SONG IN THE SMOKEMETA QUEST, OCULUS RIFT, STEAM VR + PSVR.
We handled the entire communications campaign for 17-BIT’s VR survival game Song in the Smoke, from its initial reveal all the way up to launch on Meta Quest (at the time still called Oculus Quest), Oculus Rift, SteamVR and PSVR.
We knew Song in the Smoke would be a challenging game to
market in that it was both a VR-exclusive title and a new IP. Most
multiplatform outlets don’t cover much in the way of VR unless it’s a
known IP, ala Half-Life: Alyx, The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, or Sniper Elite VR. Thankfully, Song in the Smoke’s developer, 17-BIT, came with a stellar reputation in the industry, having launched acclaimed titles like Galak-Z and Skulls of the Shogun. The studio’s founder, Jake Kazdal, also worked on cult classics such as Rez and Space Channel 5. That gave us some extra punching power in what would otherwise be an uphill battle.
Our campaign kicked off in early March 2021, when Song in the Smoke was first announced during a PlayStation VR showcase. Here we revealed that it would be coming to PlayStation VR as well as Oculus Quest (as it was known at the time) & Rift later that year, though details were kept slim in this first tease. This initial reveal was picked up by several major outlets such as Polygon, IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar+, Eurogamer, GameInformer, Screen Rant, Multiplayer.it, Android Central, ComicBook.com, EGMNOW, Collider, The Verge, TechRadar, Destructoid, Metro, and Game Rant, among others.
Things went quiet for a few months until we re-emerged in June with a high quality behind-the-scenes documentary by popular YouTube documentarians Archipel. This showcased a lot more gameplay footage than the first teaser, as well as lots of footage of studio founder Jake Kazdal discussing the game, often while walking through the ancient Kyoto forests that served as his inspiration. While the full video was 9 minutes long, we worked with Upload VR to premiere an abridged version of this video during their E3 showcase.
This documentary video was picked up by outlets such as PC Gamer, IGN, Android Central, Gaming Nexus, VRFocus, 4Players, and Shacknews. The Verge even named Song in the Smoke as one of “the five coolest games from Upload VR’s E3 2021 showcase”.
We finally announced the release date on September 27th, letting people know it would launch on PlayStation VR and Oculus platforms on October 7th. We sent out codes to the media starting September 28th, along with a reviewer’s guide to help people get through the game’s tutorial phase - something the developer’s understood was the game’s weakest aspect. This was an unfortunate side effect of developing a VR game amidst a global pandemic, with no easy way to gather feedback from the populace at gaming conventions and trade shows.
Review coverage was strong for a VR-only new IP. Song in the Smoke ended up garnering critical acclaim from Eurogamer, who cited it as their third best PSVR game for 2021, while UploadVR and Road to VR called it their number 1 best PSVR game of 2021. UploadVR also called Song in the Smoke their second favourite PC VR game of the year, and their 5th fave Oculus title that year, while Game Rant also included it in their unranked top 10 PSVR games of the year. Multiplatform sites like Screen Rant, Gaming Cypher, Gaming Nexus, and COGconnected all lavished it with praise as well. Even mainstream news magazine USA Today had Song in the Smoke on their list of “5 'must-play' 2021 VR games to play over the holidays.”
VR games are an especially niche category for influencers - partially due to the difficulty of capturing gameplay footage from a VR device - yet Song in the Smoke received glowing coverage by some rather large content creators. Highlights include videos by Wishing Tikal, BMFVR, Beardo Benjo, Shugghead Gaming, PSVR2 Without Parole, Cas and Chary VR, and A Wolf in VR, who had a whole series devoted to playing through the game. Some outlets were so dedicated to Song in the Smoke that they put together additional videos, like Shugghead Gaming’s nifty tips video to help new players get into the game.
While we were hoping for a little more coverage from the largest mainstream outlets, we were realistic about VR’s place in the market with a rather small install base (this was also before Sony revealed the PSVR2). Given these constraints, we feel that Song in the Smoke received a very healthy amount of coverage, especially for a VR-only new IP.