Microsoft narrows its choices for videogame's name, logo

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Microsoft Corp.'s eagerly anticipated interactive videogame console, dubbed X-Box, will get a new name and logo by Oct. 1, as plans for the next-generation system accelerate.

The product is due in fall 2001 and expected to receive at least $150 million in advertising and marketing via McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York.

The X-Box moniker appeared this spring as an interim identity at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. A permanent logo is now being developed by Cinco Design, Portland, Ore.

People familiar with the situation said the company has narrowed its choice of concepts to two. One is described as intellectual in nature; the other reportedly invokes an edgy quality. Both are "very intelligent," said one person involved in the process, who added, "it's like brain vs. gut."

Plans for the console are ramping up quickly, according to Don Coyner, director of marketing for X-Box. The product's industrial design is nearly wrapped up, and Microsoft is in discussions with promotional partners across diverse categories such as apparel, beverages, food and music. Packaging concepts also are in development.

Microsoft is working closely with McCann on strategy and positioning for the product, which marks the creation of a new brand for the software giant.

Will the Microsoft name appear in the logo?

"We see the Microsoft brand as playing a supporting role in X-Box," Mr. Coyner said. "It's a great endorsement for the product in terms of providing credibility, but the brand personality of Microsoft doesn't really toe the line with gamers."

TWO CHOICES

Mr. Coyner gave Cinco free reign to create a unique, autonomous identity for X-Box, apart from other Microsoft brands.

As for the product's brand personality, Mr. Coyner said his goal is to "generate excitement and to reflect a kind of high-tech feel -- innovation, a freshness and sense of passion about gaming," he said, adding, "we want to represent the category attributes better than the competitors."

Microsoft sees its primary competition as Sony Computer Entertainment of America's PlayStation 2, due on retail shelves Oct. 26.

"[Sony is] seen as the standard at this point, but we really do view ourselves as bringing excitement to the category," Mr. Coyner said.

While Mr. Coyner's team of nearly 20 marketing people has worked with McCann on research and brand strategy, Cinco has developed copy to accompany the logo, which is being considered for integration into the product's final image.

CLEAN SLATE

Regardless, the logo will be designed to leave a visceral impression on Microsoft's core target of 16-to-26-years-old male videogame enthusiasts.

"We wanted to create a story about technology that functions at the level of magic and at the level of the imagination," said Kirk James, Cinco creative director. The design attributes are very simple and minimal.

"It's a clean slate for anything to happen," he added.

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