Fallout Shelter: Build an app, build a vault, build hype

August 21st, 2015 / Sophie Allen

With Bethesda’s Fallout 4 due to launch in November to legions of waiting fans, the game developer isn’t messing around when it comes to marketing their long-awaited new title. In fact, they’ve developed a whole mobile game to promote it – and are promoting that using a fake Tinder profile.

Okay, I’ll get to the Tinder profile in a bit – but I’ll start with Fallout Shelter. Fallout Shelter is a free mobile app and preview companion game to Fallout 4 that’s been designed partly to generate hype, partly to set the tone for Fallout 4 and partly because Bethesda’s always wanted to make a mobile game (and as it turns out, they’re unsurprisingly great at it).


As a standalone it’s already been really successful; when just available on iOS it was already ranking at 70million plays globally per day, and having been released on Andriod last week it recently ranked as the number #1 download and #3 top grossing on the Play Store.

By using the retro styling of the Fallout mascot and in-game brands as the bases for the app game, Bethesda’s created an app that enforces and promotes the world of Fallout 4.  I love how Bethesda sets the tone of the game, building up Fallout Shelter as a product of Vault-Tec, a brand from the game’s dystopian story.

Their adoption of the Vault-Tec identity even rolls into the disconcerting disclaimer at the bottom of the app’s website:

‘The act of using this website (either partially or in its entirety) is a non-verbal agreement between all Vault-Dwelling Parties and Vault-Tec Industries stating that Vault-Tec is not liable for any damages, injuries, or mental anguish inflicted during or after the perusal of the Vault Dweller’s website, Pocket Reference Edition.’

My favourite bit? Definitely ‘mental anguish.’ But I’m not here to rave how about how cool the game looks, or how well it’s been done. In fact, it’s an impressive branding exercise – Bethesda adopts the personality of Vault-Tec entirely and runs it through the app’s website and the Fallout social media channel.

And looking at the app as a marketing tool, it’s really effective. While of course the app is outrageously good at reaching the franchise’s current consumers – what better way to reach an audience of gamers than with another game? – mobile games are typically popular with a whole section of people who don’t necessarily play on consoles or computers. So, by using elements of the Fallout world in a game that reaches the mobile app audience, Bethesda’s also able to introduce the look and feel of part of Fallout to a new bunch of users.  And, by creating a game that’s in itself been extremely popular, the hype train has been sent into overdrive. National newspapers and global publications, not just gaming or tech magazines and blogs, have been caught up in the app’s success – it’s already generated over $5million for Bethesda – and have consequently been lending a major boost to the exposure of Fallout as a brand.     But Bethesda hasn’t left the app’s success to the press. They’ve gone right ahead and set up a fake Tinder profile in the name of Vault-Tec’s poster boy, Vault Boy. 

vault boy tinder

I like a man who’s into his bottlecaps.

Clicking the profile sends you to the download page for the app and turns out, the profile’s official – Bethesda themselves are responsible, making this the first time we’ve seen Tinder used as a tool to promote anything other than lonely hearts. But clearly, there’s some alignment between Tinder’s audience and the people Bethesda is trying to reach, making it a pretty clever use of a much talked about platform. Of course, they’re obviously backing all this up with a social media campaign inviting people to #DateADweller and geekily referencing features of the game. This has the added effect of only really being something players will understand, teasing followers that haven’t yet played into finding out more – and perhaps downloading the game. 

So, what can we take from all this? Ultimately, I think, Bethesda’s campaign leading up to the release of Fallout 4 shows that success comes from not only being true to your brand, but understanding and being true to your audience. Bethesda’s great at games, and its target audience loves games – with Fallout Shelter they make the most of both, giving their audience what they want while using their own skills in the process.  For me, it makes me want to be more playful with future ideas, whether that’s in something as huge as a game or as small as a Tinder profile. Because, at the end of the day, in a time when things can sometimes be a bit rubbish, what appeals to people more than fun? 

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