- Electronic Arts (EA) launched a nationwide campaign on Snapchat for "The Sims 4" as people huddle indoors during the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign includes an augmented reality (AR) lens that lets Snapchat users decorate their photo messages with digital imagery from the game, per details parent company Snap shared with Mobile Marketer.
- In selfie mode, the Snapchat AR lens lets people take pictures with puppies and kittens from "The Sims 4," EA's life simulation game first released in 2014. Using the rear-facing camera on a smartphone, users could create and place AR pets in pictures of their surroundings before sending them to friends or posting to Stories.
- As people self-isolate during the pandemic, Snap this month saw a surge in downloads for its Snap Camera desktop computer software that decorates video calls with AR lenses. Those downloads were 10 times the norm by March 19 since the beginning of the month, per Snap.
EA's Snapchat campaign for "The Sims 4" looks to prop up the six-year-old life simulation game while people huddle indoors during the pandemic and look for ways to pass the time. The activation recognizes that many consumers are seeking to foster or adopt pets as a source of comfort and company since seeing friends and family in-person is difficult. Others are simply spending more time with their pets as work-from-home and shelter-in-place policies become common.
As creating and launching new products faces logistical challenges during the pandemic, it's possible that other marketers could follow EA's lead in spotlighting older, but still popular, titles that are well-suited to shelter-in-place living. EA's campaign could help maintain interest in "The Sims 4" and reach new gamers that may become longer-term fans even after the current crisis subsides. Snapchat is especially popular with the teenage cohort that EA likely wants to reach on that front, pointing to why the gaming giant chose to deploy a campaign on the app.
Parent company Snap says Snapchat reaches 90% of all people ages 13 to 24 in the U.S. — more than Facebook, Instagram and Messenger combined — and 75% of all 13- to 34-year-olds. More than 75% of its users engage with its AR features every day, helping marketers like EA to prolong their exposure.
Video game playtime is also spiking as consumers stay indoors. During peak hours last week, usage surged 75% from the prior seven-day period as quarantines went into effect among heavily populated states like New York and California, per Verizon data cited by The Hollywood Reporter. That jump has tested the technical limits of online gaming platforms from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony's PlayStation.
For a video game publisher like EA, the pandemic has disrupted esports and gaming events that had gained significant audiences and greater paid sponsorship from major brands. EA this month suspended all live esports events including the Apex Legends Global Series, FIFA 20 Global Series, FIFA Online 4 Live Events and Madden NFL 20 Championship Series.
The suspensions will remain in effect "until the global coronavirus situation improves," per a March 13 announcement. Esports viewership had been set to surge more than 50% by 2023 to reach 46.2 million viewers, eMarketer forecast last year. EA's cancellation was an important gesture to show that the company wasn't willing to jeopardize the health of fans and esports competitors who gather in arenas and convention centers for the events.