REDMOND, WA: Microsoft has unveiled a unique event to make sure its core customers aren't forgotten in the promotional launch of its Xbox 360 video game system.
In addition to the traditional PR and advertising campaign wooing new customers, the computer giant is hosting an exclusive VIP event in an undisclosed location in the Mojave Desert. Exactly 3,000 gaming enthusiasts can vie for the opportunity to start playing with the system and its 10-20 launch games two days before the general public can purchase them. The festivities are scheduled to begin on November 20, and the system and its games will go on sale on November 22 at midnight.
"The impetus was that we wanted to make sure we never lose sight of our true, hardcore fan," said Carlos de Leon, global group RP manager of the Xbox division. "It's almost a thank you for their support on the first generation. They'll go home with a badge of honor."
While the company may want to repay repeat customers, it also realizes the trickle-down, buzz effect those happy customers bring.
"Not only are hardcore gamers important to us as consumers, they're great influences that bring in casual fans," de Leon said.
The event was designed for the serious gamer, and the entry form, which only popped up online for one day on November 10, required fans to write a 250-word blurb about what they would do to attend the event.
Microsoft will only provide event access to the winners and will not pay for any of the attendees' fees for travel, food and drink, or lodging. De Leon expects the arrangement to garner Microsoft a lot of press coverage, which he calls the campaign's "bread and butter." For example, he expected local and national media outlets to cover how fans make their way to the desert for the event.
Gaming media outlets and websites will also attend, and de Leon conceded that more than a few of the event winners will likely be bloggers. As such, Microsoft would neither attempt to place any story embargoes, nor prohibit anyone from posting pictures on the internet.
"We want this to be as open and casual as possible," de Leon said. "The more restrictions you place, the angrier you make people."
The company also teamed up with Best Buy, so a retail outlet will be onsite for fans to buy the games they've been sampling as soon as they go on sale at midnight.