History of Microsoft:
Microsoft, the current holder and creator of the Halo franchise was created in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. Shortly thereafter the two hired Steve Ballmer to help run the company in 1981 and the beginning of the PC era was born. The three created together created MS-DOS, which is the still the base for internal PC commands till this day. From MS-DOS, they used that to create a new system called “Windows” which was released in 1985 as Windows 1.0 and as the first system to have a reasonably navigable GUI which was a massive hit for personal computing. The biggest advancement from there to early computing was with the release of Windows 3.0 five years later as this allowed companies to develop software using the Windows SDK that is still released with copies of Windows today. The most notable consumer release that we would all know was Windows 95 as this is what came in installed on all computers. This release of 95 and the emergence of the internet (as well as Internet explorer) set the stage for modern computing as internet gaming came exploded with games like Warcraft and Diablo. Windows 95 sold millions of copies during the initial release skyrocketing Microsoft into the spotlight as the world’s de facto standard PC operating system producer. The software juggernaut would go on to produce more iterations of windows and a mobile platform that came late to the game but is still the main operating system preference for computer users around the world.
McCann and McCann London:
Responsible for the work on some of the Halo 5 advertisements during the initial #HUNTtheTruth Xbox TV spots Mccan London is an advertisement firm that is based out of London. Formed in 1927 they have been responsible for ads for some of the world’s biggest companies including General Mills, Nature Valley, Fisher-Price, Coca-Cola and more. The London office is one of three Europe based subsidiaries including Paris and Berlin. The parent companies being McCann Erickson and on top of that Interpublic Group being one of the biggest advertising companies in the world. McCann parent is based out of NYC and was formed in 1902. McCann London is also responsible for the current #squadvertiser campaign that started with the release of Halo 5 in October.
Xbox and Halo and :
In 2001 Microsoft joined the gaming community with the release of their Xbox gaming console. Critics did not take the release of Xbox seriously saying that Microsoft was late to the game and they’d flounder amidst the sea of games that Sony and Nintendo had already released. What they didn’t account for was the start of one of the biggest video game franchises of all time, Halo. Of the 22 titles upon its initial release, Halo: Combat Evolved was the most successful title with almost 5 million copies sold in the United States alone. It was a favorite for LAN parties at the time and the commercial success spawned a worldwide gaming franchise, movies, episodic shorts films (more on that later), animated movies and a plethora of toys. However, Microsoft didn’t own nor produce the Halo franchise in the beginning. The first three Halo titles and a couple spinoffs were created by Bungie Studios (owned by Microsoft at the time) and published by Microsoft. In 2007 Bungie after over seven years of work on the Halo franchise separated from Microsoft due to creativity reasons but Microsoft retained the “Halo” franchise IP and it would be another two years from the last release of a Halo game until Microsoft and its newly formed 343 Industries would release Halo 4 completely independent from Bungie’s creative wing. Living up to its predecessors, Halo 4 was a critical success that the gaming community and loyalists didn’t expect. Spawning a new trilogy of games for Microsoft the recent release of Halo 5 will keep this franchise rolling along for many more years to come.
From the time Microsoft released Halo 4 as the beginning to a new trilogy in the overall franchise promotion for Halo 5 had begun. The speculation alone on how long it would be before the next iteration was already fueling the buzz. One of the media outlets that fueled Halo 4’s release was a series of Youtube episodic shorts detailing the backstories of Master Chief as well as another one of the new trilogy’s main protagonists Lasky. Among being well directed, the videos were a critical point in the promotion and sales of Halo 4. Recognizing this, 343 Industries and renowned director Ridley Scott created another short web series called Halo: Nightfall. Serving as a connector to the events between Halo 4 and Halo 5 and an origin story for one of the characters in Halo 5 the trailer alone for being a web series garnered has garnered over two million Youtube views. The actual viewing figures were difficult to track down due to the videos only being viewable in “Halo Channel”, a platform for mobile devices and Xbox. The success of this web series and the Halo 4 web series has spawned talks for a television series that was to be released with Halo 5 but has since been delayed. Upon release it will have connections with Halo 5 and the upcoming Halo 6 and they, like the others will only be available on the “Halo Channel” on mobile devices and Xbox.
With all the supplemental content to the Halo franchise giving way to hours of backstory one unique form of promotion that I’ve never witnessed for a game was the use of a podcast series that started before Halo 5 was released and is now being released in episodic seasons. Giving more backstory to the characters in the game and to the other parts of the Halo universe though not directly related to the events in Halo 5 this material spawned the #HUNTtheTRUTH hashtag which has been used in the campaign promotion of Halo 5. The podcasts, which are all about 20 minutes in length use a combination of Soundcloud for the audio and Tumblr for video and imagery supplements. The episodes are meant to be listened to on Tumblr with the visual supplements to help the overall story and you can be notified every time an episode is released. For the more audio oriented person the episodes can be streamed on Soundcloud by themselves or like most podcasts, downloaded for free from iTunes. Since the podcasts were released eight months ago they’ve racked up over a twenty million listens on Soundcloud (combined with the plays from Tumblr) alone and have a huge fan base. The Soundcloud site alone has over 25k followers though I was unable to see where a number of followers on Tumblr was located.
Of all the campaigns I’ve encountered this was the first time I’ve seen one used on Tumblr or Soundcloud. With Soundcloud’s declining use due to copyright it was interested they used this versus another outlet. Though combining the download ability on iTunes was a great idea for Apple loyalists. The response to these episodes has been high with users wanting more episodes of the “Hunt the Truth” series after each season is released. What is unique is that this has been the main promotion tool for Halo 5, unlike an overall use across the board of social media sites, and Youtube. While the video series had some pull, it’s been the podcasts that have been consistently used as the base of the campaign. The hashtag is what has appeared plastered all over materials for the game across all the outlets including Facebook and Twitter.
Souncloud “Hunt the Truth” Episode
The social media aspect of the promotional material has been all over the board with the #HUNTtheTRUTH hashtag appearing all over but most of the tweets and Facebook posts have been linking to the Tumblr podcasts. Other posts promoting the game were just that, general. General posts promoting products that included Halo 5, Halo 5 licensed products, new game content, interactive and YouTube ads or game art. Other posts directed to videos but the main point in promotion in the end all directed to Tumblr.
#Squadvertiser and Halo 5 Release:
According to Microsoft Halo 5 in combination with its pre-downloads and initial sales has become the most successful digital selling game of all time. Critics across the board have praised Halo 5 for its gameplay value while saying that the single player campaign at times can be a little underwhelming. The multiplayer aspect is now another massive ROI for Halo 5 as well with the addition of microtransactions through the new Requisition System. As of now the microtransactions have totaled over $700k and continue to grow exponentially as the game hasn’t even been out a month yet. In helping this massive multiplayer rush has been the new #squadvertiser multiplayer ad campaign that started upon Halo 5’s October 29th release.
Produced by the London based ad agency McCann London, also responsible for some of Halo 5’s initial “Hunt the Truth” television content, #squadvertiser is the most current campaign focused on uniting Halo 5’s player base. The ads are user generated and then can be posted to a variety of outlets. These have actually taken off more so on social media due to player to player/person to person interaction of the ads looking for other players to join their teams. The most successful ads will reproduced on some external media such as billboards, newspapers and online banners. So far it seems as if this campaign is creating buzz among the multiplayer community but is still too new to see any hard results yet as it is less than a month old. The #squadvertiser campaign is currently running across 10 countries and the site even features a “job board” for those who want to be recruited instead of recruiting their own members. It will be interesting to see where this goes and how much revenue this will generate for the multiplayer via the micropurchased Requisition Packs mentioned above.
Success and Goals
Given the fact the Halo franchise is a billion dollar money maker in the gaming industry it was kind of a given that it would do well. While not all of the titles have done as well as one or the other they all have done well. With Halo 5’s official release on October 29th, 2015 reviews have been massively positive and sales in the first week have totaled over $400 million pushing the Halo franchise to over $5 billion. Time “logged on the game has totaled over 21 million hours of gameplay, including 12 million in the campaign alone.” Halo 5 has also driven Xbox One sales higher than Playstation 4 as of this month and October. Halo 4 and Halo 5 have had the most promotion but other than the $70 million invested in the Nightfall web series I was unable to find a total investment figure. It’s safe to assume that the initial week one sales will trump any investment figures and the continued promotions through the new #squadvertiser campaign and the episodic podcasts will keep the figures going strong for the next year or so into the release of Halo 6. The release of new in game content will also keep the microtransaction sales rolling right along as well. Measured success isn’t just in the figures though, it’s in the continued community interaction.
Most video games are heavily promoted up until a release. Once the product is released there’s a surge of community that over the months after release fizzles out and only the hardcore player base remains. This is the first time that I’ve experienced a player base that is interactive with each other on a level outside of “gaming clan” based comradery. The use of the #squadvertiser is something similar to Destiny’s LFG website looking for players to team up with, yet is first hand promoted by the product instead of some third party independent. I see this being an asset in keeping the Halo 5 community active until the release of Halo 6. With an engaged community that rolls through to another game release, it just means a higher return and less investment later on when the next game campaign starts. Though, I believe it is the high investment from Microsoft and 343 Industries that is one of the reasons the franchise has done so well. People love content, and with a franchise as story and game rich as Halo is it seems that the community cannot get enough and keep begging for more. If they keep doing what they’re doing I see the success of the Halo franchise continuing for years to come.
Sources and Info:
Squadvertiser Hashtag Search
https://twitter.com/search?q=%23squadvertiser&src=typd Hunt the Truth Hashtag Search
https://twitter.com/hashtag/HUNTtheTRUTH?src=hash Halo Franchise's Twitter Page https://twitter.com/Halo Halo Nightfall https://www.halowaypoint.com/en-us/halo-channel/shows/halo-nightfall/season-1 Halo 5 Guardians Review http://www.ign.com/articles/2015/10/26/halo-5-guardians-review Hunt The Truth Soundcloud for Podcasts Hunt The Truth Official Tumblr Page http://huntthetruth.tumblr.com/ Hunt the Truth Apple iTunes Podcasts https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hunt-the-truth/id979998616?mt=2 Info on Squadvertiser https://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2015/october/xbox-invites-gamers-to-make-their-own-ads-as-part-of-new-halo-5-guardians-campaign/ More Info on Squadvertiser http://www.lbbonline.com/news/squad-up-online-with-mccann-londons-squadvertiser-campaign-for-halo-5/ Squadvertiser Official Page http://www.squadvertiser.com/en-gb Halo 5 Sales Info http://www.gamespot.com/articles/halo-5-reaches-400-million-in-sales-to-become-bigg/1100-6431980/ Halo 5 Microtransaction Info http://www.gamespot.com/articles/halo-5-microtransaction-sales-still-rising-now-rea/1100-6432419/ McCann London http://www.mccannlondon.co.uk/#!/about