Activision Blizzard Media’s Arcade at SXSW

Activision Blizzard Media is the gateway for brands to the #1 gaming platform in the western world, with almost half a billion players across over 190 countries.


Dr. Jonathan Stringfield, VP Global Business Marketing, Measurement & Insights, Activision Blizzard Media 

Tell us a bit about Activision Blizzard Media’s activation at SXSW and the concept behind it.

At Activision Blizzard Media, we believe that gaming is a pillar in the entertainment landscape, from which the brightest creative minds have converged in Austin to celebrate. What film, music, and gaming all have in common are: 1) community, 2) storytelling, and 3) immersive experiences that blend sight, sound, and motion. We are so excited to spend this weekend bringing our story to the larger entertainment and marketing community.


The Activision Blizzard Media Arcade concept is simple: We believe great game experiences offer great marketing experiences, and in turn, the potential for great and rewarding fun. We are here in Austin to celebrate gaming, showcase the love the community has for our games, and to allow everyone the chance to unlock their gamer within.


Were there any other experiences that were considered?

The arcade is true to our brand ethos and a natural fit from the beginning. The only questions were about how to execute, which our creative production agency, N/A Collective, helped to refine until we ended up with a perfect solution. Since our goal is to help a crowd feel the fun and excitement tied to gaming, an arcade was the natural way to do it.


What are some of the key takeaways you wanted visitors to leave with?

Gaming is quickly becoming a mainstay within the entertainment landscape, one that is larger than music and film combined, and a huge portion of the population - 1 in every 3 people on the planet (2.4 billion individuals) are gamers. (Source: Newzoo, Betting on Billions: Unlocking the Power of Mobile Gamers Whitepaper, Commissioned by Activision Blizzard Media, March 2019). Essentially, with the increasing dominance and growth of mobile gaming, and the increasing sophistication of gaming experience that can be brought more powerful mobile devices, basically everyone is or has the capability to be a gamer.


  • The gaming industry ($135B) eclipsed both the movie industry ($44B) and music industry ($52B) combined in 2018. (Source: Newzoo, Global Games Report, Q3 Update 2018; PWC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook, 2018 Projections)

  • Music & gaming are tied for the #3 most used app type, behind social media and shopping. (Source: Newzoo, Betting on Billions: Unlocking the Power of Mobile Gamers Whitepaper, Commissioned by Activision Blizzard Media, March 2019)

  • Mobile gamers are much more likely than non-gamers to spend money on entertainment services such as Spotify & Netflix. (Source: Newzoo, Betting on Billions: Unlocking the Power of Mobile Gamers Whitepaper, Commissioned by Activision Blizzard Media, March 2019)


SXSW is known for having some of the best experiential activations, top speakers, and musical acts all competing for attention. What made this stand out?

Quite simply, we wanted to bring forward pure fun and playfulness in the most accessible way possible. In this light, we are inherently different than everything else in Austin this weekend because we offer something truly unique and rewarding, both with respect to our presence here on Rainey Street and to our players and advertisers. Our ad experiences are rewarded and opt-in; therefore we go out of our way to make sure our players feel that their time is respected and conducive to their fun gaming experience. We’ve recreated that feeling here in Austin with iconic games from across the Activision, Blizzard, and King portfolios, and combined them with barcade classics everyone knows and loves, like skeeball and pop-a-shot.

All of this, combined with the fact that we are open for everyone in Austin to enjoy, badge holders, advertisers and beyond, our experience was unlike any other.


Were there any unexpected difficulties that arose during the creation of the space? How did you adapt?

One interesting logistic challenge was that Stagger Lee was under construction for our entire ideation and production period. The venue opened on Monday, March 4, 2019, just a few days prior to the activation. This also required us to be a bit conservative with how many people we allowed to enter to ensure safety was paramount, but our attendees seemed to understand. We were fortunate to work with a top notch creative production agency, N/A Collective, and they anticipated and addressed all problems before they could even become an issue. Stagger Lee was also an incredible partner to work with, and we couldn’t have been more fortunate than working with these two teams to make our vision a reality.


How was attendee reaction to the space?

Everyone that came through the space truly loved it! We had something for everyone, from the classic Candy Crush on a massive touchscreen to Crash Bandicoot to Call of Duty Skeeball. There was a feeling of genuine happiness throughout the space from the moment we opened, and it was wonderful to get to watch our guests experience the brand in real life.

We wanted to communicate that everyone, deep inside, is a gamer - to that end, I think we were successful. Anyone who stepped through our doors almost certainly was.


What did you enjoy most about seeing this through? Any key takeaways or lessons you’ve learned anything from the experience?  

Experiential marketing is the most gratifying of them all, because there is a physical end result that you get to make come to life. What our team enjoyed most was watching the attendees truly enjoy the space, from the Blizzard fans getting to interact with the Overwatch station to the novice gamers picking up a controller for the first time to play Spyro Reignited.


We were able to really take the joy and passion of gaming and bring it to life for a number of people, and that is exactly what we were looking to achieve.


Now the important question, what’s your favorite game?

A near impossible question, as I’m lousy with favorites and play a wide variety of genres across mobile, console, and PC. But, if we were to define a favorite as where the most hours have been spent the clear winner is World of Warcraft - I’ve been playing WoW on and off since release (so since late 2004) meaning that I have characters that pre-date basically all of my major adult life events (college graduation, marriage, births of children, etc.).