The BeatRugby online game created by Saatchi and Saatchi New Zealand for All Blacks sponsor Adidas has attracted 11,000 registered players in a week.
Yesterday the game cracked the 10,000 mark and then went on to add another 1000 players. Most players – including the top few scorers - are in New Zealand, but others have signed up from as far afield as France and Malaysia.
Ironically, the top prizes in the game – the opportunity to fly first class to meet the All Blacks and watch them play in New Zealand next year – will be worth more in financial terms to offshore players.
The game was soft-launched on the Adidas website network on November 5, but active promotion began last Thursday, with paid advertising on five specialist rugby websites, including scrum.com and rugbyheaven.com, and TV commercials during rugby coverage here and in Australia and South Africa.
Adidas has printed 130,000 CDs containing the 3D data required for the game – a 5Mb download from the BeatRugby Website – for distribution in Europe. They are being handed out around All Black games in France and Italy and at youth rugby games in the UK.
Saatchis account director for Adidas International, John Foley, says the CD is "a good promotional tool, but it was also there because some internet connections in Europe aren't up to scratch."
Foley says a viral campaign behind the game launch has also been important.
"In no part of this campaign is there spam mail, but we do have teams of people working through spreadsheets full of sports sites, gaming sites and business sites and contacting them. We've also put up a toolkit site we've put up where amateur rugby sites can get the little QuickTime trailers and the pop-up windows and banners."
Foley says the company had no projections for the uptake of the game "but everyone's hugely happy with 10,000, that's for sure."
The game was developed locally over five months, originally in Macromedia Director with its graphics engine subsequently rewritten in C++. Although matches are synchronised worldwide using the global "beats" clock system, the game is not multiplayer. Players are effectively offline during gameplay, with encrypted score data being passed to the BeatRugby servers before and after matches.