Microsoft plots global Xbox push

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In a major push to carve out a bigger share of the $10.4 billion video-game market, Microsoft will launch a $100 million global ad campaign for the Xbox and has hired AKQA, San Francisco, as its online agency.

WPP's Landor Associates developed the strategy behind the campaign, which will position Xbox as a "powerful social catalyst" that can draw people together, said Don Hall, director, Xbox brand strategy.

"It's good to play together" is the tagline in ads that target social gamers between 14 and 34 years old. In a twist, Xbox will tout general entertainment features in addition to game playing, such as music sharing, photo storage, buddy lists and live chat.

social features

Xbox's Internet video game setup already includes social features, such as one that allows players of different online games to recognize each other as they switch from game to game. "The relationship among players is not the same" on Sony's PlayStation2 or Nintendo's GameCube, said Richard Ow, industry analyst, NPD Group.

A print ad running for "NFL Fever 2004" uses the headline, "Nothing unites a group of strangers like pure contempt for the guy in first place." Print executions broke Aug. 4 in gaming and lifestyle publications; TV ads break Aug. 25. International executions roll out in 26 countries in September. McCann TAG Ideation Group, a unit of Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson, New York, handles.

regionally based

Previous efforts were regionally based, with Xbox launching in North America in November 2001, and in Europe and Japan in early 2002, each with an individual regional effort. Microsoft spent $25.4 million in measured media in the U.S. for Xbox in 2002, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. The "It's good to play together" theme will be reflected in all Xbox marketing materials.

In Xbox, Microsoft has more at stake than its share of what NPD has calculated as a $10.4 billion video-game business, with hardware sales at $3.5 billion and video game software totaling $5.5 billion. The rest of the spending is on accessories.

Microsoft has "aspirations" for Xbox in what Mr. Hall calls "the digital-entertainment lifestyle." In the fall, Microsoft will release Music Mixer, a music and photo storage program, for Xbox hard drives. Tom Bedecarre, CEO of AKQA, San Francisco, said Xbox is "a core part of Microsoft's home-entertainment strategy."

Xbox is a distant second to Sony PlayStation2, which has more than 50% of the video-game market share, said NPD's Mr. Ow. Nintendo's GameCube is third.

AKQA also will handle Microsoft Game Studio's PC games. AKQA, London, handles Xbox globally. Carat Interactive's Freestyle Interactive, San Francisco, was the incumbent on creative; Avenue A, Seattle, did media buying-AKQA will handle both. Game titles AKQA will promote include "Project Gotham Racing 2," "Top Spin" and "NFL Fever 2004." Other AKQA clients include Nike and Visa International.

contributing: tobi elkin

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