Disney, Chevrolet, Sprint and T-Mobile are banking on Microsoft Xbox 360 and controller-free games through Kinect to connect with video game players.
Disney Pictures signed a deal with Microsoft to promote its movie "Tron," scheduled for release in December, through the Xbox Live network and Kinect hub. The campaign, which begins in November, will feature either a long-form theatrical clip or a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie, Sean Alexander, director of interactive entertainment at Microsoft, told MediaPost. The details are still being worked out.
Kinect, the Xbox 360 controller-free add on, hits U.S. stores Nov. 4, followed by the United Kingdom the following week. Advertisers are attracted to the 24 million Xbox 360 members worldwide.
On average, Microsoft sees between 3% and 9% click-through rates (CTRs) on campaigns, Alexander says. "We recently did a campaign with Porsche where they chose to launch the Panamera, and they saw a 6% click-through rate on their campaign. According to their own internal metrics, about 20% of those who explored the experience on Xbox Live went into a dealership."
Despite a lag in advertisers adopting videos games and consoles as a method to reach consumers, it appears that more than movie studios have latched on to the medium. Chevrolet, Sprint and T-Mobile also plan to roll out campaigns on Microsoft Kinect in November. The companies announced the move Monday.
The agreement puts Chevrolet's Cruze, Camaro and Corvette cars in the game, literally. It allows consumers to test-drive the vehicles in "Kinect Joy Ride," making it the first controller-free racing game from Microsoft Game Studios. Chevrolet's campaign, which Microsoft demoed at The 2010 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in June, runs across PC, mobile and TV screens.
Stepping in to sponsor a co-branded retail play on Xbox LIVE, Sprint launches "Kinect Adventures" with a contest that gives video game players a chance to have their picture featured on the LIVE platform. T-Mobile chose to give gamers an immersive experience in "Kinect Sports" with fixed product placement throughout the games including volleyball net signage, custom bowling balls and foam fingers held by the arena audience. The telecom company also supports the platform through a sponsorship on the Xbox 360 console. Xbox members can visit a Web site on the dashboard to access exclusive video content and participate in the first launch weekend Play & Win contest.
For Chevy's campaign, Kinect users will be able to test-drive the Chevrolet Volt in the game Kinect Joy Ride. In addition to this, after viewing a video ad on Xbox LIVE or on the Web, users will be able to unlock and download Chevrolet Cruze, Camaro and Corvette cars to drive in the game. Chevy will follow that up with a New Year campaign in the Kinect Hub showcasing the same vehicles.
Alexander expects Microsoft also will roll out an ad campaign that supports the launch of Kinect.
And it doesn't seem to matter that the video game industry's months-long slump continued into August, with retailers having their worst sales month in years, according to NPD Group. Revenue from the retail sales of games and consoles in the U.S. fell 10% to $818.9 million in August. Year-to-date sales revenue dropped 8% to $8.37 billion, compared with the year-ago month, the research firm revealed.
Hardware sales fell 5% to $282.9 million for the month, but Microsoft execs took NPD numbers in stride. After all, the Xbox 360 came in as the No. 1 game console for the third consecutive month, selling 356,700 units, according to NPD. That compares with Nintendo's Wii at 244,300 units sold; and Sony's PlayStation 3 (PS3) console with 226,000 units sold.
There's a lot of enthusiasm in the industry for both the Move and Kinect controllers from Sony and Microsoft, respectively, according to Anita Frazier, analyst at The NPD Group, but it's really too early to tell if it will influence sales and advertising. "Move launched in September, so we'll see some of its early sales when we release sales figures in October for September," she says.
Sales continue to rise for the Xbox 360 as Microsoft adds features and options. There has also been some chatter in the blogosphere about a deal between Microsoft and Sky Player, an online TV service, to connect with the entertainment console that would enable users in the U.K. to operate the service with hand gestures, rather than a remote control. It would let consumers use hand gestures to pause, rewind, fast forward and play television programs.
Microsoft's announcement beats out the release of Google TV, which Sony plans to unveil in New York on Oct. 12.