'Join our colony'

Achingly trendy and subtle marketing campaign begins in earnest

Posted by Staff
A white Xbox controller?
A white Xbox controller?
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As youíll probably know, Xbox 360 is to be unveiled the Monday before E3 next month. And in these days of increasingly manipulative advertising, itís simply not enough to say, ďOh, guys, weíve been working on a new console, we think youíre going to like it. Hereís a list of its specifications and featuresĒ.

Nope, weíre afraid itís another one of those Alternate Reality Game (ARG) thingies, even if it says it isnít. Or maybe just a hoax. Go to ourcolony.net and have a look for yourselves. Couched in pally, Morpheus-esque riddlings, the site invites you to gain entry and work yourself into a lather of fanboy excitement over itís contents, which donít tell you much beyond said riddles, including a picture of what may or may not be an Xbox 360 controller.

You may be wondering where there's a link to Xbox. Well, keen eyed Xbox fanboys made the leap between the ourcolony ant logo and several presentation slides for the next generation Live featuring what appears to be J.Allard wearing an ourcolony t-shirt.

You'll recall that Microsoft undertook a similar approach to pimping Halo 2. Stuck not so subtley on the end of the Halo2 trailer was a blipvert message reading "ilovebees.com". Those who spotted it wondered what the hell it was about and, upon visiting the address, saw what appeared to be a site that had been hacked. Infact, it was an ARG dubbed the "Haunted Apiary" which, through the site and an accompanying blog by the site's "author", presented cryptic puzzles for ARG players to crack in order to unfurl the game's story.

Just like the last one, players must decypher cryptic numbers, images and messages that contain pieces to the puzzle. The key difference this time being that instead of players forming communities outside of the game, the communities gather on the Our Colony site, and can forge their own "colony", scoring team points as they play.

So what could the game's marketing message be? The Haunted Apiary borrowed from Halo's rampant AI theme, and offered eager fans a teasing insight into Halo's next instalment - drawing them right into the Halo universe in fact. Ourcolony may well be a demonstration of the community and team building features of Xbox 360 Live - after all, the ARG does require the player to create a "gamertag".

Be sure to check back at SPOnG for coverage of any PS3 and Xbox 2 revelations and rumours. Until then, we're off for our weekend colonic...
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Comments

LUPOS 8 Apr 2005 19:15
1/11
what did i say... nintendo, much liek sega, cant touch the marketing montser that is sony, M$ however, is a whole other story. watch your ass sony... you generic images of atractive hipsters playign with your ipod like gaming doodad as cool music plays, does not earn you alot of cred with us real nerds.

sadly though, talk about touching does excite us ;)

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config 8 Apr 2005 19:37
2/11
Allard's clearly a Neal Stephenson / Snow Crash fan with that gamertag.

On topic; does anyone think these code cracking easter egg hunts get the attention of more than a few thousand geeks and nerds?

While I find them quite entertaining, if more than a little contrived, my mates that might be classified as members of the much lauded "mainstream" or "mass market" wouldn't give two s**ts.

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LUPOS 8 Apr 2005 19:42
3/11
config wrote:

On topic; does anyone think these code cracking easter egg hunts get the attention of more than a few thousand geeks and nerds?


you are missing a big link in that equation... you!

i for one, am the local "gamer" (TM) and i know alot of peopel wher ei work, who play games... but not liek i do, but they know, i PLAY GAMES...

so... when they want a new game, they come and ask me whats new and cool and exciting... i know i was so enthralled last year with the i love bees thng probably not a day went buy i wasnt there (infact me and my room mate and my girl friend went to "training" in NYC)

but i can tell you... no matter what came out in th e6 months before halo2, when ever peopel woudl ask me abotu games... it was all i coudl talk about...
tricle down advertising.
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Pilot13 8 Apr 2005 20:52
4/11
I get a few people ask me about what games are worth buying, of course most people dont seem to 'get' Deus Ex. Infidels.
wanderingsoul 8 Apr 2005 21:41
5/11
Other than people who decode symbols for a living, I doubt anyone cares what these "codes" are. Most people are probably too busy playing the games they have now, or just dont understand the marketing strategy.
Alan is my first name 8 Apr 2005 21:57
6/11
So what I think Microsoft is going to do is just offer new casing for the X-box and sell an upgrade chip, with a free download of Halo 2.5 with every purchase.

WOO!!!
Pilot13 8 Apr 2005 22:22
7/11
In reply to above


"Cheap as chips"
fluffstardx 10 Apr 2005 19:09
8/11
Well, to reply to the bits that are on topic, it's these "hardcore elite" gamers the Xbox is designed to interest; Microsoft know that casual gamers flit to Playstation because of the name, and hope to draw in that old skool group who want "real games" like Doom 3 and Mechassault and such. Why else would you get Lionhead and FASA to do games? They're hardcore gamer bait!

The ilovebees ARG drew masses of people to Unfiction, and quite a lot of them went to the special Halo 2 launch parties. They've since made their own clans, and regularly meet in Halo 2 games. ilovebees, ironically, became a hive of hardcore gamers. And that's who MS aim at now: gamers who play "real games". Frankly, if you can't get the mainstay get the elite, as they actually play games...
Rod Todd 10 Apr 2005 19:42
9/11
fluffstardx wrote:
Frankly, if you can't get the mainstay get the elite, as they actually play games...


But you are overestimating Microsoft. They could give a s**t about games or gamers. They just want you to own their box so they can sell you music and movie downloads.

The "hardcore" of gaming is not a big enough faction to be important financially. But they are important as influencers... mainstream and casual gamers look up to hardcore gamers (not in issues like personal hygene, dating tips and general social skills - but in terms of what's hot and what's not). It is, as Lupos said, trickle down marketing.

But they don't give a rats ass about you, they want that big dumb undemanding casual gamer demographic, and a side order of gurly gamers would be nice too.
kid_77 10 Apr 2005 22:47
10/11
Pilot13 wrote:
In reply to above


"Cheap as chips"


I have just sprayed water on my monitor with that post. Thank you.
Mendez 11 Apr 2005 13:27
11/11
Turgid f**king s**t - I don't believe I could put this ARG marketing bullshit any more succinctly
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