Out-of-this-World Marketing: EA Launches Mass Effect 3 Into Space Via Weather Balloons

 @redletterdave on February 17 2012 10:52 AM

Bioware thinks its newest game Mass Effect 3 -- coming to PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on March 6 -- is out of this world, and thanks to the company's latest viral marketing campaign, now it truly will be. Publisher Electronic Arts will launch copies of the final installment of the highly-acclaimed space opera into space using weather balloons, which will be released in New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, London, Berlin, and Paris.

EA will fit each copy of the game with a GPS tracking device so fans will be able to track their return to Earth on masseffect.com. Fans will be able to track down the descending games and find a copy to keep for themselves, which will give them an opportunity to play the long-awaited finale to the Mass Effect series at least a week before the game hits stores.

Spokespeople from EA were unable to comment in time for the article's publishing, but we hope to get some words from them and find out how they came up with this crazy stunt in the first place.

Mass Effect 3, which picks up after the events from the preceding two games, follows Commander Shepard in his effort to save the galaxy from the deadly Reapers. In the final game, Reapers have finally made it to Earth, and Shepard must rally all of the civilizations of the galaxy together in one final last-ditch effort to save his planet and the entire galaxy from the genocidal Reapers.

The Mass Effect series has been extremely unique in several ways. From the first game, players are presented with hundreds of choice that alter the outcome of the game, including who lives and who dies. Mass Effect 3 rewards players who have played the previous two installments by letting them import their characters into the third game, which will shape how they experience the final chapter of the series. Bioware says that there are over 1,000 different ways to experience Mass Effect 3.

The game will come with three campaign modes: Story Mode, Action Mode, and RPG (role-playing game) Mode. In Story Mode, conversations require manual replies from the user and combat is not very difficult. In Action Mode, conversations receive automatic replies from the game and players experience a normal combat difficulty. RPG mode is reflective of other Mass Effect games, in that players have full control over their conversations and combat is also at a normal difficulty setting.

As with the other two games, Mass Effect 3 will let its players customize their weapons and character skill sets, and while about a dozen other characters will return from the previous two games, if they died in a previous game of yours, they won't return.

Unlike the other games, Mass Effect 3 will be the first Mass Effect game to use the Kinect motion control system. Kinect works for Mass Effect 3 in both dialogue and combat gameplay. Players have a choice to speak out their responses to characters instead of selecting them from a dialogue tree, and in combat, players can even issue verbal orders to squad mates and tell them to use their powers.

EA and Bioware have employed multiple tactics to promote their new game. Bioware has released weekly videos on its website on an internal channel called Bioware Pulse, which gives fans inside access into the upcoming game with a preview of content. The game's production team frequently took to Twitter to engage with fans, and the company has stocked retailers like Chips and HMV with badges, stickers, 2D and 3D posters, and temporary tattoos for the game.

In one clever campaign, Bioware had staff writer Patrick Weekes write a blog as Commander Shepard writing from his intergalactic ship, the Normandy, which revealed some minor plot points for the upcoming game. EA hopes get even more attention with its Mass Effect 3 weather balloons.

Bioware plans to release multiple editions of Mass Effect 3, including a regular edition, a collector's edition, and a digital deluxe edition, each of which will come with their own exclusive bonus content and unlockable items and weapons. All pre-orders for the game also receive their own bonus weapon, the M55 Argus Assault Rifle, and each of the game's retailers will also give their customers their own warfare gear, such as a AT12 Raider Shotgun.

Bioware and EA will release a new trailer for Mass Effect 3 on Sunday, Feb. 19 at 9 p.m. ET, alongside AMC's TV drama series The Walking Dead.

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