Yesterday, October 23, Forza Horizon hit store shelves. As the latest in developer Turn 10 Studios’ criticially acclaimed, blockbuster Forza Motorsport series Horizon has a lot to live up to, but as you can see from our recent review the game is a solid addition to the franchise. Given Turn 10’s blatantly obvious affection for cars and car culture this shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but what is interesting is the novel method in which Microsoft’s advertising executives have decided to promote this release.
Alongside the standard magazine ads and 30-second TV spots, Horizon’s launch is also being promoted by a TV series called Chasing With Steve Aoki. Never heard of it? That’s because this show was created specifically for the Forza Horizon ad push. According to a piece in AdWeek, an advertising firm known as Alloy Digital teamed Microsoft with the Fuse music network to create the show. The first episode is now available on Fuse’s YouTube channel (though you can also find it embedded below), and new six-minute episodes are scheduled to appear twice a week for the next month.
As for the show’s format, it’s something of a blend of familiar reality television tropes. It pits three two-person teams against one another in what initially seem to be tests of driving skill (that would make sense, given the game this show is promoting), but are in fact simple “get from point A to point B in an urban setting faster than the other teams then complete a relatively simple challenge” events. You’ve seen this same format on shows like The Amazing Race and dozens of others we don’t have the inclination to mention right now.
“Wait, I understand all of that, but who is this Steve Aoki guy?” you might be wondering. Aoki, the show claims, is a “world-class DJ.“ That vaguely ties in to Forza Horizon’s impressive soundtrack, but we expect it’s more likely to have been the hook that convinced executives at Fuse to partially back this project. Fuse is also planning to promote the series via its television network so Aoki’s involvement at least gives the company a credible way to explain the presence of these ad spots among its musically-focused programming.
In Microsoft’s case the show’s constant Xbox 360 and Forza Horizon product placement spots likely convinced the company to back this advertising scheme. They are simply everywhere. Barely two minutes in to the first episode and we witness one of our teams fire up an Xbox 360 so they can watch a video containing a clue from Aoki (he’s both a DJ and the kayfabe mastermind behind the challenges these players endure). Further, in episode four we’re promised that instead of completing challenges in the real world, the contestants will have to face off in Forza Horizon.
When asked why Microsoft would greenlight such an outside-the-box ad strategy for this game, Rob Matthews, the company’s global general manager of marketing for its interactive entertainment division, claimed that it comes down to the fans Microsoft is hoping to appeal to. “We have a healthy mix of digital because we know the game-playing audience entails heavily digital consumers who are socially connected,” he said.