Ubisoft turns your phone into a sword

How the company used mobile tech and social community building to promote a new game to a mass audience.

Ubisoft Canada is getting Canadians engaged with its latest game by letting them use their phone as a weapon to fight for their communities.

For Honor is a game developed by Ubisoft’s Montreal studio that allows players to take control of a member of a faction – knights, samurai and vikings – and do battle with players from other factions in fast-paced, sword-based combat.

Ubisoft hosted “The Battle for Canada” on Feb. 11, encouraging people to pledge allegiance to one of those factions. Using a custom app, faction members could then use their phone like a virtual sword, swinging it to earn points for their faction depending on the range, speed and force of their “strikes” (as measured by the phone’s motion sensors).

The execution was amplified through a livestream on Facebook and YouTube, with the battle’s progress tracked through an online map and a video screen at Toronto’s Yonge Dundas Square displaying the name and faction of the top-scoring warriors.

Lucile Bousquet, senior director of marketing and communication at Ubisoft Canada, says mobile-led campaigns are important to the company for the simple reason that it’s the best way to reach its audience on the platform they already use most.

And while using a phone’s motion sensors for a campaign isn’t exactly a first, using them in this way aligns not just with the gameplay of For Honor, but creates a fun execution that adds to the campaign’s shareability.

“Our fans are early adopters, so they want to be surprised,” Bousquet says. “They don’t want to see the same thing over and over, especially if you want them to share it and be part of the content they share through their carefully managed feeds.”

Ubisoft divides its target audience between dedicated “hardcore” gamers and more of a mass audience. While the hardcore would already have high awareness of the game through the gaming press and events like E3, a more mass audience wouldn’t be as familiar with a game like For Honour, which is not part of an existing franchise with years of brand equity.

Using accessible mobile technology is an easy way to reach these less-familiar fans, Bousquet says, and taking a community-based approach in the weeks leading up to “The Battle for Canada” – recruiting people over social by aligning the values of the factions with personal values of users – made the concept more relevant to them by making them feel like they had something to fight for when the time for the interactive, virtual fight came around.

Ubisoft worked with Bleublancrouge and North Strategic on the campaign.