Microsoft's Game Launch Rivals Hollywood Premiere - Event Marketer

Microsoft’s Game Launch Rivals Hollywood Premiere

DB_Halowood_Ex 2008
Agency: ZED INK
Year: 2008

If Halo 3 is one of the bestselling video games of all time, Halowood, its Beta Preview Launch, has to be one of the best celebrity parties ever. The launch party took over several Hollywood soundstages, transforming the space into a large-scale destination for celebrities, tastemakers and the media. From the exterior approach to the interior experience, Halowood was most definitely an affair to remember, especially by the A-listers who attended.

“The celebrities we attracted to the event weren’t just there for the free things,” says Mark Harper, senior global event manager at Microsoft. “They were fans of the game, so we really tapped into those people, which made it real versus a staged event. When they talked to the media about Halo 3, it came from the heart. They were excited about the release.”

An elite list of 200-plus actors and luminaries including “Napoleon Dynamite’s” Jon Heder, comedian Dane Cook, “Desperate Housewives’” Jesse Metcalfe, footballer Matt Leinart and the omnipresent Paris Hilton got to play the beta experience before anyone else. And they got to do so in a sci-fi, futuristic environment that exemplified the brand.

Every element of the Halo spirit infused the event. As they arrived, guests encountered the soundstage campus glowing in Halo blue. A red carpet, with all the panache of a Hollywood premiere, led to an entrance wall made with military crates, the Halo logo and lighting effects for a three-dimensional step-and-repeat branding space. “The environment we created was really great, really photo friendly,” Harper says. “The red carpet experience was very dimensionalized and different from anything we had done before.”

The mood continued as a long, mysterious tunnel drew guests into a futuristic realm toward a haunting projection of Halo 3 teaser artwork at the far end of the path. Character art, vehicle designs, weapons, character armor and tools added a realistic touch, along with tall wire fences, mounds of sand, aircraft-type seating, desolate trees and glowing blue military water containers.

Several 40-inch Sharp monitors with Xbox 360s attached and 32 gaming stations within futuristic military lounges encouraged group and standalone game play. Guests videotaped messages to the world in interactive “confessionals.” Throughout the night an original music score from the game pulsed a sense of mystery and anticipation while a dj spun mash-ups of Halo music.

All in all, 400 guests rather than the expected 250 showed up, with 200 cars arriving within the first 45 minutes. That buzz and the red carpet photo ops helped Halo 3 achieve the highest-grossing launch day in entertainment history, earning a whopping $170 million the first day after its official release on Sept. 25.

“It’s amazing to me that when a photo of a celebrity appears with that title in any one of the pop culture magazines how much that does to drive excitement and interest,” Harper says.

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