Last week I flew back to the US in order to undertake a Bad Day LA preview press tour. I’d had intentions to write a daily update of the tour but just couldn’t find the time or energy. Anyway… better late than never.
Behind the scenes the tour actually began several weeks before my flight out of Hong Kong. The development team worked furiously to make lots of last minute fixes to critical areas of the game. Emails flew back and forth on topics such as scheduling and strategy. Essentially there is a great mess of noise and confusion, a sense of urgency, a rush to deliver, and then… a simple calendar and a disc with the game and some assets.
I packed my bags…
This is how you bring WMDs into the US from China. Nail clippers. Deadliest of destructive forces. Note the florescent pink packaging, a certain indicator of the awful forces contained within.
So to the airport. On the way there, a quick aside. I think it is important to point out how *easy* it is to enter and exit Hong Kong, and for that matter China. Hong Kong features an awesome express train that travels from the heart of the Central district straight to the airport. You check your bags *before* you’re even within 50 miles of the airport. They vanish, not to be seen again until they tumble off the baggage-go-round at your destination. Same feeling with you, the passenger. Taxi->train->plane. That simple. That is UNLESS you happen to be going to the land of the free, the home of the paranoid. In that case, do NOT effortlessly check bags, do NOT go straight to your departure gate. Instead, lug said bags to the airport, stand in a half-hour x-ray line, then standing in another half-hour ticket line, THEN go to your gate. Whatever, I still brought deadly nail clippers. I blame these guys:
Back to the PR tour.
So the basic idea of a press tour like this is to introduce the press to your product in the hopes that they will say nice things about it and, if you are lucky, write special features to help promote it. These days exposure = success. As I’ve said before, you could have the best video game in the world, but without awareness you’ve got a certain failure. Hence the press tour.
The last press tour I went on was to promote Scrapland. At that time I made some quip about some of the magazine editors in San Francisco being a little sleepy. One response I read said to expect that if showing a “boring” game. TouchÃ©. And viva la difference when showing Bad Day LA. Not only did people not seem sleepy, they were genuinely interested, freaked out, and even offended!
Here you see what a press tour looks like, basically. Offices where guys and girls who write video game magazines spend their days uh, writing video game magazines.
The basic drill goes something like this: Arrive in random city, hoping it contains a decent number of video game media outlets. San Francisco and Los Angeles are likely targets. (Don’t forget Minneapolis. In addition to housing the largest indoor mall in the US they also happen to be home to GI. Note Game Informer has some of the coolest offices in the business. They also happen to have a mind numbingly large collection of previously reviewed video games.) Then go from office to office pimping your game. Pray that people don’t fall asleep. Say the same thing over and over in every meeting, trying to act spontaneous and funny, as if you didn’t just say the exact same thing in the previous meeting. Sigh. Then move to the next appointment. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The tough thing about a PR tour (aside from jetlag and the general malaise of travelling) is being “on”. This is what that “sigh” in the previous paragraph is about. The truth is that even if you’re honestly excited about the product that you’re pitching and the people that you’re meeting with you end up saying the same thing over and over again. You tell the same jokes, you make the same references. After a while it becomes a bit automatic, although it is always adjusted a little for each audience. At the end of the day this is the whole *point* of the PR tour, to sell people on the concept of your game as quickly and effectively as possible.
In all, with the help of my trusty PR guide Kyle, I was able to hit 14 outlets in 5 days. The response across the board was the same: surprise, amazement, and serious interest. Everyone we showed the game to *loved it*. To be honest, I was a little surprised. My biggest fears were that people either would not get the humor or that the gameplay would seem overly simple. On both of these points I was wrong. The humor had every person in every meeting laughing constantly (Ok, except one guy, but we suspect he’s a republican. Sorry D.) The gameplay was met with the sorts of comments that I had hoped for, that games these days are “too hard”, “too frustrating”, and generally “not fun”. The simple gameplay in BDLA is meant to alleviate that, harkening back to simpler times. We’ll see if the response holds once these editors get a chance to play hands-on.
Outcome: The Bad Day LA PR tour was a success. I got to see lots of people that I like to see, make them laugh, and give them terrorist weapons.
Sunrise over Victoria Harbour. One good thing about jetlag is that you get to watch the sunrise while the rest of the city sleeps.
If you are interested you can check out full sized images here.