TV Ads Showcase Astonishing Interactive Visuals

By Published on .

Advertiser: Microsoft
Product: Xbox
Agency: McCann-Erickson Worldwide, San Francisco
Rating: 3.0

Xbox is going to change video games the way MTV changed music. Your games are never going to be the same. -- Robbie Bach, chief Xbox officer

With the introduction Nov. 15 of Xbox, Microsoft Corp.'s supposedly revolutionary advancement in video-gaming, so many questions come to mind. The most perplexing, though, is this: What kind of name for a corporate executive is "Robbie?" It's like having a principal named Choo-Choo, or a Secretary of Defense called Mr. Jinx.

Also, demonstrably, Xbox is not going to "change video games the way MTV changed music," because MTV didn't particularly change music. It changed TV, and record marketing -- and maybe it largely deprived audiences of the talented-but-unsightly --

Ultra-Realistic Images Mark New Era of Digital Games

but the music just slowly evolved apace. The whole point of Xbox is its claim, not without justification, to being a quantum leap in the gaming experience.

'Good ol' fashioned arson'
The 733 MHz chip and an integrated hard-drive support the most elaborate, fluid, high-resolution graphics in video-game history -- or not, depending on what you think of Nintendo's Game Cube, which debuts simultaneously, and the Sony PlayStation2. These are judgments the AdReview staff is ill-equipped to make, as we are so appallingly aged, we still remember such analog forms of juvenile entertainment as freeze tag, marbles and good ol' fashioned arson.

Here we have to depend on our good friends who haunt gamer Internet message boards -- friends like "PostNasalDrip" and "Satanicbagel22" and "Mastablast2001." Our man Mastablast2001, for instance, recently polled fellow fanboys for 101 reasons Xbox rules. A respondent named "Hawaiian c" provided three answers that are representative of the gaming world's perceptions: faster; biger (sic); and just plain kickass.

We quote "Hawaiian c" because he happens to be among the more articulate respondents. If you ever want to get depressed verging on suicidal, spend an hour on gamer message boards. These people -- this next generation -- are what psychologists call "absolute freakin' morons."

What role video games themselves play in the intellectual equation is a question we don't care to dwell on. But if the Xbox introductory campaign from McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, is any measure, the target audience should be well satisfied with what Nov. 15 has to offer.

Kickass graphics
Because the graphics are just plain kickass.

It's odd how the video-game category of advertising has, historically, been reluctant to show off actual game footage. Advertisers have tended to be preoccupied with humor, attitude and tone at the expense of revealing their products' manifest kickassosity. McCann makes no such error.

On the heels of a snotty, smirking, gigantically unfunny teaser campaign, the actual rollout work is pretty breathtaking. Whether it is the "Dead or Alive 3" martial-arts adventure, the "Halo Combat Evolved" war spectacular, the "NFL Fever 2" pro football facsimile, the "Project Gotham" grand prix racing game or the "Amped Freestyle Snowboarding" action, the video resolution and fluidity of movement are simply astonishing. They are reminiscent of, say, slightly primitive Pixar animation -- which would seem technologically unimpressive except that Xbox images are completely interactive, manipulated by the user, for this outcome or that, in real time.

The "humorous" commercial backstories are far less interesting. Yes, the targets are the likes of "PostNasalDrip," but by any standard the jokes are forced and stupid. The only exception is the wonderful "Dead or Alive 3" spot, featuring two 20ish gamers explaining why they so love the babe-a-licious lady kickboxer.

She kicks high
"I appreciate the expansive multi-tier environments," one guy says, "the 16 characters with the pixel-shaded bmp mapping and the rich plot development. Why else would I play?"

The second guy gets a lascivious grin and stammers, "She kicks high."

Yes, she does. Almost pornographically, come to notice. So maybe Robbie was right. Xbox just might change video games the way MTV changed music. With 733 MHz worth of jiggle.

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