Activision Goes Old-School


Real-world promotion isn't dead, even in the increasingly digital realm of video games.

Activision Blizzard (NAS: ATVI) is teaming up with GameStop (NYS: GME) to promote its super-powered sequel Prototype 2. North American adults who pre-order the game at GameStop this month will be able to enter a drawing to win a trip up to developer's studios in Vancouver, and be immortalized as a character in the shape-shifting shooter.

If you're wondering how the winner can be quickly incorporated into a game that's about to come out, check the release calendar. Prototype 2 isn't slated to hit the market until late April.

Pre-ordering a game that is more than eight months away may seem like a hard sell, but doesn't every diehard gamer dream of one day literally getting into a game? Short of living vicariously through Tron or Spy Kids 3, this contest is as good as it gets. Activision Blizzard's Radial Entertainment also won't mind the early buzz and gamer buy-in commitments that come with the clever promotion.

I'm also glad to see GameStop working harmoniously with a gaming giant. Sure, publishers have to respect GameStop, given its niche leadership. But they have always hated GameStop's model of buying and reselling used games and gear, since it cuts them out of the transaction process.

It's perfectly fitting that Activision Blizzard and GameStop should come together. Electronic Arts (NAS: ERTS) has been busy cranking out releases for Apple (NAS: AAPL) iOS devices and snapping up social- and mobile-gaming upstarts.

There's not a lot that Activision Blizzard can do right now. It can't buy Zynga -- which will likely hit the market later this year at a larger market cap than any traditional video game company -- and smaller companies including Glu Mobile (NAS: GLUU) won't move the needle.

But Activision Blizzard isn't ignoring the high-margin potential of consumer-direct distribution. It actually pioneered the art, enticing gamers to buy additional tracks for its now-dormant Guitar Hero franchise. Its latest quarter was peppered with digital sales, though they primarily came from enhancements to its existing console titles, and maintenance of its web-based juggernauts.

This pre-order promotion is ultimately more important to GameStop than for Activision Blizzard. It's the small-box chain's chance to prove to developers that bypassing the retailer in pursuit of digital sales also means bypassing the physical in-store promotion that GameStop does so well.

If real-world promotion is dead, it won't be long before Gamestop follows suit.

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At the time thisarticle was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Activision Blizzard, GameStop, and Apple. The Fool owns shares of and has written calls on Activision Blizzard. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and Activision Blizzard; writing covered calls in GameStop; and creating a bull call spread position in Apple, and a synthetic long position in Activision Blizzard. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz will admit to still playing video games, though finding time is the rub. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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