VISAGEPLAYSTATION 4, XBOX ONE AND PC
In late 2020 Plan of Attack was tasked by indie studio Sad Square Studio to increase coverage for its terrifying new horror game, Visage - and to initiate a strategy that could increase the number of published console reviews, since they had no in-house capability to handle press requests, and no communications agency support. Plan of Attack had to come in hot, beginning the media push just after launch for both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One releases, as well as the Steam version that had just emerged from Early Access.
Current market conditions meant that Plan of Attack were actively looking for press coverage during an extremely competitive phase in the calendar year given that the new next-gen consoles - PlayStation 5 and Microsoft Xbox X|S - had launched, as had Call of Duty: Cold War, Assassins Creed: Valhalla, Demon’s Souls and Watch Dogs: Legion. This meant we had to look for available review gaps with press sites during a hectic fourth quarter.
Despite being brought onto the project post launch, Plan of Attack decided that a review invitation pushed to all registered press on the Plan of Attack database covering Xbox, Steam and PlayStation press accounts across Europe and North America was the best way of moving forward. In the space of just 24 hours of the invite going out Plan of Attack processed over 100 review requests.
In addition to standard review requests, Plan of Attack also looked at potential coverage it could achieve by arranging a small handful of giveaways of the game across PlayStation 4, Xbox one and PC platforms with a variety of trusted sites to coincide with November’s horror-themed “Friday 13th”, which would aptly support the spooky supernatural themes of the game. Sites such as KeenGamer, Xbox Hub, Thegg.net, Go Multiplayer, 3rd Strike, Graal, PlayDome, PSU and MDE Gaming all ran giveaways. The giveaway was designed to keep awareness and coverage of the game maintained across sites and social media channels associated with these outlets. Xbox Hub recorded 334 entries into the competition, while Keen Gamer had amassed an impressive 6,885 entries on Friday 13th, over 12,000 in just over four days, and a grand total of over 19,353 entries once the giveaway had ended.
Aside from the review code invite which went out to over 2,600 press contacts, Plan of Attack also conducted direct one-on-one outreach to other relevant outlets, including various horror sites and blogs, that reviewed video games. Sites approached as part of this initiative included Daily Dead, Horror DNA, and Popcorn Horror among others, with the following horror sites all agreeing to review Visage: iHorror, Horror Buzz, Rely on Horror, Dread Central, Love Halloween, HorrorCultFilms, as well as Scream Mag, the premiere magazine of all things horror.
Keymailer was another area that we felt could potentially support the online awareness of the game with streamers, so we opted for a promoted listing of the game to make sure that it was as visible as possible. This campaign secured 3,000 streamer requests in less than 24 hours, which gave us a solid base of requests to sift through to process and allocate keys across the various platforms. We monitored these requests on a daily basis, ensuring that the relevant keys were processed as requests came in so we could maintain a constant flow of access to interested content creators.
In addition to the review invite, giveaways and Keymailer activity, we also undertook a complimentary key mailing initiative to ensure that premiere site editors had every opportunity to experience the game should they choose to review it. For this we distributed over 75 complimentary keys to upper tier editors at sites such as Destructoid, Endgadget, Forbes, Gamespot, Hardcoregamer, Mashable, Kotaku, Polygon, Shacknews and many more to primarily North American press who covered multi platform releases.
Outreach to specialist press was also conducted and Plan of Attack contacted a mix of platform specific sites with a focus towards consoles. Outreach included the likes of Xbox Squad, PlayStation Universe, PlayStation Country, XBLAfans, Life is Xbox, and many others in which we successfully placed review keys. Despite October and November representing the busiest period for specialist gaming press, Plan of Attack secured in excess of 135 published reviews over a six week period in the run up to Christmas and the New Year. The reviews and streamer coverage during this period created 1,350,996 views.
Some editors who played the game for review (some of which had initially played the game during Early Access) were aware of the game’s reputation, though some were completely unprepared for the experience and were left so terrified that they had to find other writers to complete the review.
PlayStation Universe gave high praise for the atmosphere and setting and called the game “invigoratingly scary.” They went on to say “If you're a horror fan who wants to find out how Konami's P.T. may have turned out, you'd be hard pushed to find a more terrifying surrogate.” Nerdpool in Italy declared Visage “a small pearl in the independent horror scene,” which underlined the game's exceptional atmosphere.
Entertainment press also praised the game with NME declaring “Visage is 2020’s high point in horror. It’s also a game that might scare you to death.” Gamekult in France scored the game 8/10, as did a whole host of other press sites including Meristation, 3DJuegos, The Digital Fix, Gamehope and PlayStation Universe. Steven Strom from Fanbyte scored the game 4/5 and called Visage “one of the best horror games in its field right now”, and Screen Rant went further, declaring that every horror fan should experience the game at least once, saying “Watching the game through the eyes of a streamer simply does not compare to the masterful way it manipulates its players emotions and tension levels.”