That's what the Pepsi-Cola North America brand is counting on as it readies a red-hued, citrus-cherry-flavored, limited-edition Mountain Dew that will carry the name of the much-anticipated "Halo 3" for Microsoft's Xbox 360. Touted as the first soft drink created for and co-branded with a video game, the new Dew is positioned as "game fuel."
Images of the drink on service-and-repair site Llama.com show a 20-ounce bottle with the "Halo 3" logo and an image of its central character, Master Chief, along with the words "Game Fuel" and "limited edition." According to a bulletin-board post, the drink contains 48 milligrams of caffeine per eight ounces, for a total of 120 milligrams of caffeine per bottle. The post has shot around gaming fan sites, including pickup on Kotaku.com and one of software producer Bungie's own fan forums. A spokeswoman for Microsoft declined to comment.
Pepsi didn't offer many details either. "Gaming is an important component in the marketing efforts for Mountain Dew," a spokeswoman said. "Our goal is to go beyond traditional advertising by creating initiatives that make the brand an integral part of the gaming experience. We have some exciting programs coming this summer."
But according to one bottler, Pepsi expects the product to be "huge." "The college age is a big market for us," he said. The "Halo 3" Dew is expected to be released in August for about three months.
"To be able to tie in with 'Halo' is a coup for Mountain Dew," said Mark Allenbach, director-interactive media and games at Frank N. Magid Associates. "It is considered the killer app for Microsoft, period. ... There is significant cachet with any product associated with it. If you came to me and said, 'I have soda and want to put it with a game,' I don't think it gets much better than putting it with 'Halo 3.'"
Microsoft and Bungie will release three editions of "Halo 3" for Xbox 360 this fall. Combined sales of "Halo" and "Halo 2" exceeded 10.5 million, and "Halo 3" is expected to sell between 2.75 million and 3 million units in its first two months, according to Nick Williams, analyst and marketing manager for Fox Interactive Media's IGN GamerMetrics, which tracks gamer behavior and interests on enthusiast websites.
Of the top franchises on IGN sites over the past five years, "Halo" -- sold only on the still-young Xbox system -- ranks No. 5 behind such behemoths as "Grand Theft Auto," "The Legend of Zelda" and "Final Fantasy." Based on wish-list tracking, "Halo 3" ranks No.1 among 2007 titles in awareness and purchase intent for the past two years, Mr. Williams said.
"The marriage of 'Halo 3' and Mountain Dew seems a perfect match," he said. Mountain Dew has sponsored gaming events, and "as a brand it's done a good job of becoming synonymous with gaming."
PepsiCo has put motion-picture properties on its beverage brands and cups, but not video-game characters, despite a long alignment with gaming. In 2005, the marketer gave away nearly 10,000 Xbox 360 systems in its "Every 10 minutes" cap promotion, where a winner received a console every 10 minutes for nine weeks before the systems were available in stores. Mountain Dew cross-branded with Microsoft in a 2004 sweepstakes for a limited-edition Xbox game console available to consumers by collecting points. The neon-green box featured the Mountain Dew logo. Mountain Dew also was the official soft-drink sponsor of the now defunct E3 gaming convention, where it first claimed its "game fuel" position.
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Contributing: Beth Snyder Bulik