In the month leading up to today’s Xbox One launch, Microsoft‘s Xbox Canada marketing team carted a 12-metre replica of its new console from Vancouver to Montreal to Toronto for fans to let fans get a peek inside — literally. The boxes were deposited in well-trafficked downtown areas. Fans were asked to pledge their Xbox Live user IDs to a mysterious Xbox group called OneSource, and when OneSource reached a certain threshold, the box opened.
In Vancouver, it was swarmed by a hundred zombies.
In Montreal, a team of professional drivers sauntered down the ramp to an award podium, and a pair of Lamborghini Gallardos screeched up to the scene, from the intensely realistic performance racing game Forza Motorsport 5.
In Toronto, a horde of barbarians stampeded out followed by a troop of Roman soldiers from Ryse: Son of Rome, a gladiator-style fighting game.
Xbox’s director of Canadian marketing, Craig Flannagan, said the events were designed to emphasize the community aspect of Xbox gaming. ”We have a fundamental belief that experiences are better when they’re shared experiences,” he said. “We wanted to create something that really resonated with that idea of being a fan-powered passion brand.”
At each of the events, fans were treated to a range of gaming experiences. Everyone had a chance to play on the new console ahead of its commercial availability. In Vancouver, professional makeup artists dressed fans up as zombies. At the Toronto event, fans were treated to a Roman style feast and demos of historically accurate weapons.
Also in Toronto, Xbox opened its slick new retail space at the heavily trafficked interesection of Yonge and Bloor streets, where fans can try out the new console.
Flannagan was especially enthusiastic about the Montreal racing event, where fans were taken from the giant Xbox to a race track, where they driven around the track in cars featured in the game such as the Lamborghini Gallardo, Audi R-8 and Nissan GTR. By playing Forza, and then driving the real cars, fans got a chance to see how closely simulation lined up to the reality, Flannagan said, from driving conditions down to the interior design of the cars.
The OneSource events were led by Mosaic, with design and construction support from The Taylor Group. (Xbox’s full agency team also included TraffikGroup, Wunderman, Veritas, Digital Production Services, and Starcom MediaVest.)
International TV and online spots from CP+B will promote the launch nationally, with Starcom MediaVest Canada responsible for Canadian media planning. The keystone TV spot, “Invitation,“ features a slew of release title characters interrupting fans at work and home, inviting them to join in the fun.
Future campaigns will shift the focus from gaming — the DNA of the existing Xbox community — to the new features of the Xbox all-in-one media center, like connected TV and voice activation.
In anticipation of last night’s midnight release, when thousands of gamers were expected to line up for hours outside Future Shops and Best Buys to buy the console, Xbox experiential teams sought out the first-comers and kidnapped them for an exclusive launch party. These “line heroes” — some of whom showed up many hours or even days before everyone else — were given a chance to play all the new games on the Xbox One while a Dead Rising zombie held their place in line until they were brought back to the store (with a pile of swag).
Flannagan said the Xbox marketing team and its partner agencies already have some plans for the future, but wouldn’t provide many details. He would say they plan to engage with fans through Xbox Live by setting up live Skype chats with gaming and sports celebrities. They also have an event planned around Christmas for gamers who will be “unboxing” new consoles on the holiday.
“It’s the start of a new generation, and we’re excited,” said Flannagan. “It’s a passion brand, and you don’t get to work on those often — where consumers really consume your brand, they love it, they get angry, they get elated. There’s just a level of emotion that I’m in love with.”