Cities: Skylines II
Pre-order and Release Campaign asset creation

Cities: Skyline II
Pre-order and Release Campaign

In short

Cities: Skylines has been a phenomenal success since its launch in 2015. The city building sim has sold an astonishing 12 million copies and boasts over 175,000 reviews on Steam and a ‘Very Positive’ overall user rating. Regular content updates have kept players coming back for more, and console ports have succeeded in bringing the game to new audiences.

Anticipation for the game’s sequel - Cities: Skylines II - has been off the charts since its announcement by Paradox in March. In this case study, we’ll take you through our ongoing journey with the game, from pre-order phase to release and beyond. Strap in!


Animated display banners

Companion banners

IAB standard banners

Steam storefront

Video ad suites

Gamescom influencer activation

Geo-targeted video ads

Network takeovers

Accolade updates

Reached no.2 in the Steam charts
Source: Game World Observer.
Fastest selling game in the series
Source: Game World Observer.
“Very Positive” user rating on Steam
Source: Game World Observer.


Our story begins in April and the pre-order phase of the campaign. To drive awareness, we created numerous network takeovers to appear on the world’s leading games media sites. Our team created an animated display banner suite containing an array of IAB standard banners alongside a companion banner for use on YouTube.


Steam is the number one platform for PC game sales, so Cities II’s storefront page needed to look the part. We carefully branded the city builder’s page, ensuring it was visually appealing and informative.

The latter point was crucial when it came to the game’s Ultimate Edition. We needed to clearly show visitors the wealth of upcoming content included in this version and details of the UE discount. Our objective was to provide instantly digestible detail without clutter, and our eye-catching expandable Steam unit did just that, driving the game’s pre-orders.

At the base of the expandable unit, we produced the roadmap outlining the release schedule for Cities II’s DLC in a way that would be easy for potential buyers to understand. Clarity is king!


Summer arrived, and video content became the focus. We strategically transformed a series of Paradox-produced long-form video pieces into bite-sized, engaging episodes that would be perfect for retargeting throughout a long campaign. 

Each episode explored different core gameplay features, giving viewers a quick info burst - perfect for social media channels and shorter retention platforms like TikTok, Instagram Reels and video pre-rolls.

Flying high

Gamescom 2023 was an essential beat on Cities: Skylines II’s campaign. The Paradox team executed a stunning activation - Cities in the Sky - suspending influencers 150 feet in the air while they live-streamed the game.

We collaborated with the PDX team, producing customised activations for two huge media sites - PC Gamer and IGN - which built hype among the audience before, during and after the event.

Network takeovers

The PC Gamer skins were updated in real-time three times to reflect different phases of the Cities in the Sky activation:

Pre-event: During this phase, we produced a short trailer that was placed within these engaging video-based skin activations, creating awareness and building anticipation among the audience. 

Mid-event: The live stream was embedded into the skin as the event happened.

Post-event: The Cities  community needed to see the action, so we placed a recording of Cities in the Sky into the skin, allowing fans to continue to enjoy the content even after the event.

High performance

The Portal team flew to Gamescom and, alongside Paradox, collaborated with the camera crew to capture the best possible footage for our ad-based materials. We took this and skilfully interweaved gameplay to create an immersive hype video in multiple ratios for use in post-event video ads. 

These ads performed so well that the Paradox team initially thought their analytics were broken. The analytics were spot-on, and these ads are now the best-performing video-based ads in any Paradox campaign to date.


Summer gave way to autumn, and marketing efforts intensified as Cities II’s release date drew closer. During this phase, we created three geo-targeted video ads for the US, Europe and the UK. Each video contained a key location tied to their region - New York for the US, Paris for Europe and London for the UK.

This ensured that the audience could feel a familiar connection to the content they were seeing, wherever they were in the world.

Network takeovers

Our team also produced premium network skin placements for world-renowned media publications - Fandom, IGN and PC Gamer. These high-quality skins have extensive technical specifications, something our design team had to be mindful of when integrating Cities II’s visual brand.

With millions of eyeballs on these placements, we needed to impart as much information as possible about both the Base and Ultimate Editions without sacrificing visual appeal.

Short & street

As the big launch day approached, we were excited to collaborate with the PDX team to create a snappy short-form video suite to retarget their audience and help drive last-minute pre-orders.

To develop a sense of urgency among potential buyers, we included the core message “last chance to pre-order and receive nine unique in-game items”.


The post-release accolades phase is vital for any game release. As the wave of positive reviews flooded in for Cities II, our team diligently updated our creative work to include scores and reviewer comments from major media outlets.

This was done across multiple ad formats, including video, networks and display and is one of the most critical beats within the marketing campaign.

“A responsive and reliable partner, always delivering on time & on budget.”
Paid Media Team
Paradox Interactive
“I speak for the whole paid media team when I say we couldn't have done it without Portal.”
Paid Media Team
Paradox Interactive
We LOVE it!
Paid Media Team
Paradox Interactive

Built to last

What an adventure! And it doesn't stop here. Cities: Skylines II has a bright future and we're looking forward to further collaborations with the Paradox team in 2024.

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