Saints Row IV did not have the easiest road to publication. After THQ, the original publisher of the Saints Row franchise, went bankrupt and was dissolved in January 2013, Saints Row developer Volition moved to Koch Media’s label Deep Silver. This came several months after THQ had somewhat confusingly announced that a planned expansion pack for Saints Row 3, titled Enter the Dominatrix, was actually going to be a new full game in the series.
So, how did Enter the Dominatrix go from being a $30 expansion pack for Saints Row 3 to becoming an independent sequel that was bigger than any of the Saints Row games that had gone before it? More importantly, how did Deep Silver go about convincing gamers that Saints Row 4 was now going to be worth paying full price for?
Speaking to [a]listdaily, Deep Silver’s PR rep Aubrey Norris – who Game Rant is familiar with thanks to her always-entertaining PR releases for Saints Row 4 and other games – discussed the formulation of the marketing campaign for Saints Row 4, which featured gimmicks like the $1 million dollar collector’s edition of the game (including, amongst other bonuses, a Lamborghini Gallardo, some plastic surgery and a trip to space) and was launched with an epic announcement trailer. Norris explains that there was a considerable amount of confusion to clear up:
“When you have an expansion that’s announced like that, and then sort of like difficult messaging where it sounds like THQ just took an expansion and decided to call it a game, you’re fighting against what has been done before, and you have to turn around that perception of what it is.
“It’s not something you can fix overnight… You can’t show everything that you have right away, otherwise what kind of marketing campaign would you have. It was something that we had to overcome over time. The game very obviously is its own deal and very obviously a full game, so it wasn’t hard to overcome that, it was just a matter of time. You have to get to a certain point where you’ve shown enough.
A lot of the trailers and promotions for Saints Row IV have been tongue-in-cheek, not only poking fun at other games but also, in many ways, parodying the nature of video game marketing campaigns and some of the techniques used to promote them. Asked about their heavily humorous approach to selling the game, Norris explained:
“One thing that we noticed was that the way that Saints Row had been marketed before to a certain extent, it didn’t feel like it was playing up the things that people love about the game as much as it should have. We wanted everything that we did to be just crazy. We wanted people to look at our key art and be like, ‘what the hell’. Everything should be fun, it should be funny, not take itself seriously.”
True to the spirit of the series, the trailers for Saints Row IV showcased the most ludicrous new features available on the game, including the superpowers that the Saints Row Boss and newly-inaugurated President of the United States acquires, new weapons such as the appropriately-named dubstep gun and weapon mods that can reskin a rocket launcher to look like a guitar case.
The marketing for Saints Row IV ultimately paid off, with the game selling 1 million units within a few weeks of its initial release, and tripling the first week PC sales tally for Saints Row III. The original expansion pack, Enter the Dominatrix, is now planned to release as a piece of DLC for Saints Row IV (possibly as part of the text-based 8 bit dominatrix game that has been teased in some of the trailers).
Tell us if the Saints Row IV marketing campaign convinced you to buy the game, or whether you were planning to purchase it all along, in the comments.
Saints Row IV is out now on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.