Halo 3 - The Biggest Launch In Entertainment History (Like, ever!)
Jeff Bell, Corporate VP of Global Marketing and Interactive Entertainment at Microsoft wooed us with stories of how they launched Halo 3. Their launch goal was to target 1) Halo purchasers, 2) the next crop of XBox purchasers and 3) a broader gaming audience - and make the Halo 3 the best selling game in history. (Sounds easy!) Microsoft created a strategy built around the "together experience" of gaming - having fun, leveraging your identity, gaining a sense of achievement and self-esteem, building community, and escaping.
Here are a few of the ways that Microsoft tied WOM and social media to their promotional efforts - capturing the base, and carrying the buzz to other audiences leading up to the Halo 3 launch:
- Television and Social Media: A 60 second spot ran ONCE, alluding to a game back story that fan boys had been calling for, and offering little easter eggs for the die hards. The commercial was then posted to YouTube, where it has acquired over 27 million views. Later ads that ran for the game didn't actually SHOW the game in order to keep non-gamers tuned in - they appealed to hard core enthusiasts, but kept other interested through the Halo 3 branding on the last frame. (If you have a second, follow those links to the videos, I'm not a gamer, but they are sweet - so mission accomplished on that front.)
- Beta Test and Social Media: 1 million people participated in a one level beta test of the game. The beta crowd was gleaned from known enthusiasts and sweepstakes winners. The resulting buzz on social media platforms helped carry the "best of the three games" and "don't need to have played the first two to play this one" messages that Microsoft was hoping to position.
- Alternate Reality Game and Social Media: A five "episode" ARG was developed to hype the launch to the existing fan base. All in all, over 1 million people participated.
- One episode involved a posting on Craig's List about flood control (which is a tie-in to the game). Users called the phone number in the ad and received a code that unlocked the server and gave them a clue.
- Another episode involved a website featuring a famous poem with two lines rewritten. The clue lead to a fake book on Amazon.com, which lead to research on the "author" who had a blog. Fans found the "author" on MSN Messanger and IMed him get you another code to unlock a clue.
- A third revolved around a ringtone fans could downlaod. A clue on Entertainment Tonight - Canada lead fans to learn that if you played the ringtone into your computer it would unlock the server.
We all know the end of this story - the launch was a huuuge, gigantic, stupendous success. There were $170 million in sales on the first day, and $300 million in one week. 1.6 million gamers played the game in the first week, equaling over 40 million hours of gaming. In total, Microsoft spent 55% of their ad budget on non-traditional marketing and social media extensions.