The Metal Gear franchise has a storied history over the past thirty years. The first release was in 1987 that redefined and created an entirely new genre of video game. The creator of this series is Hideo Kojima and he is well known for his convoluted story arcs as well as character development. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was released in September of 2015 and is the most recent addition to join the modern console series since 2008 when Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was released.
In December of 2012 a trailer for a game called “The Phantom Pain” was released, featuring a fake game development studio brand named Moby Dick Studios. This sparked a keen amount of interest in this game that had essentially shown off a spectacularly crafted world but no one had heard of these developers before.
In March of 2013 an interview was arranged between a game journalist and the CEO of Moby Dick Studios. The journalist arrived to the interview to find a man dressed in bandages over his face. His name was Joakim Mogren, and he bore a striking resemblance to one of the characters in the trailer. Joakim refused to answer any of the journalist’s questions but he did reveal that there would be a more official announcement later that month, and he showed some photos from the game indicating that it would be running on the Fox engine.
This interview had a number of journalists speculating as to what exactly happened and how strange the interaction was. Later that month the official announcement was made at the Game Developers Conference. It was unveiled by Hideo Kojima himself with a terrifying mask dressed in bandages similar to Joakim. Hideo announced MGSV: The Phantom Pain and the community surrounding the MGS series rejoiced as they eagerly began to speculate on the events leading up to and during the game’s storyline.
When the release date for MGSV was announced, they also unveiled a skimpily dressed character design for Quiet which caused a fair amount of controversy. When pressed about this, Kojima mentioned that when the game was released people would regret their assumption that she was just a sex object. But in my opinion this has yet to be seen. However, the controversy more than likely helped the game’s presence in social media and increased their visibility.
So, the marketing team for MGSV had to rekindle the community it had once garnished with gamers to raise awareness of the upcoming release. To do this they released a playable teaser type of game that was retailed for full price in 2014 called MGSV: Ground Zeroes. In my opinion this was a very intelligent thing to do, because not only were they able to create a product that hints at a later release. But it also gauged interest and people’s willingness to purchase a full priced game that wasn’t a complete product.
Another fairly clever aspect of MGSV: Ground Zeroes is that the game is almost entirely packed with easter eggs of self-referential content as well as a huge amount of fan service that was definitely appreciated. One specific mission in the game has you pointing a special sort of flashlight at logos of Kojima Productions as well as the various titles of games that have been made in the Metal Gear franchise.
When you point your flashlight at these titles or logos a voice will say something along the lines of “this one’s not very special” or “nice job, that’s another one” depending on whether Hideo Kojima himself worked on the game. If you find all of the relevant titles Hideo Kojima himself will speak and assume that you’ve got extensive knowledge of the series. Then he will thank the player for their knowledge of the series and their support throughout the years.
The amount of time that this campaign took to painstakingly create some semblance of news throughout a course of 3 years is astonishing. The constant trickle of tidbits kept the fans of the series speculating and the critically acclaimed reviews of the game helped with the recommendations through word of mouth. The game itself cost $80 million to create and on the initial release date $179 million were made and a total of 6 million units had been sold in the following months. All in all, I would say that the campaign was outlandish, counterintuitive and at times completely absurd but that’s just what fans come to expect from Hideo Kojima.