14617 Newport Hwy.
Mead, Washington 99021-9378
Telephone: (509) 468-0807
Fax: (509) 467-2209
Web site: www.riven.com
NOTE: Since the initial appearance of this essay in the 1999 edition of Major Marketing Campaigns Annual, the Riven product was acquired by Cyan Worlds Inc. The essay continues to refer to The Learning Company, as they owned Riven when the campaign was launched.
An advertising campaign that used spectacular screen shots from Riven: The Sequel to Myst helped make the product the leading computer game in the United States within two months of its release. Riven and its phenomenally successful predecessor, Myst, were the two most popular PC games in 1997, and they remained among the highest-ranked computer games throughout 1998. Like Myst, Riven was a nonviolent adventure game that involved the exploration of fabulous islands and the solving of puzzles to the accompaniment of an eerily beautiful sound track. Advertisements for Riven emphasized that it was a continuation of the mysterious story introduced in the first game. One television commercial began with a close-up of a book embellished with curious symbols that swept the audience into a world full of abandoned structures, towering cliffs, meandering pathways, and intriguing machines, all new but similar to the sights gamers had found on the islands of Myst. The campaign also included radio commercials, print ads, and a network of hyperlinks on the Internet. In addition, promotions for Riven had begun building anticipation a year before the game was released in October 1997. The campaign for Riven, which ran during 1997 and 1998, was developed by Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising. The game was designed by Cyan, Inc., was published by Brøderbund Software, Inc., and was marketed by Brøderbund's Red Orb Entertainment division.
Cyan was a software development company founded in 1988 in Spokane, Washington, by brothers Rand and Robyn Miller and a friend, Chris Brandkamp. Richard Vander Wendelater joined Cyan to help develop Riven. The firm's early successes included three games for children: Spelunx and the Caves of Mr. Seudo, Manhole, and Cosmic Osmo. The publisher of Myst and Riven, Brøderbund, was founded in 1980 by brothers Doug and Gary Carlston to market their computer games Galactic Empire and Galactic Trader. The firm soon became widely known for its imaginative games and for its interactive software for homes, schools, and small businesses. The company's most successful products included Family Tree Maker, Print Shop, Living Books, 3D Home Series, and an educational game named Carmen Sandiego. Brøderbund's Red Orb Entertainment division, formed in 1997, developed high-quality computer games, and it published and marketed entertainment software made by Cyan and other companies. Red Orb's most successful
games included Warlords, The Journeyman Project, and Prince of Persia.
When Myst was launched in October 1993, it was among the first CD-ROM games with three-dimensional graphics. This technological breakthrough allowed consumers to enjoy realistic adventures on their personal computers. In addition to its groundbreaking animation, Myst featured a hauntingly beautiful sound track and an intriguing concept. The player was transported to five mystical islands complete with deserted buildings, a spaceship, a sailing ship, a lighthouse, and a tree with an elevator in it. By piecing together clues and using logic to operate generators and other equipment, the player solved a mystery involving the family that had built the structures. Although players felt a sense of suspense while exploring the islands, the game involved no violence. Myst was regarded as one of the most "immersive" games of its day, making players feel as if they had actually entered an alternate reality. At the time a computer game was considered successful if it sold a total of 100,000 copies, but Myst sold half a million copies in its first year. Also impressive was its continued success over time. It was the third most popular software of any kind in 1995, its sales surpassed only by Quicken and the program to upgrade Microsoft Windows. By the spring of 1998 consumers had purchased more than 4 million copies of Myst, making it the best selling...