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Diablo IV: A Masterclass in branded video game collaborations

Industry Commentary
Image: Activision Blizzard

The release of Diablo IV was impossible to miss, even if you were never a fan of Blizzard’s action RPG dungeon-crawler series. Brand collaborators and partners were counting down to the day of its big release from as far back as December last year, when Halsey took to the stage at The Game Awards 2022 and performed her Diablo IV anthem, ‘Lilith’, to an audience of 103 million people. 

Over in Japan, the Diablo IV countdown kicked off with a Diablo-themed burger at Burger King, which eventually made its way to other parts of the world. Not content with one fast food chain, Activision partnered with KFC to drive engagement for its beta release by giving away early access codes with KFC meals. Months later, another collaboration offered customers exclusive in-game rewards with the purchase of any chicken sandwiches.

Things only got weirder from there. There have been plenty of collaborations and licensing deals between the fashion world and video games, but we never imagined a top-down dungeon crawler set in Hell appearing on the runway at Milan Fashion Week. A collaboration with Copenhagen-based Han Kjøbenhavn proved us wrong, with three outfits “inspired by the dark side and complimentary conflict” of Diablo IV. And for those that couldn’t make it to Milan Fashion Week, Blizzard also worked with London-based designer Charlie Cohen on a Diablo capsule collection, which culminated in a pop-up event at Selfridges’ Oxford Street store.

Speaking of shopping, we’re convinced that Diablo fans shopping for a new TV to play the game won’t have taken much convincing to pick up the Panasonic and Diablo OLED, promoted as the best way to see Sanctuary in all of its dark and gloomy glory. 

So, that’s the fashion, food, music and audiovisual markets ticked off… anything else we’ve missed? Of course, how could we forget about the campaign with Megan Fox? The one encouraging players to share videos of their in-game deaths to be in with a chance of the American actress reading you a eulogy. As far as celebrity endorsements go, it doesn’t get much better than that. 

Sure, all of these collaborations and partnerships were conceived with the ultimate goal of shifting more copies of Diablo IV. But what’s noteworthy is the care and attention that Blizzard has paid to the Diablo brand to ensure that players genuinely engage with these campaigns and don’t just see them as marketing. As the highest-rated comment from a Diablo fan on the Megan Fox video says: “Wow, haven't seen good marketing actually aimed at a real company's target audience like this in a minute.” 

In the case of Diablo IV’s marketing, Blizzard has proven that if you keep the needs of your target audience front and center, there’s a way of making collaborations in any sector work, as long as you’re creative enough. Licensors should bear that in mind when they’re looking for video games to integrate with.

July 3, 2023

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