Jaw-Dropping Ad Scores Hit With Both Casual and Hard-core Gamers

The New Consoles Are Here, but Xbox 360's Spot for 'Gears of War' Steals Some Thunder

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Heading into the festive season, there is enough action afoot in the gaming world to have kids of all ages squirming with tortured delight and console and software marketers shining up their big guns.
Epic Games' 'Gears of War' is the kind of insanely anticipated sci-fi shooter that sells millions of copies and moves consoles in the process.
Epic Games' 'Gears of War' is the kind of insanely anticipated sci-fi shooter that sells millions of copies and moves consoles in the process.

With a motion-sensing controller that can be wielded like whatever real-world instrument a game requires (in other words, you can swing it like a tennis racket or rotate it like a steering wheel) the Nintendo Wii carries some game-changing implications (think of it: nonsedentary video-game play! A game you can beat your nephew at!). Nintendo has wisely let the nifty feature speak for itself in online videos showing "average" people using the controllers (wii.com).

Meanwhile, Sony gets freaky around the PS3 release with evil babies in its TV spots and the Playbeyond.com online effort-involving a strange code based on the iconic controller symbols -- which has the gaming community atwitter.

The most clever
But maybe the most mind-blowing -- and clever -- salvo in the game wars comes from the oldest new console on the block. The Xbox 360 camp's "Mad World" is one of the most drop-dead, gobsmacking and, yes, highly effective ads I've seen in a while. The ad/viral touts the release of Epic Games' Gears of War, which in itself is the best possible ad for the console; the game is the kind of insanely anticipated sci-fi shooter that sells millions of copies and moves consoles in the process.

"Mad World," created by McCann, San Francisco, opens, unsurprisingly, on a burned-out city and centers on soldier-protagonist Marcus Fenix.

The unsubtly named Fenix, essentially a Brinks truck with legs and camo, sits amid the ruins contemplating existence and the shards of a marble statue, when, unsurprisingly, all hell breaks loose. The locust hordes are emerging from underground. Fenix runs through the rainy streets and dives through a window. As a giant beasty rears up, he opens fire, seemingly in vain. So, for the most part, it's like any other game ad. But not.

From the first frames, the environment and the rendering of the character tell you something is different. The ad's director, Anonymous Content's Joseph Kosinski, worked with Digital Domain and feature director David Fincher to create the spot's original scenes within GOW's own game engine. The dark mood of the piece is intensified by the choice of soundtrack -- Gary Jules' rendition of "Mad World." The effect is a stunning and arrestingly melancholy game teaser.

Upping the salivation level
Given the anticipatory frenzy that swirled ahead of its release, it's a safe bet that GOW would have been a success with gamers in any event. Preorder-sales figures had indicated that the game would approach legendary Halo 2 in sales. But this ad did two things well. It sounded the bell that upped the salivation level among gamers -- the ad was dissected thoroughly online and was the subject of numerous parodies (check out the ad set to a range of different tracks on YouTube-the AC/DC renditions are particularly nice).

Maybe more importantly, it lured casual and nongamers by introducing a cinematic, emotional component to the mayhem. (Is that a tear we see in Fenix's eye? Is the killing machine mourning the end of beauty?) This is a thing achieved through executional brilliance.

By the way, the game lives up to the hype. As a game dabbler who was happily suckered in by this ad, I can say strap on your chainsaw-bayonette-accessorized assault rifle and enjoy. Just remember one thing: Duck!

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Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine and AdCritic.com. E-mail your big ideas to her at tiezzi@crain.com
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