On 17 September I woke up a little earlier than usual to read about the newest instalment from British video games developer Rockstar. This is something I had been looking forward to since 2008 – Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) was finally here and I was excited.

At 7:30am I begrudgingly closed my laptop, realising I had to get to work. You can imagine my delight, when upon arrival I was tasked with researching the game and what Rockstar had been doing in the digital space for the last five years.

Back in 2008 I wouldn’t have dared admit this out of fear of being called a sad weirdo. However times have changed and the GTA franchise is something that has found its place amongst the mainstream. As I write this, GTA V has won the accolade of ‘Fastest Entertainment Property to gross $1bn,’ beating the likes of Hollywood blockbusters such as The Avengers and Avatar.

Why such as a success?

Most gamers will admit that GTA is a league above the rest. Its ‘open-world’ style and technical detailing offers the player an opportunity to do, literally, whatever they want in an incredible virtual reality. It also succeeds with providing an action-packed storyline on a foundation of clever satire, keeping you constantly entertained.

This high quality gaming experience, combined with an integrated marketing strategy and digital innovation outside of the game itself, allowed it to transcend above its competitors.

As a brand and a franchise, Grand Theft Auto is almost as big a phenomenon than Apple, with fans queuing outside stores for the midnight launch of its fifth edition like Apple fans do with one of their product debuts. This cult following presented Rockstar with a huge challenge but an even bigger opportunity.

The marketing campaign

Looking at a timeline of their marketing campaign, you instantly notice how early it all began. Facebook and Twitter accounts for the game were created in November 2010, way before any announcement. Fans submitted self-created game covers, screenshots and videos on the social media sites, and Rockstar encouraged the speculation by adding its own ‘curve balls’. In November the following year, GTA V was announced as being in development, with a trailer to be released via Twitter.

It was then a whole year before we heard anything from them again. Slowly but surely they drip fed content through social media, blogs and their website, allowing their legions of fans to talk and share content. As the 17 September 2013 release date approached, the amount of content snowballed, with endless billboard ads, TV commercials and media coverage making it impossible for even a non-gamer to miss.

Game vs. film marketing

Of course the world of film marketing is extremely similar. We use social media and online media to exacerbate the hype of a film’s release and keep engagement high when this period is over. But the game’s industry has another trump card to play, in that the user is constantly connected to the game creators.

When Rockstar was having problems with its online gameplay, they were able to throw some money at the problem, giving each player $500,000 worth in game currency to spend on cars, houses or invest in the ‘stock market.’ An iOS app, iFruit, was created, working in tandem with your GTA p

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