Friday, February 25, 2005

Friday, December 17, 2004
Job hunting Samus style!
'Bounty Hunter' Job Posting Generates Surprising Response
When Nintendo advertised a bounty hunter position on Monster.com, they never expected the 90+ serious applications they would receive from ex-military and other frightening backgrounds. We spoke with Nintendo's Beth Llewelyn about the viral campaign, and the unexpected response it generated.

Nintendo is no stranger to viral marketing, having dabbled in it during the N64 days with Perfect Dark and Majora's Mask, but the marketing technique has recently had a spotlight cast on it thanks to Microsoft's well-publicized ilovebees campaign for Halo 2. Nintendo, not to be outdone, orchestrated their own viral campaign for Metroid Prime 2 that spanned multiple websites for fictional companies, blog entries, and more.

Perhaps most interesting of all was the seemingly innocuous (at the time) posting of a 'Bounty Hunter' job entry on Monster.com. Although plenty of Nintendo fans got the joke and sent in "applications" of their own, over 90 serious applicants expressed interest in the job. Yes, over 90 people submitted applications to become an intergalactic bounty hunter.

Bounty Hunters Having Trouble Finding Work?
A quick glance at Nintendo's initial posting on Monster would tip off most readers that something was amiss: "Candidate must also be comfortable using high-tech (some would say alien) weaponry... Experience operating in subterranean, low-oxygen, zero-gravity or other harsh, unforgiving environments is a definite plus." The obvious tells that all was not as it seemed didn't stop the genuine applications from rolling in.

["The skills and experience these people listed went beyond surprising into the realm of frightening," Beth Llewelyn, Senior Director of Public Relations, NOA]


"Many of the serious applications we received came from users who reply to job postings without carefully reading the job description. Most of these applicants are ex-military, and they jumped at the chance of working in an exciting and high-risk field. As for the alien technology and other out-of-this-world references in our job posting, perhaps these ex-military personnel know something about government weapons research that we don't?" Nintendo's Senior Director of Public Relations Beth Llewelyn told GameDAILY BIZ.

"Curiously, we did receive one or two applicants that seemed a bit overenthusiastic about the position -- applications along the lines of, 'I've been searching my whole life for an opportunity like this, so please contact me via a secure channel and I will demonstrate how I will exceed your needs.' We felt it best to ignore those applications, for obvious reasons," Llewelyn continued.

It didn't take Nintendo long to realize that the response to the job posting wasn't going to be strictly the net-savvy Metroid fans that they expected. "Within the first day of posting the job, we had several replies from real applicants who seriously wanted to be an intergalactic bounty hunter for a living. The skills and experience these people listed went beyond surprising into the realm of frightening. We never expected such a wide array of replies from so many people who were actually pursuing interviews for gainful employment as a space warrior. However, Metroid fans did start to catch on and submit applications," Llewelyn said.


People actually applied to become bounty hunters...scary


Part of a Broader Campaign
The Monster job posting linked back to AthenaAstronautics.com, one of a couple of fictional company websites Nintendo developed to generate Prime 2 buzz. The company purports to "prepare female candidates for the rigors of space travel and the many situations they will undoubtedly encounter." Another site set up by Nintendo, channel51.org is authored by "Samantha Manus," a reference to Metroid heroine Samus.

"These sites hinted at a connection between real-world companies and the Metroid universe, and we used blog posts and message boards to keep readers engaged with the slowly unraveling mystery of the sites. When we posted the bounty hunter job online, we of course linked to athenaastronautics.com to help further both the mystery and the hints of a Metroid connection," Llewelyn explained.

The end of the job posting had a small bit of binary code that translated into "light." Not one to ignore their fans, the first 25 Metroid fans who solved the puzzle and submitted applications were sent copies of the game before it hit store shelves.

"We know that Metroid fans are rabid about Samus and her adventures, and this seemed like a great opportunity to interact with them while hopefully getting them excited for the game. It's a tough thing to do properly, but we're very pleased with the response on this campaign," Llewelyn said.

"Nintendo always looks for new and organic methods to reach our target audience more effectively. If that audience is online, reading blogs, digging for information, and investigating online curiosities, then these efforts aren't really stunts, they're vital to our marketing efforts. Reaching these passionate gaming evangelists is a key part of our success, and we're always exploring fun new ways to do that," she continued.

More Elaborate Ruses Planned for the Future?
Although Nintendo obviously would not be willing to divulge what its viral plans are for other upcoming titles, with the company's long history of shaking things up through the Internet medium, you can be sure they'll be at it again when the right game comes along.

"Nintendo creates unique and innovative marketing programs for each launch. The nature of [Metroid Prime 2] lent itself perfectly to a more stealth marketing/online campaign," Llewelyn said.
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