Ask the Expert

The College of General Studies’ nearly 25,000 alumni are an impressive bunch, working in nearly every profession imaginable: health care, advertising, film, law, education, ecology, politics, and more. In our new “Ask the Expert” series, we ask individual alumni to share their expertise—from the practical to the peculiar, and everything in between—with Collegian readers. In this installment, we tap the expertise of Los Angeles-based event planner Gail Cayetano (CGS’02, COM’04).

How do you throw the perfect video game launch party?

I’ve overseen many video game launches, first working at Activision on the Call of Duty franchise, then at Konami Digital Entertainment where I ran promotions for Metal Gear Solid and DanceDanceRevolution, and now at my own company, Starfish Creative Events, where many of our clients are video game publishers. I’m in love with the video game industry because it’s so wonderfully creative—anything goes! And with today’s technology, anything (no matter how off-the-wall) is possible. Here are some guidelines we follow when planning a game launch event:

Gail Cayetano

Event planner Gail Cayetano launched Starfish Creative Events with a business partner in Los Angeles in 2006 and has since hosted a range of events, including many successful video game launch parties. Photo courtesy of Gail Cayetano.

Make guests earn their way in through puzzles and tasks. Event guests are more excited about attending an event when they feel they’ve earned their way in—especially gamers, who love a good challenge. For our Magic: The Gathering party, guests weren’t allowed access to the private event location until they completed five different challenges centered around different colors from the game: red, white, blue, green, and black.

Make the party as interactive as possible, allowing guests to Tweet, blog, and post on Facebook. What better way to involve a tech-savvy crowd than by tying in what they love most: interactive entertainment? For our Magic: The Gathering event, once guests entered the party, the challenges continued to come. The most popular challenge included a quiz that required participants to text the correct answers to the event emcee. It was an amazing sight to see: Everyone in the room was quiet (a unique sight at a party!) as they texted as rapidly as their fingers allowed.

Involve sponsors that are already involved with the game. All video game publishers have cross-promotional partnerships with other brands that are involved with the game. Take advantage of these strategic partners to save money on event elements, while adding that extra buzz that big names can bring. For the Metal Gear Solid 4 launch in New York City, we partnered with Virgin Megastore (one of the retailers selling the game) to hold a special midnight autograph session with the game’s designer at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square. The event space came free because of the partnership, and the Virgin Megastore was happy to draw in such a large crowd.

Create themed areas to keep the party progressive and moving. Event guests generally gather around the same places: the food buffet and the bar. We like to invite guests to spread out by creating unique areas throughout the event space for guests to explore. When promoting Konami’s DanceDanceRevolution, we created a video game testing area, a massage lounge where guests could relax, a green screen for photo ops, and a promotional giveaway station.

Always set up a photo booth so guests can take the branded memory home with them. Guests love photos of themselves, especially at special events. Photo-takers then share these photos, showing them off to friends and posting them on Facebook, Twitter, and SnapFish. At the Konami promotion on the Linkin Park tour, we set up a green screen photo station where guests could have their picture taken in front of a scene from the game. The photos were printed on site with the Konami logo at the bottom, creating an instant memento for the guest and a branding avenue for the game.

Create a sensory overload environment. Gamers love to be visually stimulated, so one thing you can always count on at a video game event is the over-the-top number of monitors showcasing games. The many screens allow event guests ample opportunity to try out the game, plus, it’s impressive to walk into an event and be hit with such a modern spectacle. When we ran the launch of Tekken 6, we rented out a Crunch gym in San Francisco and replaced the gym equipment with rows of televisions. We also brought in a boxing ring with a movie-size screen where celebrities tested the game. All of the press coverage of the launch party showcased photos and footage of gamers playing on the televisions—a perfect marketing opportunity.

Do you have expertise you’d like to share in a future “Ask the Expert” column? Drop us a line at

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