Left 4 Dead. Left Scratching My Head.

By all accounts, Left 4 Dead (L4D) was/is one of the most popular Zombie video games on the market. Compared to previous games created by producer Valve, it was a clear hit.

So, expectations for L4D2 are high. After all, sequels to popular video games are like sequels to Arnold Schwarzenegger films – they are always successful. Add to this the fact that Zombieland (the movie) is off to a fast start, taking the top spot in North America this past weekend with nearly $25 million in ticket sales.

Interestingly enough, that is the same number Valve plans to invest to market its new video game. Yes, that’s right, Valve will spend 25 freaking million dollars to launch L4D2! Coincidence? Maybe. But then again, maybe not.

Compared to the $10 million they spent to launch the original, this sounds like a lot of money. But consider the possibilities. If opening weekend sales for Zombieland in North America were $25 million, imagine the potential for international sales of L4D2 over the course of the next three months (including the holiday season).

But really, is this huge investment in marketing necessary or even prudent? According Valve’s VP of Marketing, “pre-orders for the game are the highest the company has ever seen for one of its titles.” So why invest in a venture that is already bound to succeed?

Why not? What about the increased sales? What about the merchandising? What about the increased awareness and branding? The potential ROI is mind-boggling.

In fact, when all is said and done, assuming L4D2 is anywhere close to as good as the original, Valve may look back and wonder why it didn’t invest even more money.

Of course we have no idea how they plan to spend that money. It is possible they will use it wisely and it is possible they will waste it. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I tip my hat to the company with courage the size of grapefruits.

Carpe diem… or die trying.

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.