Video game companies offer holiday peek at E3

LOS ANGELES: Several top players in the video game industry set the tone for their holiday communications strategy at last week's E3 conference in LA.

LOS ANGELES: Several top players in the video game industry set the tone for their holiday communications strategy at last week's E3 conference in LA.

David Hufford, global director of Xbox PR, said that during the conference Microsoft highlighted its repertoire of games, but then shifted the tone to generate buzz for the upcoming holiday season.

"[E3] is a bit of a competitive event, where the three big console companies - Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo - try to show off which is going to be the hottest console for this holiday," he said.

Microsoft's E3 strategy echoed the company's larger holiday push to position the Xbox as a mainstream entertainment device, rivaling movies, music, and TV in popularity and outreach. But to maintain media interest beyond the fanfare of E3, the company plans to spend the following months conveying its messages to a wide spectrum of media.

Patrick Seybold, director of corporate communications and social media at Sony, said despite the big E3 announcement of a new video delivery service, the company will focus on its core gaming competency during the holiday season. Even so, it is launching a brand awareness campaign to target families with children.

"There are a lot of functionalities that we're going to be educating consumers on," he explained. "We're going to spend time educating consumers on the entire value of PlayStation, and that it does not stop at games."

Sony plans to launch its holiday gift tour this month to allow journalists, particularly those not present at E3, to experience the new products and features unveiled at the conference. Seybold said this is crucial for long-lede publications because many are working on their December issues now. In addition to gaming and technology press, media outreach will include entertainment-oriented and family publications.

"Since we're in rough economic times, we're seeing a lot of families skipping vacations or tightening budgets," he said. The company is incorporating this into its messaging by emphasizing the console as a one-time investment that can provide family entertainment.

Even so, the industry faces the challenge of dispelling the image that many have of video game users - that they are isolated young men, Hufford noted. But as part of its strategy, Microsoft plans to promote the social aspects of the industry with musical- and game show-oriented games that have helped video games cross into the mainstream.

Hufford said when reaching out to women's and consumer publications, the message will focus on educating readers about the console's new design, which is intended to be more user-friendly.

"We really want to inform [women] that the Xbox is something everyone at home can have a good time with," he noted.

Microsoft still plans to maintain outreach to its traditional users by targeting gaming media and men's publications. For these outlets, the message will focus on the company's already-established video games and new product launches. The company will also target urban and ethnic audiences.

"We're going after everyone with our message," he said. "The story will be a little different for each segment, for sure, but this is the year in which we're really going to scale far into the mainstream and a 'one-message-fits-all' isn't going to work. We're going to have to be very specific about what we say and who we say it to."

Hufford declined to give details on the company's new media outreach plans, but added that outreach for the fall will include a heavy broadcast media component.

"Broadcast is going to be significantly important to us, because it's such a visual story - nothing tells our story better than moving pictures, because [video game images] look fantastic and fun," he said.

Nintendo did not respond to PRWeek's calls by press time.

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