In the first part, I have introduced the IP and what I liked about it. In this second part, we will focus on the PR campaigns and their differences.
To help in this endeavour and make it more gullible, I have created the infographics below. If you wish to use them somewhere else, please feel free to do so. Before we dive in, here is the methodology:
- Compare different press sites
- Compare the games’ websites
- Watch all the trailers
- Read all press releases
- Compare assets
- Identify patterns, differences & similarities
- Ensure that the data was not off
Despite all the efforts above, I apologize in advance if the numbers are slightly different. The main reason is that it was really hard to corroborate everything as I found differences from an official press site to the other…
- Most of the announcements for
Waifu/Husbando simulatorFire Emblem games are done through global Nintendo Directs, or social networks/brand sites. Out of the 3 games, the only one that was announced through a dedicated FE Nintendo Direct was Echoes – Shadows of Valentia. The main reason is that during the said Nintendo Direct, Warriors and Heroes got plenty of content, but it was also revealed that FE Switch was being developed. Last but not least, this also proves that the Fire Emblem brand reached a certain level of importance in Nintendo’s portfolio and could shine on its own.
- Awakening was supposed to be the last installment, meaning that the devs went all-in with it in terms of features, to please both a hardcore audience, but also a mainstream one – for obvious reasons.
- I have listed the DLCs amount because they are an important part of Fire Emblem, but also because fans & media were rather vocal about them and I thought it would be interesting to compare the data/info
- Fates was a “3-in-1” kind of game (well, you could buy the 3 versions), so technically, it could mean more content to communicate about
- Post-launch refers to the duration of the DLCs plan
- Fates got a fact sheet, 4 possibilities:
- Press sites aren’t updated so I couldn’t find Awakening & Shadows of Valentia
- Having a “3-in-1” required it
- They tried something new
- All of the above
Fire Emblem Awakening: As you can see above, the game reached 1,79m units sold WW by December 2014. Unfortunately, I don’t have data after this date, but I am positive that the game is around the 2 million mark thanks to the later installments, but also thanks to Fire Emblem Heroes. Something that pushes me to say this is the high number of social media posts, news and forums’ posts stating that players got into FE after trying the mobile game. Back in March 2014, NoA announced that Awakening had sold 180k units in its first month.
Fire Emblem Fates: the trilogy sold 1.84m units worldwide as of March 2016. I didn’t manage to find the split between Birthright/Conquest/Revelation, but I believe that the two main routes (Nohr/Hoshido) outsold Revelations pretty significantly, as the third game didn’t get a retail SKU, arrived later and was more of a “massive DLC”. While Awakening sold 180k units in its first month, Fates went far above that mark and ended up selling 300k units (US only) in its first 3… days.
Fire Emblem Echoes – Shadows of Valentia: As of July 2017, Shadows of Valentia sold 208k units in Japan only. This is a decent number, as of today, Awakening sold 484k units in Japan, while Fates sold 581k.
Fire Emblem sales data on 3DS are rather good when you compare them to other games and remember that the license, due to its DNA and past, is supposed to be a niche. For instance; Zelda ALBW sold 3.84 million units WW.
More often than not, we see shorter communication campaigns. There are several reasons to this, among them we can find: higher costs to market, tons of games available at the same time which results in less attention from medias & fans. Meaning that publishers have to be quick, smart, impactful, in short: efficient. One of the best examples is the Fallout 4 communication campaign (pinky promise, I’ll write an article analyzing it as it’s a solid case study). Of course, this is not a “mandatory” thing that will make or break your communication campaign or the success of your game. For different reasons, some publishers still take their time to communicate about their games (Hi FFXV, FFVII Remake, Kingdom Hearts III, The Last Guardian, Star Citizen etc.). There’s no shame in building hype during a long time, it can turn out as a good strategy, but it can backfire massively if you don’t deliver, no matter the reason.
Fire Emblem Awakening:
Between its localization reveal and the game release, Awakening was marketed during 6 months and benefited from a 4 months post launch campaign. During the campaign (pre & post launch), 4 press releases & media alerts were sent, which leads us to a 0.4 communication/month ratio.
The game was confirmed via a Nintendo Direct on 25th October 2010 and the release date was revealed 1,5 months later during another Nintendo Direct (5th December 2012).
Fun fact: the localization was mistakenly revealed by Reggie Fils-Aimé during E3 2012.
Note: if you want to learn more about the development, this “One Year Anniversary” interview from Nintendo Dream (translated by Kantopia) is interesting.
Fire Emblem Fates:
Fates is an interesting case. The game was first revealed in January 2015 through a Nintendo Direct, with no specific name. Iwata-san focused on the following topics:
- Character design & character uniqueness
- Return of Yosuke Kozaki
- Addition of a famous writer for the storyline (which ironically ended up irking the fans/players as the writing was one of the biggest games’ flaws)
- Development by IS
- Hint towards the massive choices that will be made by the player
- Challenges & strategy (remember the game DNA)
- Never seen before content (alright, I admit that we, publishers and studios, tend to over-use and abuse this sentence, but this time it was true)
If you ask me; I feel that the original message was pretty well-crafted and the anchor points were solid. The announcement got the fans excited, especially after the thunderous success that Awakening was. After the announcement, the game was marketed during 13 months (!) in overseas and got 4 months post-launch campaign. With 6 press releases & media alerts, this leads us to a 0.35 comm/month ratio. Please note that the game was released on June 25 in Japan, which is 6 months after the initial reveal. Regarding the release date, it was revealed during a Nintendo Direct on November 12th, 2015, which means 11 months after the initial game announcement. Before that, they said during E3 2015 that the game was coming in 2016…
Note: It’s not only very far from the original announcement, but it’s also after the Japanese release of the game, which isn’t optimal – as someone who worked for a Japanese publisher; I can imagine and understand the situation Nintendo was in… Please remember that games need to be localized, QA tested etc.
Fire Emblem Echoes – Shadows of Valentia:
Announced on January 18th, 2017 during the first ever “Fire Emblem Direct“. Shadows of Valentia had the honor of opening the Direct which was voiced/narrated by Yuri Lowenthal (voice of Marth from FE: Heroes and… Sasuke from Naruto games). The reveal of the game focused mostly on:
- The storyline with an introduction to the Valentian universe: the war between Mila/Zofia vs Duma/Rigel, specificities of both lands etc.
- Remake & update of Gaiden from the ground up
- Intricacies of Gaiden and how they are being remade and pushed to new heights
- Alm & Celica as a duo of Lords
- Announcement that the cutscenes are voiced
- Different classes
- Announcement of amiibo
- Release date reveal
Nintendo sent 5 press releases and media alerts during the 7 months campaign (including 2 months of post-launch) = 0.71 comm/month.
For Shadows of Valentia, we can see that things have been done differently: dedicated Direct, Release Date announced from the get go, dedicated amiibo, denser communication (please refer to the following part for additional info), etc.
Note: if you wish to know more about the development of the game, this recent interview from Nintendo Dream (and kindly translated by Kantopia) is a good piece.
As seen in the previous part, Shadows of Valentia seems to have a denser communication campaign… However, PR KPIs are much more than a number of press releases sent; you have to also take into account the assets you have used, the number of articles generated, quality of your messaging, interviews, events, previews, reviews, press kits, requests from local PR managers/agencies, outlets reached, social media posts performance, etc. etc. (shameless plug: keep your eyes peeled on this blog, it’s the topic of an article I’m preparing). Let’s take a look at the assets:
Screenshots & artworks:
- Awakening: 159
- Fates: 63
- Shadows of Valentia: 29
Your first question might be “What the hell happened during Awakening?!“. For this specific game, it seems that most (maybe all?) in-game portraits/sprites have been shared as assets. Either they didn’t update the Fates/Shadows of Valentia press sites or they just abandoned the idea for the following games. However, the screenshots number is a false debate, since you can allow the press to take their own screenshots during previews/reviews, but you have to provide high-resolution artworks in any case. Oh and… above all: video content is king.
- Awakening: 1
- Fates: 4
- Shadows of Valentia: 2
Fates had a global logo, and one for each of the paths, while Shadows of Valentia had one for the game and one for… the Season Pass.
Videos (including Behind the Scenes)
- Awakening: 8 – Incl. 1 DLC trailer & 1 Accolades/Launch
- Fates: 12 – Incl. 1 Accolades & 3 DLC trailers
- Shadows of Valentia: 13 – Incl. 6 DLC Trailers & 1 Accolades/Launch
Unlike Pokémon, where the end slates and trailers quality were rather different from a game to the other, it seems that Nintendo/Intelligent Systems have been pretty consistent in delivering quality trailers for these three games. When you take a look at the following trailers, all the end slates are nice and smooth, visually and in terms of sound effects: Awakening, Fates and Shadows of Valentia.
Despite the discrepancies in the duration of the campaigns, it didn’t have a huge impact on content reveals. Of course, when you keep in mind the above points, coupled with the fact that Shadows of Valentia campaign was shorter, it is clear that the campaign was much denser and… aggressive.
For the three campaigns, Nintendo/IS managed to follow a certain habit where their trailers either mixed a bit of all the elements below or strictly focused on one or the other. When they wanted to focus on the storyline, they used cutscenes/animated videos, when they wanted to explain the mechanics, they went with gameplay & voice over. Of course, nothing is surprising here as it is how things are supposed to be done. Here are the topics they tackled in general:
- Focus on the storyline & introduce the plot
- Focus on main characters
- Focus on basic mechanics + what’s the new spin (if relevant)
- Focus advanced mechanics + what’s the new spin (if relevant)
- Announce DLCs
- Launch trailer (w/ accolades)
General thoughts on trailers:
- The DLCs trailers were rather short (less than 45secs), while the season pass/”packs” trailers were almost “standard” trailers (1:30+ mins)
- I felt that Shadows of Valentia and Fates trailers focused much more on the storyline than Awakening
- I also felt that Awakening trailers, due to its status (last chance, and need to attract mainstream audience), focused a lot on the gameplay mechanics, but also introduced the casual mode fairly early to not scare people out
As said in the general thoughts part, since Awakening, DLCs have been part of the Fire Emblem brand. DLCs can be simple XP boosts, gold, items, or specific items to evolve characters, maps/quests/small chapters, characters. Of course, this wasn’t positively received by the fans, nor media, but my little pinky finger tells me that if IS/Nintendo kept on doing it and went even more aggressively with it in terms of communication and monetization, it’s because… *drum rolls*: it works and it’s profitable. (Please note that I’m not judging their digital strategy, because I’m in no position to fully grasp it. I’m just giving an assumption based on what I could find and analyze, but also based on the general industry trends). The three games had a decent amount of DLCs/Packs:
- 25 DLCs during 4 months
- DLC Plan announced during the official reveal, 6 months before the game release
- I think they announced it this early because everything was already rolling-out in Japan, so they wanted to prepare the players from the get go.
- 19 DLCs (including Revelation) during 4 months
- DLC plan/pricing announced on January 19th, 2016, 1 month before game release
- Shadows of Valentia:
- 22 DLCs during 2 months
- DLC pricing/plan announced on 03/05/2017, 2 weeks before game release
Please note that hardcore fans were aware that DLCs were coming as they were most likely following the Japanese campaigns…
The fact that Fire Emblem players are used to pay for DLC/MTX isn’t all that stranger to the business model Fire Emblem: Heroes went with. Of course, the fact that the license have an endless amount of characters and universes helped create a very juicy gacha game (you can call me “mini moby dick”, yes, but I’m Tier20 and reached top 1000, fight me!).
A lot of numbers above, I get that… Here is a TL;DR to conclude this second part:
- Shadows of Valentia had the densest communication campaign
- Shadows of Valentia is the game who focused the most on DLCs
- Shadows of Valentia was part of the first Fire Emblem Direct
- Fates had the longest campaign
- Fates was the first time Nintendo tried something this different in terms of DLCs
- Fates was the first time Nintendo tried this duo (trio) approach
- Awakening is the game who got the most screenshots/artworks
- Awakening is the best-selling game out of the three (well, it was released before, eh…)
- Awakening had the most Behind the Scenes and walkthrough trailers
- All games were launched with an “accolades” trailer
- Fire Emblem Heroes had a positive effect on the sales of the games
Thank you very much for reading this part! The next article will be focusing on the coverage numbers, and how much articles each game got. Pretty exciting as those numbers have never been shared before, there are some very interesting findings I came across when analyzing them.