based on feedback he received, helping foster a sense of community and loyalty among players before release.

When Barone finally released the title onto Steam, he was met with an overwhelmingly positive response, and a significant part of that was because he’d gone to the effort of so carefully engaging with the community.


Saints Row arguably started as nothing but a glorified clone of Grand Theft Auto but quickly made a name for itself in later instalments by leading into the more outrageous aspects of its gameplay – be that superpowers, shark-summoning shotguns or road trips with a tiger. 

So it was perhaps fitting then that the team at Volition thought apt to market the fourth instalment in the franchise by releasing a one-of-a-kind special edition that was as eye-catching and ridiculous as its gameplay – with a whopping $1 million dollar price tag.

Available exclusive from UK retailer GAME, the exorbitantly priced “Super Dangerous Wad Wad Edition” contained:

  • Saints Row IV: Commander in Chief Edition
  • A full-sized replica Dubstep Gun
  • A full day of spy training
  • A trip to space with Virgin Galactic One year’s membership of E25 Super Car Club and a Lamborghini Gallardo to make it worthwhile
  • Plastic Surgery of the purchaser’s choice
  • A shopping spree with a personal shopper to create the ultimate Planet Saints capsule wardrobe
  • Seven nights for two at The Jefferson Hotel in Washington
  • Hostage rescue experience 
  • A brand new Toyota Prius and insurance to give something back to the environment
  • Seven nights stay in the Top Royal Suite at the Burj-al-arab with flights for two


It was never actually confirmed by publisher Deep Silver whether anyone purchased the Wad Wad Edition, but I don’t think that was ever really the objective. It was more likely conceived as a clever ploy to market the new title by poking fun at the high price tag of video game special editions. 

It was effective, picking up a ton of media coverage on sites like The Verge, GameRant, Rock Paper Shotgun and more. One publication even ran a financial breakdown of everything included in the Wad Wad Edition, concluding that it’s terrible value, cementing the entire joke. 

Deep Silver followed up on this idea with the Saints Row reboot, which had its own joke edition revealed on April Fool’s Day worth $100,000,000. You couldn’t purchase this one, but the buyer was said to become CEO of Deep Silver, get a book deal, have their student loan debts paid, a fleet of expensive cars and several other benefits.


Unlike the other examples on this list, this one isn’t a specific marketing campaign that we’re impressed with; it’s more of a broader trend as a whole. Simply put, a growing number of video games with LiveOps strategies are leveraging the power of real-world seasonal events to boost their revenues.


In fact, according to GameRefinery, more than 90% of the top-grossing 100 iOS mobile games use seasonal events to boost their revenues, making national holidays an essential part of LiveOps, with players expecting an influx of new content as holiday seasons approach. 

The events often vary from region to region for obvious reasons (i.e. it’s unlikely anyone outside of China will rush to a Chinese New Year event). Still, generally, almost any significant date in the calendar year is worthy of the LiveOps treatment – be that Christmas, Halloween, Pride Month, St Patrick’s Day or any others you can think of!

Events like these are an excellent opportunity for game studios to give their games a seasonal makeover with new story content, game modes and seasonal cosmetic items that will drive engagement and open up new monetisation opportunities. 

Let’s look at some of the games that got involved with this year’s Valentine’s Day as an example:

  • Hello Kitty Island Adventure celebrated with a Hugs & Hearts Festival where players spend time catching special “lovebugs” scattered around their island. 
  • In Pikmin Bloom, players will receive a Gold Seedling that will grow into a 2024 Valentine Sticker Decor Pikmin each time they complete a Weekly Challenge. 
  • DC Universe Online opened a Tunnel of Love where players could “rekindle the love lost in Gotham City” with new base items, feats and styles.
  • Baldur’s Gate 3 released a patch which improved the game’s kissing animations. 

Some games even go so far as to join forces with other IP and popular franchises as part of their seasonal event offerings to boost attention, like Lies Of P’s recent Valentine’s Day collaboration with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, which leads us nicely on to our next point…


When Nintendo planned for Animal Crossing: New Horizons to release in March 2020, they surely never could have foreseen this would be at the peak of a global pandemic that locked people all around the world inside their homes. 

With very few ways left to keep ourselves entertained, the concept of building your own tropical paradise was hard to resist. 

New Horizons saw unprecedented success for the series, selling 11.77 million copies in 12 days. New Horizons sold more physical copies in its first week than the launch sales of all its sister titles combined, making it the biggest single game launch on Nintendo Switch ever at the time.

That momentum continued throughout the months to come. Animal Crossing New Horizons’ lifetime sales are now over 43 million, and the title is reportedly Japan’s best-selling video game. 

But one of the most interesting factors that helped to keep the Animal Crossing craze going was the number of brands reaching out to customers in-game and through the power of social media.

Luxury fashion brands like Cath Kitson, Gucci, Marc Jacobs and Valentino introduced official custom designs to the game, allowing players to personalise their avatars when they were stuck indoors.

gucci animal crossing

This is just one of the many examples of branded integrations and IP collaborations that have become commonplace in video games today, many of which we’ve worked on ourselves.

Simply put, IP and brand collaborations are an incredibly effective way to market a game, giving a great hook to capture the media’s attention and prospective players, with Newzoo reporting that such crossovers can boost game DAU by over 11%.


Obviously, not every studio has the budget to build warehouse-sized dioramas or wash up fictional merchandise on beaches around the world, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t aspects of these campaigns everyone can apply to their game marketing strategies.

  • The best video game marketing campaigns execute a novel idea that matches players’ expectations. You wouldn’t expect the demonic world of Diablo to match up with a chocolate shop, which is why the contrast between the two was so effective.
  • Video game marketing campaigns that seem “real” have a much greater impact. Halo 3 and Bioshock 2 made their fictional worlds feel almost tangible, and players were excited to become part of these universes.
  • Communication can be a powerful tool, particularly for those with limited resources. Stardew Valley shows that keeping an open dialogue with your players on forums, social media and through blogs can build a powerful connection between players and your title.
  • Similarly, consider what’s going on in the real world when looking at ways to promote your game. Particularly for live service titles, incorporating content themed around popular events and holidays can enhance engagement.
  • Partnering with famous brands and IPs can be a powerful way to catch the attention of new players and open up new media opportunities. We recommend carefully considering whether any such partnership makes sense for your title. 

You’ve seen the best; now check out the rest. If you enjoyed this post, check out our blog post on some of the biggest video game PR failures for tips on what to avoid when promoting your upcoming game.