Gears of War Hype Comes to a Head

Gears of War Hype Comes to a Head

Next-Gen takes a quick look at the Gears of War hype machine and talks Call of Duty 3 with Activision’s director of global brand management; Guitar Hero II, Tony Hawk’s Project 8 and the new Socom also coming. The rest of the week’s releases within…

Game of the Week

Gears of War—Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Epic Games
Release date: 11/12/06

All of Microsoft’s hype and hooplah for Gears of War will come to a head soon, as the crown jewel of Xbox 360’s 2006 holiday season launches this week. It’s no mistake that the game’s anticipation is running high, either. Microsoft and developer Epic have been quite forthcoming with details about the game and the process of its development.

Gears or War was touted at major events such as E3, X06 and smaller, more focused gatherings, namely the Match Made in Hell tour, a multi-date showcase, which paired hands-on previews of the game with other happenings, such as a horror movie viewing and a Halloween bash at a cemetery.

Gears of War’s lead designer Cliff “CliffyB” Bleszinski has also really stepped up to give the actual development process of the game its own personality. He’s issued countless blog entries, message board posts, event appearances and interviews, making the whole promotions process look relatively effortless, although you have to wonder if there are actually two of him that are handling all of this publicity. Especially for new IP such as Gears of War, it’s important for such a personality to speak directly to the audience.

But is it really going to be that big of deal? Hell yes—at least according to Shane Kim, corporate VP of Microsoft Game Studios. He told Reuters last week the only Microsoft Game Studios game that tops Gears of War in terms of pre-release demand is Halo 2, a game that had 1.5 million preorders.

The thing about Gears of War is that it actually has two major duties. Not only is it intended to take on the loads of Q4 videogame software that will be hitting shelves this holiday season, but it’s running headlong into the console war’s point of impact. Gears of War, with its vivid graphics and intense gameplay, is Microsoft’s way of convincing gamers that Xbox 360 is where it’s at, right as the PS3 and Wii launch.

Bleszinski said in a recent edge-online.com Podcast, “You put everything you can into a project for a couple years; you work with all the talented people on a day-to-day basis; everybody bleeds for the project an then all of a sudden—poof—let it go.  You let the publisher put it out there. You let the gamers get their hands on with it and you hope and pray that they just love the hell out of it.”

November 7

Call of Duty 3—Xbox 360, Xbox, PS2
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Release date: 11/7/06

The spotlight is certainly on Gears of War this holiday season, but when the Xbox 360 launched in November 2005, Activision’s and developer Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty 2 was the standout, becoming the top-seller for the Xbox 360 for the holidays.

For Call of Duty 3, developer Treyarch, the studio behind Call of Duty 2: Big Red One for consoles, took the reigns as developer of the next iteration. As for competing against other big holiday releases, Activision’s Call of Duty marketing and PR squads made sure to emphasize the strengths that only a well-done World War II-based game could deliver.

Tom Silk, director of global brand management at Activision told Next-Gen, “With Call of Duty 3, we are building on the parts of the brand that consumers love, such as the intensity and cinematic chaos of battle, while adding even more dimension to the close combat feeling of WWII infantry tactics. We also wanted to communicate that this is our second iteration of the brand on the next generation hardware and that we have unlocked even more of the processing power and potential of the new systems.”

While many game marketing plans of today focus an increasing amount of ad dollars in favor of online exposure, Silk said that all venues are being given equal treatment. “We work for a balance between more traditional vehicles such as TV, print, online, retail as well as newer, more organic approaches such as word-of-mouth and viral or buzz marketing,” he said.

“TV is still a very effective vehicle for us to get quick awareness of the game and deliver the emotional impact of our intense, cinematic game.  The word-of-mouth effort works in engaging consumers as brand advocates for Call of Duty 3.  Our goal has been to provide our strongest supporters with ‘currency’, such as inside information on the game, unique assets, exclusive opportunities, and let them use this information as something exciting to pass along to their friends.  The viral effect is astounding and we have seen a significant lift in the pre-launch buzz for this title.”

Silk added that Activision has worked closely with young male-focused Spike TV on an episode of Game Head, which has 16 contestants participating in a physical boot camp combined with a Call of Duty 3 multiplayer competition. The episode is set to air Friday November 10.

Activision’s PR squads secured 20 magazine covers worldwide for Call of Duty 3, including GamePro and Electronic Gaming Monthly in the U.S.

Following up on a hit is a challenge in itself, but Silk insisted that this obstacle was tackled head-on “by staying completely true to our brand heritage and feel but with fresh creative approaches to our marketing.”

Call of Duty 3 is also set to release on PS3 and Wii at the launch of the two systems.

Also releasing this week:

1701 A.D.—PC
Aspyr

Barbie 12 Dancing Princesses—DS
Activision

BattleZone—PSP
Atari

Blitz: The League—Xbox 360
Midway

Bomberman Land Touch!—DS
Atlus

Chicken Little: Ace in Action—PS2, DS
BVG

Deal or No Deal—PC
Take-Two

Digimon World DS—DS
Namco Bandai

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2—PS2
Atari

Elite Beat Agents—DS
Nintendo

Fifth Disciple—PC
Topware Interactive

Final Fantasy V Advance—GBA
Square Enix

Final Fantasy XI Vana’diel Collection 2007—PC
Square Enix

Great Invasions—PC
Strategy First

Guitar Hero II—PS2
RedOctane

Hard Rock Casino—PS2, PSP
Crave

History Channel: Civil War—Xbox 360
Activision

Hot Wheels Compilation—GBA
Jack of all Games

Left Behind: Eternal Forces—PC
Left Behind Games

Lumines II—PSP
BVG

Model Train 3D—PC
Abacus

My Frogger: Toy Trials—DS
Konami

Mystery Case Files: Prime Suspects—PC
Activision

Patriots: A Nation Under Fire—PC
DreamCatcher

Polarium Advance—GBA
Atlus

Reel Fishing: The Great Outdoors—PSP
Natsume

Sega Genesis Collection—PS2
Sega

The Sims 2: Happy Holiday Stuff—PC
EA

The Sims 2: Holiday Edition 2006—PC
EA

The Sims 2: Pets—GBA
EA

Socom US Navy Seals: Combined Assault—PS2
SCEA

Socom US Navy Seals: Fireteam Bravo 2—PSP
SCEA

The Sopranos—PS2
THQ

Splinter Cell: Double Agent—PC
Ubisoft

Suzuki Superbikes—PS2
Capcom

Tom and Jerry Tales—DS, GBA
Eidos

Tony Hawk’s Project 8—PS2, PSP, Xbox 360, Xbox
Activision

Uno/Skip Bo/Uno Freefall—DS
Jack of All Games

Unreal Anthology—PC
Midway

Viva Pinata—Xbox 360
Microsoft

Winx Club: The Quest for Codex—DS, GBA
Konami

World Championship Poker: All In—Xbox 360
Crave