August 30, 2009: People have been celebrating the 40th anniversary of Woodstock and the music of Michael Jackson. But the biggest music showdown of the summer will come over the next two weeks and include a lineup of more than 80 legendary bands and artists, live support from Paul McCartney, a plethora of marketing efforts and even a bevy of Playboy Bunnies.
On Sept. 1, Activision will release Guitar Hero 5, which features 85 songs from 83 musicians, including Tom Petty, Kings of Leon, The White Stripes, Stevie Wonder, Iron Maiden, Kurt Cobain, Johnny Cash and Santana. On. Sept. 9, EA and MTV Games strikes a chord with The Beatles: Rock Band, which will star virtual representations of and 45 songs from the legendary Fab Four (with more downloadable songs to come).
Both games have been highly anticipated to the point where analysts are looking to them, along with the recently released Madden NFL 10 from EA Sports, to rejuvenate what has been to date a lackluster sales year for the videogame category. Sales have been down about 17% versus 2008, according to such market research companies as NPD Group, Port Washington, NY. Madden NFL 10, which hit retail on Aug. 14, sold 1.22 million units its first week, according to industry figures. Although the numbers were down from the 1.64 million first week sales of Madden NFL 09, the industry tracks weekly sales from Sunday to Saturday, and Madden 10 was released on a Thursday while Madden 09 dropped on a Tuesday.
To make sure no one misses the rock-related releases, each will hit with a full marketing blitz. Guitar Hero 5 is anchored by a TV spot that brings back Bob Segar's "Old Time Rock 'N' Roll," this time with several Playboy Bunnies reenacting the classic Tom Cruise scene from Risky Business plus a guest appearance by Hugh Hefner. That continues a Guitar Hero Risky Business reenactment marketing strategy that saw Kobe Bryant, Tony Hawk, Michael Phelps and Alex Rodriguez in a TV spot for Guitar Hero World Tour late last year and basketball coaches Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, Roy Williams and the legend Bob Knight in a TV spot for Guitar Hero Metallica earlier this year.
In the Guitar Hero 5 TV spot, such Playboy beauties as Crystal Harris, Karissa and Kristina Shannon, Tiffany Fallon and Kara Monaco dance in pink shirts and white socks, but no pants, lip-synch the Segar song and play air guitar. They ultimately surround Hefner, wearing in his iconic pajamas and smoking jacket, who looks at all the women, smiles and says, "What?! I like variety." Print, Internet and experiential marketing support. Lead agencies are is Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami and HSI Productions, Los Angeles, through a licensing agreement with Warner Bros. Consumer Products.
"Guitar Hero is more than just a video game, it is an entertainment platform that gives fans of all ages and backgrounds a truly fun, new way to experience their music," Brad Jakeman, chief ceative cfficer for Activision Publishing, said in a statement. "The Risky Business ads continue to work so well because fans can't get enough of seeing their favorite celebrities doing their own entertaining rendition of the famous Risky Business scene. Playboy is recognized worldwide as a pop culture symbol of fun and entertainment; it's only natural for Hugh and the Playmates to be the next faces of the ad campaign."
Not to be outshone, The Beatles: Rock Band reunited Jphn Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, via clips and artist reenactments, to star in TV spots and supporting marketing including print, Internet and experiential, overseen in-house by EA and MTV. Perhaps the best marketing spokesman has been McCartney himself, who has been talking up the videogame to the media.Among other efforts, McCartney and Ringo Starr appeared at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles this past June to promote the videogame. Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison, the widows of John Lennon, and George Harrison, joined them at a subsequent press conference.
The initial TV spot is played out to "Come Together." It shows actual clips of The Beatles mixed in with shots of actors playing The Beatles, both interspersed with a group of people crossing and recreating the classic cover from Abbey Road. The four then interact with members of the crowd, and at one point a young girl hands George Harrison a guitar from the game. A voiceover offers, "Meet The Beatles. Rock the world. Available 9/9/09. Rated T for Teen."
Players also get to recreate Beatles' appearances in various venues they actually occurred, including "A Hard Day's Night" on The Ed Sullivan Show and "I'm Looking Through You" and "Ticket to Ride" at Shea Stadium. Digitally re-mastered versions of The Beatles' entire record catalogue are scheduled to be released to coincide with the videogame's release.
As a bonus, customers who purchase Guitar Hero 5 by Sept. 30 can get a free copy of Guitar Hero: Van Halen, which won't be released until Dec. 22. The Beatles: Rock Band is making available a limited number of instruments that can be used with the game that were modeled after those used by the group during their career, and also is making available bonus tracks with pre-orders. Both games are available for PlayStation, Xbox and Wii.