'Westworld' drums up interest at SXSW with mobile game, live recreation
- Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment announced that pre-registration is open for its upcoming mobile game for the popular HBO franchise "Westworld" during a Sunday session at South by Southwest. Fans of the show can pre-register for the game, available on Android and iOS, ahead of its April release around the show's season two premiere.
- In the game, players act as a newly hired employee-in-training of Delos, the fictional company that runs the Westworld park. As the game progresses, players must manage the park, including designing the artificial intelligence-powered "hosts" that inhabit the park and serve the needs of guests.
- Also at SXSW, HBO leveraged the show's popularity through an activation that let visitors explore a recreation of the show's town of Sweetwater and interact with actors playing the role of "hosts."
The marketers behind Westworld — HBO and Warner Bros. — have begun an expansive marketing campaign ahead of the season two premiere that includes tapping into SXSW's audience of tech-savvy pop culture fans to immerse them in the sci-fi show's unique world. The strategy appears to be paying off, with HBO’s elaborate activation at the annual festival in Austin, TX, selling out in 60 seconds and generating plenty of buzz. A session on Sunday during which the game's pre-registration was announced was also well-attended, setting up a nice opportunity to promote the mobile game.
The news from SXSW takes marketing for the series up a notch. Previously, a short teaser during the Super Bowl included a hidden binary code that led eagle-eyed viewers to a special website that looks more like that of a luxury travel destination than a fictional theme park. The microsite is full of easter eggs surrounding details of season two's plot to drum up hype during the wait between the two seasons. The franchise also partnered with Google on a chatbot named Aeden as an intriguing way to let fans participate in the action. Until this point, the franchise's efforts hadn't extended very far into mobile.
HBO's decision to debut a Westworld-themed game was perhaps driven by a potentially lucrative bet that loyal fans of the show are eager to get their hands on more products and features surrounding the series as they wait nearly a year between the two seasons. In 2016, mobile game revenue outpaced that of console and PC games for the first time, a Newzoo study found. Mobile gaming authorities predict a surge of marketers tapping the trend as a way to grow awareness, engagement and recall around TV shows, particularly between seasons of massively popular series.
Westworld is the latest entertainment franchise to ride the mobile game wave. HBO had a similar strategy last fall with "Game of Thrones," its other buzzed-about series, for an intriguing roleplay mobile game ahead of that show's season seven premiere.
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