Godzilla 360 :: Case Study

M.U.T.O. Research Network / viral site

Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures requested an online promotion for the 2014 reboot of Godzilla that involved hacking. Targeted to fanboys and meant to generate press, AvatarLabs delivered a wholly original narrative exploring the digital surveillance and cybersecurity that extended the plot and characters of the film into the digital space, and discreetly name-checked Godzilla's biggest reveal-the introduction of an all-new Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, or M.U.T.O.

Phase 1: Trailer reveal (09 December 2013)

Classified imagery of massive craters is leaked to select media outlets in the United States, China, Mexico and elsewhere around the globe. These enormous sinkholes are previously undocumented; their origins are unknown. A close study of the aerial photographs reveals a hidden URL: mutoresearch.net.

The URL leads to the website for the clandestine M.U.T.O Research Network. A snippet of video appears. The visuals are obscured and the audio is scrambled. M.U.T.O.'s digital perimeter has detected an attempted data breach and issues a warning that all assets are protected with the Sierra II INFOSEC encryption protocol. The visitor has unwittingly been cast in the role of a hacker.

Eager to reveal the mysteries behind M.U.T.O, the viewer-turned-black hat hacker probes M.U.T.O.'s datastore via an old school terminal interface. The terminal accepts 50 text inputs, many of them familiar to users of DOS or Unix, while others are designed as Easter eggs for fans of the big screen's most notorious monster. Type Godzilla, for example, and the console replies: SYSTEM CANNOT CONFIRM OR DENY THE EXISTENCE OF THIS LIFEFORM. A login prompt appears and requests social media credentials. Linking to Facebook, Twitter or Google+ "confirms" the digital intrusion and rewards the user with a longer, less obscured video cut for sharing his hacker status with friends.

Five video clips are available for decryption. Will they expose the individuals or governments behind M.U.T.O? Will they reveal the source of the mammoth craters that sent the viewer down this cybersecurity rabbit hole in the first place? After 48 hours, the Godzilla launch trailer is unlocked in full. Now the sinkholes can only be interpreted as evidence of looming global catastrophe.

Global entertainment news outfits and fan sites alike enthusiastically embraced phase one of the M.U.T.O. experience. Press hits included IGN, IMDB, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Business Insider.

Phase 2: Shadowing the Brodys (27 March 2014)

Click to view: mutoresearch.net

The M.U.T.O. site receives a massive refresh. New content reveals the shocking extent of the organization's surveillance apparatus. Their target? Janjira nuclear physicist Joe Brody and his family. Viewer-hackers use a file browser (items may also be reviewed from the console command line) to access drone-cam stills, wiretapped audio, location data, traffic and security camera imagery, and scans of ID cards, personnel reports and even personal photos. Every item can be shared, and the data trove raises more questions than it answers. What did Dr. Brody see? Does he know anything about Godzilla? What is the Brodys' connection to Dr. Ichiro Serizawa, whose personal data also resides in the M.U.T.O. database? And what is Monarch, whose stylized butterfly insignia is stamped on much of the Network's stolen material? Speculation across social media was intense. Answers would have to wait until the premiere.

Various entertainment news outlets continued coverage, for example: "Godzilla Viral Site Exposes The Truth On The Scaly Beast" (3/27/14) http://www.movieviral.com/2014/03/27/godzilla-viral-site-exposes-the-truth-on-the-scaly-beast/

Godzilla Crisis Defense Game: The City Finds a Savior (07 May 2014)

Click to view: crisisdefense.godzillamovie.com
About a week prior to release, AvatarLabs and Warner Bros. launch Godzilla Crisis Defense, an addictive fast-twitch game (coded in HTML for desktop and mobile compatibility) that sets the stage for the sprawling urban destruction sequences featured in the film, and rewards a broad casual gaming audience with much-anticipated video from the film.

Godzilla is rampaging across an unnamed city somewhere on the Pacific Rim. As a crisis control engineer, the player must make split-second decisions to contain disasters such as fires and radiation leaks, and orchestrate civilian evacuations. A satellite map provides an overview of the crisis zones, while a citywide destruction meter tracks Godzilla's catastrophic progress through town.

The player applies resources-ground forces, trauma units, armored vehicles and city engineers-to resolve each emergency, identified in red on the map. But resources are limited and require time to take effect- successful crisis control requires strategic application of resources and eagle-eyed time management. Crisis zones that are not addressed in the given time window begin to flash red, and soon that sector of the city is lost. Averted crises notch up the player's containment percentage and appear blue on the map. Containment scores and badges may be shared to all major social networks, encouraging friends to enlist and play. Gameplay is randomized so no two play-throughs are exactly alike.

Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures were so pleased with the look of the game that they had us create a style guide from it to distribute to other promotional partners, defining the look, feel and best practices for other games and promotions.

Online Media Campaign: It's Alive (16 May 2014)

Premiere week arrives. Anticipation for Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures' reboot has progressed from fan buzz to monster-sized roar. AvatarLabs launches a series of novel and compelling rich media ads that help Godzilla topple the internet as well as the summer box office.

A series of posters are created by AvatarLabs from several versions of the Godzilla key art. Their animation and sense of depth and dimensionality evoke the grand scope of the film and become the marquee feature of every rich media execution. These motion sequences are complemented by sophisticated intro and transition animations, lending each banner a sense of continuous movement and drama.

Godzilla page takeovers-the behemoth strikes global destinations such as Yahoo, IGN and Youtube-tower atop the apex of the film's rich-media marketing program. IGN features an overlay that forces page content to crumble and collapse, revealing a dramatic expanding homepage takeover. The masthead meshes seamlessly with background wallpaper, smaller ad placements and custom editorial to create the impression that Godzilla has utterly commandeered the IGN homepage, among the most heavily trafficked entertainment sites on the internet. A similar experience greeted YouTube users within a homepage expandable masthead. These goliath takeover experiences include a callout for the Godzilla Crisis Defense game as well as other activities, a video gallery and a downloadable file of the nuclear lizard's iconic roar. HTML5 versions of many of the rotational placements ensure mobile users enjoy a rich visual experience as well.


Godzilla was a 2014 box office beast, scoring number one opening weekends in both domestic and international markets, with $93.2 million and $103 million respectively. Godzilla's domestic opener was the second largest of the year, and the film was among 2014's top ten highest grossing films worldwide.