Decoding the Metal Gear Solid 4 Marketing Machine

May 31st, 2008

metal gear solid 4 marketing

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is a very important game or the Sony and their stable of Playstation 3 games. Not only will MGS4 showcase the capabilities of two of Sony’s finest assets (Blue-Ray and the Cell Processor) but it should also be the killer app that this console needs. Because of the imminent release date and importance of this title Konami have stepped up their MGS4 marketing into overdrive.

Despite my enthusiasm for this game there are numerous cracks starting to show in Sony’s grand plan. Cracks that are giving plenty of eager fans, like myself a sore headache. I’m talking about the in game advertising, limited shipments and awful pre-order communication (within Australia). I did a lot of on field research into what is under the “A Little Bit of Communication Please” heading so please take a read.

In-game Product Placement

A few weeks ago Konami didn’t just announce they showcased some of the new in game product placement to be featured in MGS4. To summarize; Snake can use an iPod while on the mission, in game characters sport new Japanese mobile phones and Snake has his eye of some sort of energy drink.

old snake metal gear solid 4This whole charade (and the way Konami has gone about it) appears very strange. I mean we all knew that Konami would have a difficult time making budget on this title but the frank nature that they have taken in showing this to the public is surprising. Hideo Kojima seems pretty unphased by the idea and in a business sense there is really no need or him to worry (it’s not that much of a big deal generally speaking) but since marketing in games is still a very sensitive issue you would have thought that the company would have been a little more subtle in its approach.

This, to me and I am guessing a lot of people shows a real sign of weakness in that Konami must now be quite concerned about making budget. Something that wasn’t quite as apparent before.

Going BlockBuster

Konami also announced that they would be doing a trip around the world (except for the lucky country, of course) and backing up the pre-release hype with lots of advertising. The world tour will feature signings, VIP guests and a live broadcast so it is all very exciting stuff indeed. It appears that Konami are trying to match the cinematic qualities of the series with a true HollyWood-esque debut.

New trailers have also been release featuring the PMCs (I’m refusing to watch) and Courage is Solid (which is incredible).

Is This all for Null?

All of this advertising has really surprised me. I think it’s great that my most anticipated game is getting plenty of PR love but unfortunately the upcoming release is particularly patchy in places.

For one, I would like to know what Konami’s marketing aims are for this title. Is it to establish the Playstation 3 as a must buy platform? Sell plenty of copies of MGS4? Promote the MGS brand? You see, one would presume that they want this game to sell well and yet in this case their marketing is in many ways working against them.

This game is set for a global release which means two things; Australians will receive the game before Americans and a set amount of copies will be initially sent worldwide for the release. The latter has been the cause of many problems.

The worldwide release and short production cycle means that worldwide there will initially be only a limited amount of stock, a good proportion of which will be met with pre-order sales. This also means that in less important countries (Australia) the game will see severely limited stock. So it seems a little baffling to me that Konami would hype this game up so much when:

I guess they are in a rock and a hard place here, something that the Playstation 3 seems to continually find itself wedged between. Meaning that I think that they are conscious that this game won’t be as significant as its production but they need to do all of this marketing to not allow the company to lose face with PS3 consumers.

The other thing that bothers me with the advertising is that it seems like they are revealing too much game to the public, just by watching the main trailers of this game we already known where the majority of the game is set and what the core story crux is. This is subjective, of course but to me it seems that they have gone a little too far to create a presence.

A Little Bit of Communication Please

Along with these small concerns, I have another, more significant one which has to do with the way in which Australia has been botched in the pre-ordering process.

You see down here in Australia there has been no official announcement as to what pre-order packages will be available come June 12th. We already know that Japan has a couple of bundles and so does America (Limited Edition (OST, art book, making of and metal tin), Special Edition (making of) Gun Metal bundle (Limited Edition contents + Gun Metal console). The UK received word of a similar Limited Edition (except with a Old Snake figurine over the artbook) as well as the Special Edition. Unfortunately still no word for Australia.

The cause of the problems are from Atari Australia who handle all of Konami’s game distribution to Australia. To summarize what I have learnt through various retail stores and online forums:

Originally Atari Australia had miscommunicated that a Limited Edition version of the game would be seeing an Australian release hence Australian retailers began to take preorders for a LE package. At around May 9th Atari had told retailers to stop taking orders for this as it was never intended for Australian release.

meal gear solid 4 truck middle east
Lets all hop on the Metal Gear Bandwagon!

To remedy this problem Atari are shipping some UK Limited Edition packages to Australia to meet the set pre-orders. This shipment is only very limited though. Sony Australia’s Boss has mentioned that a bundle would be coming to Australia but numerous retailers appear very unclear about this (as of a few weeks ago).

Of course, the real problem here is that no one realistically knows what is going on I have sought out numerous retailers each with their own take o the situation. It appears as though we are getting a Special Edition over here as well but this may be limited to GAME (definite) and EB (uncertain) outlets only. I’ve also heard rumblings that there will be a game and 40gb Playstation 3 bundle as well.

I am guessing that in the end Australia will never receive a proper confirmation on what is really going on here until the game ships.


These issues are quite troubling indeed, I guess we will have to see how Konami manage to meet demand with this game. As for me, I placed a pre-order down after May 9th, I was put down for a Limited Edition although I suspect that the retailer may have modified my order after they realized that they weren’t meant to sell me that version. Unfortunately they did not clearly communicate this with me on the flipside my receipt has a SKU and product name for the Limited Edition.

A Few Links – PALGN Forum PostAtari Australia Forum Post