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02/07/2012 by

Case Study: Shakespeare Country

Here at ViralBlog we have covered various campaigns in the travel and tourist industry, like Iceland ExpressWork for Tuscany, Finnair and Tourism Queensland. Most of these campaigns usually run for a certain amount of time, usually 2 to 6 months, and eventually these campaigns get pulled from the internet and replaced by new campaigns.

In the game “Romeo wherefore art thou” players embark on a quest to gather flowers for Juliet, avoiding wild boars and skeletons and collecting blooms and books along the way. 

But what if you need to promote an UK tourist destination online with the challenge of a rather small budget, creating an engaging game, showcase the tourists attractions, attract new visitors to the destination and its website and also develop the game to stay viral for several years, when the world-wide credit crunch turned into a global financial crisis? Koko Digital helped Shakespeare Country to become a longtale viral hit with over 50 million game plays to date with the help of Bard’s best loved characters in historic Warwickshire: Romeo and Juliet.

This case study is compiled from an interview with Stuart Howarth from Koko Digital in July 2009 and various other sources (amongst others BBC and Dailymail).

On May 21st, 2009 Shakespeare Country launched the game “Romeo wherefore art thou?“, to promote Shakespeare Country as a UK tourist destination to both a UK and worldwide audience, encouraging them to interact with the game based on William Shakespeare’s Birth place of Startford Upon Avon.

Campaign approach & objectives

The primary objective of Shakespeare Country was to raise brand awareness for the area incorporating some of the attractions that can be found at the location followed by capturing email addresses and drive traffic to the Shakespeare Country website. To encourage players to leave their e-mail address, a competition (running for 12 months) was held for players to win a short break to Shakespeare Country each month along with tickets to Warwick Castle, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Shakespeare Houses.

Stu Howarth of Koko Digital: “We decided to create a game around one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays “Romeo and Juliet”. However rather then being situated in Verona we placed the characters in Shakespeare Country. All the backdrops are famous landmarks from areas around Stratford upon Avon, Warwick and Leamington Spa. You will see Shakespeare’s birthplace, Warwick Castle and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage all form part of the background. We wanted to get across the landscape surrounding Shakespeare Country. The idea of the game is you must take Romeo through 10 levels to eventually reach Juliet. In between each level you will see William Shakespeare telling Romeo what he needs to do to complete the level.”

Seeding of the game

In the first 6 weeks the Shakespeare Game had been played over 7.5 million and driven 1.7 million clicks to the clients website. Stu: “All these figures have been achieved using Kokos organic seeding service which means there hasn’t been the need for any media spend and we have not had to pay for any placement of the game on any site. We see viral games as a powerful tool because of their accountability and the advanced tracking we can implement into the game. We seed the game to a large number of gaming portals. However with this particular game we saw the game spread virally between the channels very quickly making the overall seeding process much easier. This is one of the main reasons why the game has seen such great results in such a small space of time and we feel it has done so well because of the quality of the game and because it is a fun game to play. We feel we have balanced the game out well between creating a fun, challenging game but one which delivers the correct brand messages and achieves its main campaign goals.”

Game inspiration & brand message

The co-founder of Koko Digital: “The game was loosely based on Super Mario as it was already a format people were familiar with and we were not re-inventing the wheel, this obviously helps reach a wider audience of players. With regards to 10 levels, we wanted to create a game that felt like it had depth but one that also didn’t take a player too long to complete, after all one of the main objectives was to drive traffic to the clients website. If the game was too big then we risk losing the player before they would normally click through, also we wanted to add enough depth to the game so that the player stayed on long enough to potentially remember the brand.”

“The game is not being overly branded, this is part of the fine line between getting a brand message across and making a game that is fun. If we overly brand the game then it sometimes discourages the spread of the campaign as people just think it is a giant advert without giving it second thought that it might be a fun game however on the flip side if we do not brand the game enough then we miss the campaigns objectives. We must ensure we have the right balance between brand awareness and brand messages and game playability.”

Viral games benefit & trick

Also fellow co-founder Chris Steel gives his advice in an interview on Blur Designs blog: “Viral games also have the benefit of being able to incorporate many call to actions encouraging users to visit your website, and these can be designed to work with almost any B2C industry sector, whether it’s booking a holiday, insuring their car, or even going on to purchase a cd, software, book, or mobile phone. The trick to creating a viral game that work for you is balance. You have to have some advertising in there to get your message across.  You’ve also got to have calls to action – get the player to visit an official site, join a facebook page, share their score etc. Never forget that it has to be fun to play!”

Game elements

The Game:
Romeo has to negotiate the level to get to Juliet and find Roses, Hearts and the Bard’s plays on the way for points and/or to complete the level all set in Shakespeare Country.

The Stages: 
Shakespeare’s Birthplace, the Church where he is buried and the Theatre where his plays are still performed and all the other Shakespeare related properties.

The Foreground: 
Platform based game area, similar to the Super Mario games from Nintendo – three functions only; forward, back and jump.

The Middle Ground:
Generic images of Shakespeare Country representing Stratford-Upon-Avon – with perfect summer holiday weather conditions.

The Background: 
Images of attractions around Shakespeare Country to promote the breadth of quality attractions on offer, including: Warwick Castle, Blenheim Palace, Kenilworth Castle, Compton Verney etc.

The Interactivity: 
High Score Competition entry button, Challenge/Share your Score with your Friends button, Visit Shakespeare Country web site button.


  • 7.5 million game plays in 6 weeks, 38 million game plays after 18 months and 51 million game plays after 137 weeks
  • According to memecounter 39% return rate and an average view time of 8.25 minute (first 6 weeks)
  • 1.7 million clicks in first 6 weeks, 2.5 million clicks in less than 3 months to the website
  • Over 24 million plays under a year and 180,000 e-mail addresses added to the database
  • Over 500,000 additional unique visitors in its first full month after launch
  • More than 200,000 additional unique visitors to the Shakespeare Country web site each month every month
  • Ranked 4th on‘s Advergames chart global all time
  • Articles on BBCBBC Stoke & Staffordshire, Dailymail, Telegraph and
  • Featured on 1200 game sites, including, and
  • Over 20,000 comments on game sites about the game; ratings between 76 to 82 on a scale of 100
  • ROI of a ratio of 2400 to 1 (source:
  • Winner of Bimas 2009 winner, Roses Design Awards 2009 (silver), Drum Award for Digital Industries (silver), nominated at Dadi Awards, Adobe featured site & Adobe site of the day


A great showcase of a game, that is still going viral, 3 years after its launch and manages to raise brand awareness via a combination of great ingredients: iconic lovers Romeo & Juliet, showcasing some of the attractions people would see for real when visiting the area and an addictive easy-to-play game that is seeded on various game platforms.

Phil Hackett, Chief Executive of Shakespeare Country: “I wanted to do a viral campaign but only estimated about 2.5 million would play it. I think the programmers have done a great job. Although they are characters they are instantly recognisable and the environment has all the major landmarks – you get to pass the theatre, his birthplace and Anne Hathaway’s cottage. It really goes bring Shakespeare back to life. Since its launch […] it’s generated […] millions of unique visitors to our website every month and a percentage of people are now thinking the Shakespeare Country is an enjoyable and fun place to come and visit”. Stu Howarth, director of Koko Digital who created the game: “It’s the most popular game we have ever made. […] We weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel – just make a fun attractive platform game that is the most accessible to the widest audience.”

The Shakespeare Country is a not for profit partnership between Stratford and Warwick district councils and the private sector.

Source: Extra X-Wide P

About the author

Paul van Veenendaal (34) is an all-round marketing professional from the Netherlands with 12+ years of online experience and co-founder of ViralBlog. Currently Paul is working at Starcom Amsterdam as Social Media & Communnity Consultant for Honda, Samsung, GSK, Redbull, Heineken and Nintendo.

You can connect with Paul via Twitter, LinkedInHyvesFacebook, or send him an email at [email protected].

Read Paul’s articles on Viralblog.


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