A recently leaked article, supposedly posted to Microsoft’s internal news site, appears to verify the dreaded truth — Halo 3’s Iris “spiral marketing campaign” has come to its official end. The article, which was posted to the Unfiction forums with permission from the author, reveals the end date of August 16th, which coincides with the opening of Iris’ fifth and final server, or “episode”. It also details the campaign’s goals, achievements, challenges and failures. Undoubtedly, the primary point of dissension this article raises is the challenge undertaken to provide a “low-key, low budget campaign [which] does more with less, whetting the appetite of the blockbuster video game’s fanatical followers.”
The article reveals that Iris was developed by “more than 50 people from 20 Microsoft teams [who] contributed time, coding expertise, and industry contacts.” The attempt was ultimately to provide a grand marketing scheme incurring little cost while attaining “critical mass” — defined in the article as getting “interview requests from The Wall Street Journal”. “It’s about breaking out of the hardcore and getting into the mainstream,” said Aaron Elliott, online marketing manager for Xbox Global Marketing (also listed as one of the ‘founders’ of the Society of the Ancients, an in-game organization that appeared at the beginning, but was never heard from again).
Strictly speaking, given the resources used to produce the campaign and the costs (or lack thereof) incurred, Iris may be considered an impressive success. However, if one includes the overall sentiment of the demographic that was actually actively playing or following Iris, one might say that their reach had exceeded their grasp. They seem to have ignored (or miscalculated) an inherent factor in the kind of campaign they were hoping to produce – most players had expectations, whether misplaced or not, of another I Love Bees. That potential was lost, and while the production may have been impressive to some, it failed dramatically in achieving what could have been achieved quite easily.
On Saturday, January 27, 2007, at 5:59 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, a sizable crowd of two to three hundred people had gathered on the hill at Gas Works Park in Seattle, Washington, across from the brilliantly lit gas works. An enormous projection screen had been erected on the flat ground between the structure and Lake Union, where colored lights strobed atop police boats that formed a cordon around a darkened barge floating in the lake. As the clock ticked over to the top of the hour, hundreds of eyes aimed themselves at the video now winking into existence on the screen.
This was Loki’s final message to those few of the hundreds of thousands of players of the Vanishing Point Game – a promotion for Microsoft’s upcoming release of the next version of its Windows operating system, Vista – who had managed to be present for the final live event of the game…and to witness the final clues to the identity of “Loki” and her secret to winning, among other things, the grand prize trip into space.
In the video, Loki recounted her mission and praised the progress of the players so far. Photographs from previous live events flashed across the screen, along with screen shots of web sites and message boards that had been involved in the campaign. As the video ended, a single white flare shot out over the lake from behind the screen, music swelled from strategically placed loudspeakers, and the crowd was bathed in bright hues as broad brush strokes of flame painted the sky, synchronized to the wicked techno beats tumbling their way up the hill.
The volume of the fireworks display was only briefly rivaled upon the finale, as the crowd burst into cheers and applause.
Yep, that’s right, another mysterious countdown has appeared and this one might just have something to do with a certain gaming console. NotForNoobs.com first appeared last week and savvy gamers will recognize the logo that appears as that of Razer, a company that makes gaming peripherals (that’d be controllers and mice and the like for you non-gamers and computer geeks out there). The signs linking it to the xbox are somewhat weak, but with a few logical leaps, it’s easy to get there. For example, an earlier version of the flash had Microsoft on Channel 1. And, the day that Gizmodo first mentioned NotForNoobs.com, Microsoft hinted at a new optional advanced controller that would perform better when making precise movements.
So, why is ARGN talking about this? Is there an ARG? OMG NOWAI ILB2!?! Let’s not get excited. It’s just a countdown with no other information. It may just end with a redirect to a press announcement for all we know. But, we do know that you all like to go crazy with the spec and watching countdowns count down is oh so much fun!
Follow up 8/23/06 : As the countdown came to an end, gamers everywhere let out a collective “oh.” as they received pictures of a shiny new gaming mouse, the Microsoft Habu, and a press release that detailed some of the unique features. How did we know that’s all we’d get? Such a waste of a good countdown, too. And, as if that wasn’t disappointing enough, the real wait has just begun. If you’re interested in this low sensitivity mouse with an advanced sensor that promises virtually no latency with the speed of a wired mouse and the feel of a wireless device, don’t go heading out to your favorite store today because you aren’t going to get your hands on the Habu until October.
Sometimes, ARG doesn’t mean alternate reality gaming. Sometimes, ARG means ARRRRRG, the bellow from the pit of the pirate’s stomach that sends scurvy dogs runnin’ and strikes fear in the hearts of the fisherman who sail the… alright, so our piratespeak isn’t very good. In any event, Dead Man’s Tale has led us to raise the Jolly Roger and lose ourselves in the world of Billy Bones, through the magic of Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger software. A promotion for the upcoming movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, the IM-based game allows you to add Billy as a friend, and starting a conversation with the skeletal character moves you further into the story with text scripts and fun games and puzzles that load within the messenger window. One of the interesting elements of this game is the ability to pair up with a friend and tackle the various challenges together, while an accompanying MSN Spaces site holds important information which ties in with the messenger experience.
Normally, we wouldn’t obsess over a pirate-themed messenger interactive experience, but this one has a special connection to the ARG universe. We received a rumor that this might be another venture by the creative forces at 42 Entertainment, a theory which we think we’ve proven to be true by looking at Billy’s MSN profile. Of course, we might just be wrong on this, but coincidences are rare these days, and bee keeping seems an odd interest for those in the pillaging and plundering profession. Even with the connection to 42, there is no indication that this is the beginning of any alternate reality game campaign, but based on initial game play, it’s a fun way to add marketing hype to the Disney blockbuster set to hit theaters on July 7. So, grab your swords and log into the world of Bones and his swashbuckling hi-jinks.
Editor’s Note: We found this link a few minutes ago, so our suspicions were right. Yarr.