Microsoft releaes new Xbox strategy

Set on a beach with Massive Attack spinning the decks, X03 delivered a diverse range of announcements, from two key new products (Codemasters’ exclusive Race Driver 2, Digital Illusions’ RalliSport Challenge 2) and a partnership with Unreal developer Epic Games, to a new branding initiative focusing on the social aspect of gaming and efforts to build the Xbox Live user base.

Starting with the games, Microsoft welcomed the usual procession of industry alumni on stage to demonstrate their wares. Peter Molyneux was there, playing Fable, flanked by the likes of Ubi Soft’s Yves Guillemot and Tecmo’s Tomonobu Itagaki. And of course no press conference would be complete without Jay Wilbur, who even took the time to parody himself for the flashing bulbs and well fed hacks in attendance.

“DO YOU WANT SOME?” Jay clearly does, because Epic (and subsidiary Scion Studios) has agreed to a partnership with Microsoft Game Studios that will see them develop several games exclusively for Xbox and PC. “We’re delighted to be working with Microsoft,” he beamed. “We feel strongly that, in partnership with Microsoft, Epic Games and Scion Studios will provide gamers with spectacular entertainment on Xbox and Windows platforms.” Well, what else would you expect from a man with Spiritual Advisor on his Epic Games business card?

However, exciting though the X03 games line-up clearly is, we were disappointed not to see Perfect Dark Zero anywhere, and equally unhappy that no price cut was forthcoming, but there are whispers of bundles sweeping the drunken crowds… Perhaps we’ll learn more tomorrow.

From a retailer’s perspective though X03 answers so many of the important questions, like “what happens when a Live user’s 12 month subscription runs out?” Of course the answer is “they cough up another £39.99 using the dashboard”, but the good news is that they can also pay monthly at the rate of £4.99.

Furthermore, MS has introduced incentives for new users, like two months free Live access with various games (deep breath: Amped 2, Crimson Skies, Dancing Stage Unleashed, Links 2004, Magic: The Gathering, Project Gotham Racing 2, TOCA Race Drive, Sega GT Online, Jedi Academy, Rainbow Six 3, Top Spin, Music Mixer, and XIII), a new standalone Communicator headset price of £19.99, and a revised Starter Kit, now comprising demos of MotoGP and MechAssault.

As regular readers of will be only too well aware, soon Live gamers will also be able to send and receive invites via PDA, mobile phone and MSN Messenger; talk to other gamers before heading into a match-up; check their stats via the statistical umbrella site; and even keep up with other gamers while they play “Live-aware” single player offerings.

And, although this won’t affect too many of you, Live will be made available in Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Finland and Switzerland from October 31st, increasing the number of potential adversaries for UK gamers by some margin after successful “Test Drives” in each area.

Indeed, these gamers are just in time to pick up on Microsoft’s new brand positioning in Europe (and worldwide), supported by the tagline “It’s good to play together”, in a global advertising campaign developed by the McCann-Erickson tag ideation group. Conceived with the help of Landor Associates, “It’s good to play together” will influence all Xbox marketing communications, point-of-sale materials,, promotions, events, packaging, and even PR activities.

Starting this month – and incorporating big hitters this year like Project Gotham Racing 2, Amped 2 and Grabbed by the Ghoulies – “It’s good to play together” will be used to emphasise the social entertainment value of Xbox video games. As Peter Moore puts it, “Anyone who has ever walloped a mate in Dead or Alive 3, or saved the world cooperatively in Halo, or torn around Paris versus their overseas friends in Midtown Madness 3 knows that Xbox brings people together.”

“We felt the Xbox brand should reflect this reality, so we’re telling everyone what they already know – that it’s good to play together.”



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