In the lead up to the launch of Castlevania: Lord of Shadows 2, Australian distributor Mindscape delivered a novel event for the media and general public.
Mindscape partnered with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service to hold a preview event at Sydney's Elizabeth St Donor Centre where attendees could go hands-on with the game and also learn about the importance of donating blood.
MCV Pacific spoke with Mindscape's marketing coordinator James Kozanecki about the event.
James, I'm sure there's a link somewhere between blood donation and vampires, but where did the idea for this activity come from?
At the risk of sounding clichéd, I actually thought up the idea when I was donating blood in North Sydney around July last year. Originally the game was slotted for October and we were aiming to execute a Halloween campaign, but when it was delayed we started looking for a new angle. As the theme of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is blood, I thought the Red Cross Blood Service would be a great partner.
How did you pitch the idea to the Red Cross?
Pitching the event to the Red Cross was actually quite simple, which came as a bit of a surprise to me. Shaun Inguanzo from the Red Cross happens to be a gamer, so he was interested in getting involved. We presented Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 and the game’s relationship to blood and they thought it was the perfect fit. We met at their Town Hall donation centre and from there the wheels were in motion.
Did they have any reservations about being involved?
I was a bit concerned that the Australian Red Cross Blood Donation Service would be conservative when it came to considering new ideas (especially those from unconventional media), however I found that Shaun was all ears and keen to be involved with Mindscape. Shaun has been looking at non-traditional ways to reach young people, with gaming being one way to target them. It’s was perfect timing for both of us.
Why did you decide to involve the media and the general public?
The event was going to be our big activation for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 here in Australia and since we partnered with the Red Cross it was important for us to reach out to both media and community alike. Our objective was to increase exposure for the game along with communicating we were a socially responsible organisation. For the Red Cross it was to have more people donating blood and the more people we got through the door, the more people they could speak to and get pledges from. So from that perspective inviting the community along with the media made a lot of sense.
Who were you trying to target with this activity?
Castlevania is very much a core gamer's game, but we're fortunate that it has a very wide fan base thanks to its 28 year heritage. We were targeting the 'core gamer' , and having the blood donation angle allowed us to hit the more mainstream customer increasing our audience and appealing to an audience that wouldn't normally be interested in such a title.
What was the response from the general public?
All of the feedback was extremely positive for both the event concept and the game. It was a bit of a funny one, because some people are afraid of needles and we definitely got a few people who were there just to see the game, so once we identified them we just let them play the game and try to talk to them about the blood donation and why it is so important in saving lives.
What was the response from the Red Cross after the event?
Shaun and the ARCBDS were extremely positive post-event and were very pleased with the results we presented to them in our post-campaign report. This was the first event of its kind that they had done with the games industry so the pressure was on both sides to deliver results. Thanks to the event's unique theme, a lot of media outlets were quite supportive of it and we were able to secure a wide spectrum of coverage prior, during and after.
I think one of the best pieces to come out of the event was from Stevivor editor Steve Wright, who prior to the event was fairly vocal in his distaste for the ARCBDS's policy regarding the collection of blood from homosexual males. After the event I was able to put Steve in contact with Shaun, who was able to explain the science behind the policy and through that Steve wrote a really thoughtful article about the topic. Whilst CLOS 2 took a bit of a back seat in that article, for me I feel it's the most powerful articles out of the campaign.
Finally, what lessons did you learn from the whole event?
The biggest learning curve was getting our heads around what we could and couldn't do with the charity, especially surrounding incentivising blood donation. The original idea was to get fans to play the game and donate blood for either merchandise or game discount vouchers. The Red Cross quickly, but politely, explained their terms and rules surrounding people donating blood so that idea had to be scrapped. At the end of the day we wanted people to really want to donate blood with the incentive being, be the first to play the last instalment of the Lords of Shadow saga. Our goal was to help raise awareness for what's a very important age group to the ARCBDS and those who need blood don't get a respawn, so we went to every effort possible to ensure we worked within the guidelines and get the message across to gamers.