Campaign Halo 3 UK launch
PR Team JCPR
Timescale May – September 2007
To make the game mainstream without alienating its hardcore audience. To position Halo 3 as a major entertainment franchise.
Strategy and plan
JCPR wanted to generate the type of launch publicity achieved by blockbuster movies, targeting gamers – a largely young male audience whose main interest is gaming – and players, a broader audience that lists gaming as one interest.
The campaign focused on a number of ‘golden’ journalists, who could take the game from the realm of teenage boys to a mainstream audience.
Screen shots and concept art were leaked to publications from the Xbox 360: The Official Xbox Magazine to Edge magazine and men’s title Zoo.
An international preview tour was arranged two months ahead of launch. Journalists were taken to Halo 3’s development house in Seattle for sneak previews. An event in Amsterdam followed, where journalists were invited to play ‘laser tag’ games, learn to shoot crossbows and play previews of the game with the Seattle development team.
The media tour showcased the scale of the game, and made comparisons with other big launches such as the Spider-Man 3 film and the Harry Potter books. A red carpet premiere event and after-show party at London’s BFI IMAX cinema were attended by a cast of high-profile celebrities, including Pharrell Williams and Christian Slater.
Measurement and evaluation
To date, the campaign has generated 465 pieces of print, online and broadcast coverage, with a total audience in excess of 400 million.
Halo 3 was a lead item on CNN news on and before the day of the launch, also appearing on ITV, and across the BBC on News 24, the Ten O’Clock News, BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio 1 and
Radio 5 Live. Online coverage ranged from technology blogs and gaming
sites to Metro, the Daily Mail online and FT.com.
The game made the front covers of 21 magazines, with print highlights including a four-page article in The Saturday Telegraph Magazine, a full page in The Times, page five in The Guardian and a double-page spread in The Independent.
The Sun’s gaming guru Jonathan Weinberg says: ‘Xbox never does anything by halves and it was fitting to treat the Halo 3 launch like a movie premiere with all that glitz. I still do not think Halo 3 got the recognition it deserved with the mass media. But a PR event like this will go some way to ensuring games are slowly but surely accepted as mainstream entertainment.’
Halo 3 was the most successful entertainment launch of all time, generating £148m in its first week of sales. More than one million people played the game in the first 20 hours, making it the biggest gaming day in Xbox Live history.
Gareth Davies (l), director, Custard PR: JCPR was always going to face a challenge promoting Halo 3 to mainstream consumers.
Though the game has a substantial legacy among hardcore gamers – almost every owner of the first Xbox had a copy of Halo 1 and Halo 2 – one has to be a fan of the First Person Shooter (FPS) genre to enjoy everything the game has to offer.
The red carpet event was definitely the right approach to position the franchise alongside blockbuster movies. No other game has deserved such an approach and the celebrity attendance (although I question the relevance of Sarah Harding) got the Halo brand into titles that wouldn’t usually cover technology or games.
It was a given there would be substantial interest from the specialist gaming media – they have been salivating over this since Halo 2. What I felt it was lacking, however, was getting the game into the hands of the non-gaming and lifestyle hacks. The game play is so appealing, but I do not feel the non-gaming media covered this, or the online element of the game, which is one of its greatest strengths. It has a strong community feel, and its features allow users to customise and upload their own game maps, which feeds the current buzz around social networking and user-generated content.
The campaign could also have focused more on the game’s central character – Master Chief – positioning him to non-hardcore gamers as an iconic, down-to-earth hero.
All in all though, JCPR did a great job highlighting the magnitude and pull of the game. But whether this campaign helped push Halo 3 and the Xbox 360 console into the hands of those gamers who have a more casual approach to this market has yet to be proven.