DoCoMo: Tight Pants Meet Tight Tech
DoCoMo: Tight Pants Meet Tight Tech

DoCoMo: Tight Pants Meet Tight Tech

DoCoMo: Tight Pants Meet Tight Tech

P900iVHe’s hot, he has superhuman fighting skills, an enormous broadsword, black leather pants, and a really big motorcycle — and he uses a DoCoMo P900iV 3G celly. Yeah, baby! He’s Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII and the all-new DVD Advent Children — and he’s not afraid to talk on the phone. NTT DoCoMo and handset maker Panasonic scored big time in a comprehensive tie-up with Final Fantasy series producer Square Enix securing very visible handset placement in the hugely anticipated DVD movie of Square’s most enduring Final Fantasy saga.

In this print and online media campaign, Cloud is shown holding a very real, very buyable, P900iV handset

Fans who run out and purchase a P900iV (dubbed “Cloud Special Version”) just like their hero get access to NTT DoCoMo’s 3G FOMA network; video, photo, SD Card, and 100-KB flash applications; high-resolution camera; and other bells and whistles — plus DoCoMo 900i-series-only access to FFVII melodies, exclusive backgrounds, motion clips, and character avatars for video mail (chara den in Japanese).

FFVII wannabes will jump at the chance to send video mail with a moving lifelike avatar of Cloud, Tifa or Aeris (two of the heroines) standing in for their own, regular-Joe, self.

Whether buying a handset or not, the site has seen heavy access just for the Advent Children intro, to copy and print the Cloud picture and to register for product giveaways (the giveaway campaign winds up on 27 October).

At press time, the date for Advent Children’s DVD launch had yet to be announced; Square Enix will only say, “2004” — which means soon.

The DoCoMo/Square Enix deal doesn’t stop there. Further blurring lines between fiction and mobile reality, Square Enix introduced an all-new mobile game prequel to FFVII — Before Crisis — that is exclusive to DoCoMo 900i-series handsets. In this new world order marketing twist not only do you play on the phones but all the characters in the game converse with each other on FOMA 900i phones as part of the story line. Talk about advantageous product placement.

The game exploits the 900i-series’ 3G networking capabilities allowing for cooperative multiplayer play. In an interesting innovation, the game encourages gamers to share their energy reserves, “materia” in FF-speak, with fellow players. The game officially premiered at the recent Tokyo Game Show and though initial stats on downloads were unavailable, Hanada Koichi from DoCoMo’s multi-media division admitted “We have hundreds and hundreds of games available on DoCoMo phones and tie-ups with the leading game producers, but even we were amazed by the response to Before Crisis.”

Square Enix does report that the “Before Crisis” beta launch in August recorded more than 1.6 million hits on the official site on the first day. (For those who need to know, BC takes place six years prior to the events in FFVII following an elite squad of Shin-ra Turks on a top-secret mission. Look for familiar names like Sephiroth, Rufus, Reno, Rude, etc.)

Poor FF followers in the US; all they have is downloadable mobile wallpaper of FF characters from the Square Enix Gallery on a scattering of handsets via the Verizon or AT&T Wireless services — none of them Advent Children as of yet.

Japan is no novice at engaging 2-D characters to promote real-life products — Sanrio’s Hello Kitty is a marketing powerhouse now celebrating her 30th anniversary. Mickey Mouse and pals endorse everything from rice toppings to pancake mix as well as presiding over their own mobile game/character/ring-tone melody empire.

However, the FFVII deal has taken the synchronicity between games and Net-connected phones to a new level. The campaign and licensing probably cost DoCoMo tens of millions of dollars but for Big D the aim is not a yen-for-yen ROI — it’s about mindshare.

DoCoMo and rival KDDI have been going head-to-head in Japan’s 3G-battle arena for months; KDDI’s au 3G service enjoys a wide lead with over 15 million subscribers while DoCoMo chokes up second place with around 5.7 million. Clearly, DoCoMo’s tie in with FF will rack up huge numbers of cool points for their 3G network. A lot of phone-buying game fans won’t fail to notice that DoCoMo’s FOMA 3G handsets are overwhelmingly preferred by cool Japanese super heroes in futuristic cities and tight pants.

See recent FOMA subscriber growth on the NTT DoCoMo site here.

— Gail Nakada