Singaporean holiday island Sentosa successfully used gaming to maintain awareness and stay relevant despite being forced to close by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The island went from welcoming millions of local visitors and tourists each year to zero, but in just 12 days a virtual Sentosa was created as a destination in Nintendo’s hit game Animal Crossing: New Horizons (the premise of the game allows players to escape to a paradise island where they can create their own tropical oasis)

In The WARC Guide to Marketing in the Gaming Ecosystem , Rebecca Ash, Head of Planning at BBH Singapore, explains how this was done and what marketers can learn from the experience.

One takeaway is that gaming doesn’t always require costly third-party support: “we quickly discovered it is likely that all the expertise you need exists in-house.”

A team of eight dedicated players assumed the role of ‘island builders’ – playing and harvesting the materials needed which were then shared with a single player, the island architect responsible for the build itself

“The production schedule was swiftly replaced with a supply chain, outlining when materials were required to complete the island section by section,” Ash reports.

But the completion of the build was just the first step. The team was then on standby to maintain the upkeep of the island and to fix any damage caused by visitors – performing a ‘groundskeeper’ role similar to that of the real island.

“As flora and fauna is a big part of the island build, the team also had to be mindful of the blooming seasons and replant the bushes accordingly as we transitioned from azalea blooming season in May to hydrangeas in June,” Ash notes.

A ‘Games Master’ welcomed visitors onto the virtual island, led the island tours, undertook troubleshooting during the game and reshared all the user-generated content.

“It was not enough to simply bring players to the island and abandon them, but we needed to define a role that would genuinely elevate player enjoyment, creating unique, personalised and highly shareable experiences,” Ash explains.

To achieve all this, it took a total of 22 BBH staff 12 days to build and launch Virtual Sentosa.

“Without a single dollar of paid media investment,” Ash says, “Virtual Sentosa became one of the most widely reported tourism destinations globally, generating over US$2.66m in PR value (and counting).”

For more learnings, read Rebecca Ash’s article in full: Virtual Sentosa: Lessons from launching a breakout tourism campaign on Animal Crossing.

WARC subscribers can read the complete WARC Guide to Marketing in the Gaming Ecosystem here.

The WARC Guide is a compilation of fresh new research and expert guidance with WARC’s editorial teams in New York, London, Singapore and Shanghai pulling in the best new thinking globally. It also showcases the best on WARC – case studies, best practice and data sourced from across the platform.

Sourced from WARC