If Microsoft had its way, it would probably beam images of Halo: Reach directly into your brain, then offer you a ride to your local game store on launch day to try to get you to buy the newest game in the Halo franchise. As it stands, Microsoft will have to settle for the most expensive advertising campaign it has ever run for a game, a series of new ads and several upcoming events. Oh, and a robot too.
Halo: Reach marks the fourth true installment in the franchise (not counting Halo: ODST and Halo Wars), and it has a lot to live up to. When Halo 3 was released, it set launch day records of $170 million back in 2007. That record held until last November, when Modern Warfare 2 crushed all records with $310 million in first-day sales, but it was helped by the inclusion of the PlayStation 3 and PC markets, while Halo 3 is an Xbox 360 exclusive. Still, those are big shoes that Halo: Reach hopes to fill, and Microsoft is going to make sure that it will do everything it can to get the word out.
Despite the obvious financial desires, Microsoft likely has ulterior motives in hoping that Halo: Reach succeeds. The game is one of the few remaining Microsoft games that are totally exclusive to Xbox, which makes it almost a de facto flagship game for the system, so there is the issue of pride. Plus, with the obvious implications of the holiday sales season about to begin, Microsoft is hoping to begin with a strong showing. With the recently released newly redesigned Xbox 360 recently hitting shelves, a new Halo could also help move consoles, and the timing would further help with holiday sales. Halo 3 was credited with selling millions of consoles when it was released, and although it is highly unlikely that Halo: Reach could recreate that, it should help with sales of new Xbox 360 units to a degree.
Then there is the fact that the latest Halo is going to be the last for developer Bungie. The series is almost certainly going to continue under Microsoft, but Halo: Reach is a farewell to the franchise for Bungie. This probably wont make Microsoft open its purse strings any further, but it is likely to get Bungie to promote the game as much as the developer possibly can.
As for the methods of promotion, expect to be assaulted by video, print, and radio ads for the game at every turn, on every medium. There have already been a slew of ads, including two live action shorts — the recently released “Patrol” and “Birth of a Spartan,” which debuted in April, both of which could better be described as short films rather than trailers for the game. But that is just the beginning.
When Halo 3 launched, Microsoft debuted a travelling Halo museum that toured the country. Several locations around the world featured launch-day parties, and the release was turned into an event. Expect more of the same. There will even be a robot involved.
According to Advertising Age, Microsoft will launch a website later today, where visitors can manipulate a real-life robot arm in an unnamed San Francisco warehouse. The goal is to build a monument for Noble Team — the game’s protagonists — made entirely of lasers.
Halo: Reach launched September 14. If you forget that date, don’t worry. Odds are it will soon be indelibly and unavoidably printed on your brain once the advertising blitz begins in earnest.