Midway Campaign Blitzes Video Game Market

Midway Home Entertainment, Corsicana, TX, is following up the release of NFL Blitz, its newest sports video game, with an $8 million direct marketing campaign targeting boys and young men ages 12 to 24.

According to Paula Cook, director of marketing at Midway, the company uses direct mail for many of its video games, but this is by far the largest.

“This is not only the largest campaign we have done for a product, but it has the most variety,” she said. “There are numerous retail chains taking part and there are a lot of different offers and prizes being made available to those who respond to the pieces.”

Last week, more than 700,000 direct mail pieces containing discount offers and gifts were sent out. Sears mailed 400,000 pieces containing a $10-off purchase offer. Toys 'R' Us sent 200,000 people an offer for a free T-shirt for either buying or reserving a copy of the game. More than 100,000 people notified by Electronic Boutique were offered a pre-sale gift. Funcoland, a store that buys old and used video games, mailed 20,000 pieces telling its customers that purchases of NFL Blitz would result in added value to the games they wanted to sell back.

“We send out a quarterly newsletter to about 200,000 Midway video game buyers, and there will also be a notification piece about the game in there as well,” Cook said.

Print ads with coupons began appearing in video game magazines last month and will run until December. Among the magazines taking part are Electronic Gaming Monthly, Expert Gamer, Game Pro, Sports Illustrated and Sports Illustrated for Kids.

“There is going to be a heavy Internet presence as well,” Cook said. “We will have six different banner ads, some with specific offers, rotating on numerous sites like ESPN SportsZone, NFL.com, Videogame Spot and on AOL.”

In early October, 1.5 million handouts will be distributed at 1,500 Wal-Mart stores across the country and 750,000 people who purchase the game at Wal-Mart will receive an NFL Blitz poster. Babbages, a video game retailer, is giving away NFL Blitz T-shirts and water bottles to buyers.

As a pre-sale item, “The Making of NFL Blitz” video will be sold at Kmart and contain a $5 off coupon. There also are 500,000 $5-off purchase coupons being given out at Blockbuster video stores to anyone who rents a copy of the game.

A television ad campaign started in August and runs through October. TV spots for the game will appear during “Monday Night Football” on ABC as well as during Sunday games on ESPN, CBS and Fox.

This is the first home version of the game. The original arcade version came out last fall. NFL Blitz, which was released in stores on Sept. 12, can be played on Sony PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Nintendo's new color Game Boy and PCs.

“The home version is already proving to be more successful than we thought it would be,” said Ron Ludlow, channel marketing director at Midway. “Most of the stores that ordered it have sold over 50 percent of the stock they ordered.”

In the home video game market, sports games are the second most popular category behind adventure games. Midway realizes it is introducing another game into an already crowded market of sports games, but with the success of the arcade version and the already high amount of in-store purchases, Cook is confident it will hold its own.

“We went all out with this campaign because we feel so strongly about this game,” she said. “The feeling is that this is going to be a breakthrough franchise for us and we will be able to come back year after year and make sequels to the original.”

Cook said a sequel is already in the works for next year.

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