GTA V vs GAT V: HASHTAG? WTF IS A HASHTAG?

WITH THE ADVENT OF TWITTER AND IT’S MAKING A RELATIVELY USELESS KEY (#) INTO A POWERFUL SOCIAL TOOL, I FIGURED IT WOULD BE AN ALRIGHT TOPIC TO DIVE IN FOR THIS WEEK’S BLOG, DID I FORGET THAT CAPS LOCK WAS ON?

In the Twitterverse tweets or topics are generally categorically labeled with a hashtag, a brief topical sentence or phrase proceeding the pound key. In what I consider a genius move by twitter, making this seldom used key into a search marketing godsend. The hashtag itself sort of serves as an alert, wherein one can click it and see similarly directed messages.

AN EPIC EXAMPLE that recently occurred that made me shed a devilish grin was during Rockstar Games’ massive September game release, Grand Theft Auto V. Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V for short) was the most anticipated game of 2013 and with good reasoning too, it was a solid five years since the Grand Theft Auto series made any waves with GTA IV. This go around was absolutely huge, Rockstar going as far as releasing a trailer a whole 2 years BEFORE releasing the game, just to build consumer anticipation. Rockstars campaign effectively used a variety of different social media forms, using YouTube to show clips from the game and trailer, Twitter to blast tweets, and FaceBook for photos and posts and to share their YouTube content. Needless to say on release day the top trending topic on twitter were tweets about GTA V.

GTA V artwork

Artwork from the game.

But curiously enough, another variation on the #GTAV emerged, some twitter users mistakeningly spelling #GTAV as #GATV – one could see how an excited person might enter the letters in too fast, a common mistake – except it wasn’t. To frame the importance of this encounter, one has to understand the gaming market and specifically the genre of open-world style games, a genre Rockstar pioneered with its Grand Theft Auto series. This of course spawned numerous copy-cat games that had a similar style and gameplay mechanics. Of these one series found success in actively referencing this and going for all-out absurdity, Volition’s Saint’s Row series is a massively successful open-world crime game that sort of mocks the seriousness of the Grand Theft Auto series. Well on GTA V release day, Volition decided to release a free DLC pack (downloadable content) for Saint’s Row IV, aptly titled GAT V. This caused a huge THING or a better, more descriptive word, on twitter with people promoting the GAT V release with the hashtag #GATV. By dropping ~$200,000 Volition was able to get #GATV into the trending section as a promoted tweet, ranking it above #GTAV.

GAT V on Twitter

Gamers on twitter scramble to react accordingly.

Hilarity ensued, as people even went so far as to correct others on how they had misspelled #GTAV, unaware of the GAT V release. Some even including both tags in their tweets. This helped GAT V ascend on Twitter and take a massive shot at GTA V. I thought it was a brilliant move by Volition to cause some social media confusion. In the end though, as clever a play as any, it did not fracture GTA V’s success – the game went on to close over a billion in sales in the first month. To put it in perspective, it outsold an entire year’s worth of sales in the music industry (as a whole), in a single month – for a single piece of media.

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