If you’re not immediately familiar with the Principality Of Liechtenstein, don’t fret: Unless you’ve got a thing for the nuances of European history or a fetish for tiny, land-locked countries, there’s very little to note about the modern Liechtenstein. Then again, if you’re a fan of Microsoft’s Halo franchise, you may suddenly be finding yourself tempted to book a sight-seeing trip to the miniscule nation.
Why? Because Microsoft recently transformed a number of Liechtenstein’s most iconic landmarks into gaudy promotional pieces for Halo 4.
According to an official announcement issued by Microsoft this morning, on October 29 the company effectively rented huge sections of Liechtenstein (including Gutenberg Castle, which dates back to the 13th century, and a working mine) to create something akin to a live-action roleplaying recreation of the Halo gaming series. Actors led small groups of dedicated Halo fans (and media) through various warzones Microsoft had set up in and around Liechtenstein’s landmarks. These tours reportedly lasted for two-plus hours and while none of the visiting fans were given a chance to gun down hostile aliens, the adventures did involve “decoding a series of cryptic clues to help save mankind from extinction by fighting off the threat of an attack.”
And why did Microsoft spend what must have been a massive amount of cash to occupy a small European nation for a day? Spectacle. Pure spectacle.
“Halo is a $3 billion blockbuster franchise that has shaped entertainment history and defined a generation of gamers,” said Microsoft’s European vice president of interactive entertainment Chris Lewis. “From the world’s first-ever red-carpet premieres for a video game to sending a man strapped to a jet pack 50 feet above London’s iconic skyline, Halo launches have continually broken the mold, and we are back with a colossal bang for Halo 4, transforming a country on the biggest scale imaginable.”
Say what you will about this promotional stunt, but Lewis does have a very valid point: Transforming a country, even one like Liechtenstein which has a mere 36,000 citizens, does set the bar pretty high for any future promotional efforts. We could possibly see Activision doing something on this scale for a Call Of Duty sequel, but beyond that it’s hard to imagine any other company topping this. Of course, that also makes it rather difficult for Microsoft’s PR team to come up with some imaginative new stunt that might eclipse this effort whenever the company gets around to releasing the inevitable Halo 5, but they’ll spectacularly detonate that bridge when they get to it.
Whether Microsoft’s willingness to rain down precious tourism dollars on the people of Liechtenstein (they’re called “Liechtensteiner” and “Liechtensteinerin,” depending on whether they’re male or female, respectively) has convinced you to pick up a copy of Halo 4 on November 6 is entirely up to you, but before you earmark the necessary $60 you should know that our review of Halo 4 will appear at 12:01AM PST tonight. I’m not writing it so I couldn’t offer any spoilers even if I wanted to, but I have to assume that, if nothing else, our official look at the game will provide far more solid, useful information than might be garnered from watching a rented Master Chief strip the dignity from an eight-century-old castle simply by his mere presence.