War Is Swell for Killzone 2

You don’t mess with gamers: If a gaming company says a new release will break new ground, it better live up to its hype. So back in 2005, when Sony PlayStation showed a trailer for its much anticipated Killzone 2 — released in late February — it found itself with a PR problem: attendees who watched the sneak peek’s pre-rendered CGI graphics wondered — aloud and online — if the game itself could stand up to the state-of-the-art preview.

“There was a lot of wonder and almost disbelief that we [could] execute a title with that level of graphic fidelity,” says Scott A. Steinberg, vp of product marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment. “The [goal] on the execution side was to circle and close that loop.”

Enter Deutsch, PlayStation’s agency. The shop knew its advertising had to stay true to the game — a sci-fi “first-person shooter” that’s part of the Killzone franchise — while meeting gamer expectations. “This is something the audience had been waiting for patiently,” says Mike Bryce, evp, group cd at Deutsch/LA.

The resulting 30-second spot, “Bullet Journey,” which launched the same time as the game, is a dramatic rendering of a trajectory of a bullet. Collaborating with the game developer, Guerrilla Games, Deutsch and Zoic Studios’ co-founder and director Loni Peristere created the spot with the same engine used to make the game-something that’s rarely done.

The best part, though, was yet to come: Last week Sony introduced a downloadable, interactive version of the commercial, “Behind the Bullet,” on its PlayStation network. It allows gamers to use their controllers to interact with the spot, further explore the game areas featured in the ad, adjust the lighting, camera angles or special effects, and hear from the game makers.

“We leveraged the technology behind the game to build the commercial and it’s one of the rare experiences that what you see is what you get in the game,” says Steinberg. “To [give] consumers the ability to manipulate that and effectively play with the commercial is a great way to keep fans engaged with the brand and really understand the value that the game experience is going to deliver.”

“You can see that it’s pure,” says Scott Duchon, the T.A.G. creative director behind Halo 3’s award-winning “Believe” effort of 2007. Duchon also created spots for Gears of War in 2006 and 2008 created entirely by using the game engines. “We’ve talked about doing something like [the interactive component] and actually when one of the creatives here saw the spot he was like, ‘Uh, someone did it.'”

Killzone 2-targeted to PS3 fans and PS2 owners looking to upgrade to a high-def experience-was in development for four years. Up to 190 people were working on it at the peak of production, says Arjan Brussee, technical director and co-founder of Geurrilla Games, an Amsterdam-based subsidiary of Sony Computer Entertainment.

The commercial took more than two months to produce, but the team says using in-game technology made it easier to create the interactive work.

Zoic and Deutsch collaborated to create a pre-visualization of the action, and then the final spot was produced with the Dutch video-game developer.

Steinberg says while it’s still rare to see a video-game commercial that is produced in-game, cost usually isn’t the reason. “It [did] require tens of man hours; it was not a trivial engineering task to get it right,” he says. He added, however, that the real issue is that most companies don’t have the technical skill set. “Cost is probably not in the top five reasons. It was not a trivial amount of money, but it was more man hours and the right man hours to do it,” he says.