To promote the release of its film-inspired title, Evil Dead: The Game, game developer Saber Interactive partnered with Snap and Game Informer to create a grisly augmented-reality magazine cover featuring audio and video assets pulled directly from the game.
Though the game comes out on Friday, the AR-powered Game Informer cover has been on newsstands since April. When Snap users scan a Snapcode on the cover, it triggers an immersive animation in which Evil Dead protagonist Ash Williams uses his chainsaw hand to cut a hole through the magazine, followed by a voiceover accompanied by scenery and character assets from the game itself. Snap didn’t immediately respond to a request for how many users scanned the code.
The activation was the joint brainchild of both Snap and Saber, whose creative teams met over drinks at the 2022 South by Southwest conference.
“I was getting drinks with my old friend, Jeremi Gorman, who’s the chief business officer at Snap — and so many great ideas are poured over cocktail napkins,” said Saber Interactive music director Steve Molitz, who composed a piece of custom music and worked on sound design for the activation. “The magazine cover was coming out in a couple of weeks, and we were just talking about how excited we were about having Ash on the cover, and how cool it would be if this could come to life.”
This was not Game Informer’s first time using augmented reality for a cover — the magazine has previously promoted games such as Cyberpunk 2077 using AR tech — but it is the magazine’s most in-depth AR promotion yet, featuring custom assets and elements of the game’s narrative, and its first augmented-reality partnership with Snap, which has been leading the charge in introducing AR tech to a wide audience. “Snap has incredible penetration and reach in the United States; I’m not surprised they went with that platform,” said Jason Steinberg, co-founder of the agency Pretty Big Monster, which focuses on immersive technologies. “It’s very streamlined, very good for viewing stuff.”
Game Informer has long featured Saber Interactive titles on its covers, an arrangement that Saber head of marketing Adam Tedman described as a “tradition.” As gamers become more comfortable with immersive technologies and the metaverse, it makes sense for Snap to partner with game developers to introduce their version of AR to the gaming audience. “We’re taking a print magazine that is normally a very passive experience, and we’re trying to disrupt that category with something super extraordinary,” said Resh Sidhu, global director of Arcadia Studio, the internal AR creative studio that designed the experience for Snap. “Our target audience really was “Evil Dead” fans who know the franchise, love the franchise.”
“Gamers are open — these are people who have the ability to overcome obstacles when it comes to their devices, whether it’s a PC or phone,” Steinberg said. “‘That’s a Snapcode, I think you need to download Snapchat’ — they will do that right there.”
The AR magazine cover was an opportunity for Molitz and Saber Interactive to stretch their creative wings for a relatively new type of brand activation, but it also represented an opportunity for Snap to continue its push into gaming by reaching a different demographic than the usual gaming audience on Snapchat, which is currently strongest among the 13-to-24-year-old cohort. “Game Informer fans, they can be anything from 16-plus, 18-plus — I’m a 40-year-old, I’m still a gamer, I still read Game Informer,” Sidhu said. “So it was a very broad spectrum that we were able to speak to.”
As augmented and virtual reality technologies continue to become more widespread, game developers like Saber are likely to continue leaning into this type of immersive activation — and, at the moment, Snap might be the most advanced and accessible AR platform with a gaming audience.
“We’re Saber Interactive,” Tedman said, “and for an experiential marketing initiative, it doesn’t get more perfectly interactive than AR.”