Microsoft Takes its Halo 3 Launch to New City Heights
The fans were already lined up at 5 a.m., waiting in sweaty anticipation for the stroke of midnight when they could be the first to get their hands on the last installment in the Halo trilogy, Halo 3. What hard-core fans didn’t know (other than what life was like outside their parents’ basement) is that they were about to be treated to a product launch experience they’d never forget.
Prior to Halo 3’s Sept. 25th launch event, Microsoft seeded excitement with a viral campaign that reached out to existing fans. On launch day, those in the know were invited to jump onstage for a rare chance to play Halo 3 against A-listers like the New York Giants and gaming illuminati like Halo’s writers and creators. The games were broadcast on an LED screen on Fifth Avenue and prizes were given each round. Partners including Mountain Dew and Pontiac worked the line, offering free hand massages, food, drinks and other giveaways.
Around midnight, the brand shut down—yes, shut down—Fifth Avenue, an honor usually reserved for hotshots and dignitaries like the Pope and the Teletubbies. The Best Buy building was washed in Halo-blue light and music from the soundtrack reverberated from the stage. As the clock struck 12, a brigade of costumed Halo Marines on Mongoose ATVs (vehicles featured in the game’s post-apocalyptic world) drove down Fifth Avenue. A separate vehicle raced in and screeched to a halt in front of the store. Halo’s main character, Master Chief, was ceremonially handed the first copies of Halo 3. He opened the doors to the store and a celebratory hand-off of first games was given to fans that were first in line. Three hours later, Microsoft’s own Master Chief, Bill Gates, recreated the midnight handoff at a Seattle Best Buy store.
“We wanted to capture the true entertainment launch that the launch of this game was, and put it in context and in conversation with other entertainment launches like Spider-Man and Harry Potter,” says Mark Harper, senior global event manager at Microsoft. “Which is one reason we choose to go to New York. We really wanted to create something that was organic in nature that wasn’t overly done so we partnered with Best Buy and used their downtown store.”
The brand hoped the event would not only attract Halo loyalists, but might turn PlayStation owners into converts, and further woo new and established Xbox owners alike. We’d say, mission more than accomplished. Just 24 hours after the event, Halo had generated $170 million in sales, breaking the record for the highest grossing sales day in entertainment history.