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The Sims 3: John Buchanan

EA Play's senior marketing director talks about how the company is putting the game out there

Continuing the series of features looking at world-beating franchise The Sims, here EA Play's senior marketing director, John Buchanan, explains how the label has gone to great lengths to try and lure new players and lapsed ones alike into the latest version of the game.

Specifically he explains how social networking and ongoing online support is contributing to the game's appeal, and looks back at how the franchise's marketing has developed over the years. How has the marketing plan changed over the years for The Sims?
John Buchanan

This is the third launch in The Sims franchise - 2000, 2004 and now 2009 - and historically those launches have all done really well. When you look back what you find is that the marketing efforts in 2000 and 2004 were very much focused on traditional media outlets - TV, print, and so on. Online played a role, but it wasn't the primary vehicle, because the consumers were we targeting weren't necessarily consuming media in that way. Traditional media still played a very important part of reaching those consumers.

When you look at 2009, for the launch of The Sims 3, the very first thing we had to do was identify who our target consumer was, and how were they consuming media. That target was 16-24 year olds, both male and female - because the game does have such a broad audience in terms of gender appeal.

So when we started looking at that audience it was clear that some things had changed dramatically since the launch of The Sims 2 - that's to say that 16-24 year olds are consuming media when and where they want it, whether it's on a laptop, Blackberry, iPod, iPhone, desktop or through traditional television - and that's 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

So we needed to build a plan to reach that target audience, when and where they wanted that media. If you look at what we've done relative to past launches, traditional media still plays a very important role, but the importance of online and social networking is dramatically more important than it was back in 2004. That becomes effectively the most important piece of our overall campaign.

That's what I like about it - it's built on traditional media, but it's driven by the most extensive and integrated online campaign The Sims has ever done. Why specifically focus on 16-24s?
John Buchanan

There are three key reasons - firstly, it does represent the largest audience that plays The Sims. Second, we know from a cultural perspective that 16-24 year olds are aspirational to a younger audience, so when we look at our other fans that 14 or 15 they'll look to the 16-24 year olds to see what's on the market place. Interestingly enough, that same audience is influential to an older age range as well, because older people will tend to look down to them to see what's culturally relevant, what's hip and trendy. Unfortunately I'm one of those people that falls into the older group...

So when we see The Sims with such a broad consumer appeal, the 16-24 year old range felt like a very important range to target, in order to be able to reach the broad audience that we have. Are they also likely to be the people that will go out and buy the game on launch day, or shortly thereafter?
John Buchanan

Absolutely - they're the largest audience we have, but also the most passionate. Those are the ones that will be out buying the game, not only through pre-orders, but certainly on launch day as well. So does that mean you might look at changing the way you market the game post-launch?
John Buchanan

The beauty of social networking and online today is that we're able to have those conversations with our fans all the time, so whether it's pre-launch, launch or post-launch, we can have those kinds of conversations with all of the audiences, and ensure that we're meeting their needs - plus learning and understanding what's really important to them in order to be able to respond to that. You've been putting out a selection of what's been termed 'trial' content, utilising social networks and online - can you just describe that activity and explain the reasoning for it?
John Buchanan

One thing we know, that we've already touched on, is that we have a very broad audience - and we also know that we have an opportunity to continue to build up that broad audience for the franchise. In order to do that we wanted to create trial experiences that would excite our current players and at the same time be able to bring in a whole new world of fans.

So when we architected the trial experiences there was a focus to make sure we met the needs of both sets of people. We did that through these trial experiences, each of which targeted a different consumer group.

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