Amazing Journey For ‘Rock Band’

Roger Daltrey, lead singer of The Who, says that a version of Rock Band featuring the legendary rockers is in the works.  Speaking to the Massachusetts newspaper Springfield Republican, Daltrey calls the music game idea a great way to get non-musical people into music.  He says The Who title is slated for next year.

In reporting the story, Industry Gamers points out that The Who has an existing relationship with MTV Games.  Tracks from the band have appeared on disc and as downloadable content in existing versions of Rock Band.

You can access the full Daltrey interview through Industry Gamers {link no longer active}.

Of Top 25 U.S. Newspapers, 24 Shrink In 2009

The Audit Bureau of Circulations report for 2009 shows that among top 25 US newspapers only the Wall Street Journal gained subscriptions, reports Ad Age.  ABC found paid circulations dropped at an average weekly rate of nearly 11 percent in the year.  In year-over-year comparisons, double digit drops were recorded at 15 of the top 25 newspapers.  Meanwhile the Journal managed a gain of about 14 percent, benefiting from an increase in paid online subscriptions.

The Journal has more than 400,000 paying online subscribers.  Without its online subscriptions, the paper would’ve been among the losers with a slight two percent decrease in paid print subscriptions in 2009.  Ad Age sees the Journal’s success online as daring other papers to seek out a paid digital model.

Ad Age has a table with ABC s figures for paid circulations in 2008 and 2009 for the top 25 U.S. papers. Read more at Ad Age {link no longer active}.

Lower Sales Expectations For ‘DJ Hero’

Analyst firm Cowen and Company has lowered the U.S. forecast for Activision’s DJ Hero by more than 50 percent, reports Edge-Online.  The firm’s Doug Creutz says the adjustment is based on lower than expected pre-order sales.  The original forecasts for the game s unit sales in the U.S. have been reduced from 1.6 million to 600,000 for Q4 2009, and 2.5 million to 950,000 for the first-year.  Creutz says the franchise remains an important one for Activision.  Mirroring comments made by Red Octane’s Kai Huang, he says “DJ Hero” could have a gradual growth curve and reach its potential over several iterations.

Read more at Edge-Online {link no longer active}.

ABC Cancels Skywriting Stunt For ‘V’

ABC has canceled plans to promote the upcoming sci-fi TV show V with a skywriting campaign over major U.S. landmarks, reports The Hollywood Reporter.  The network had planned to cover the skies over 26 landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and Boston s Fenway Park.

While the network has released a statement that it is putting marketing money elsewhere, Hollywood Reporter speculates otherwise.  After they broke the story, a Washington Post article exposed the amount of air pollutants ABC’s plan would have released into the air.  The Post also pointed out how ABC parent Disney has vowed to cut its emissions by half by 2012.

For anyone wondering what the stunt might have looked like, the Reporter offers a glimpse with a shopped photo.

Read more at The Hollywood Reporter {link no longer active}.

How ODST Has Evolved Halo Marketing

How ODST has Evolved Halo Marketing

By John Artest

Halo 3: ODST is an interesting experiment in how a brand can translate from character-specific to brand-specific, akin to how Perfect Strangers begat Family Matters in late-80s sitcom history. (Have I dated myself?)

Anyhow, Halo 3: ODST doesn’t star the “Mario” of Microsoft, Master Chief, but instead a ragtag group of soldiers who are in the very same war. They just don’t have the same wonderful toys as the Chief.

An experiment from the very start, Halo 3: ODST was a big risk for Microsoft as they do very little to communicate Master Chief to the audience, instead relying on the Halo brand itself to carry the torch for them moving forward.

This experiment is even more important when given the future products Microsoft has in mind for the Halo franchise, so the news from USA Today that Halo 3: ODST has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide is sure to bring a sigh to relief to the folks at Redmond.

That plan includes movies, anime series, comic books, and yes, Master Chief will return.

“We do have a plan that goes out at least six years,” said Frank O’Connor, creative director for 343 Industries told USA Today. “Eventually, it will become very apparent that there is a plan for the way the canon all ties together and the way the comic books and the novels all tie together.”

Halo 3: ODST kicked off its campaign in early September with a stunning live-action short film that we’ve embedded below for your viewing pleasure:

Not one instance of Master Chief, but Microsoft does make strides in developing characters around the bigger war itself, alluding to a lot of important small stories around the grander battles.

This also gives us another opportunity to look at what those products are, which we’ve outlined below.

Halo Legends (Anime)

Halo Legends is a series of seven anime shorts done with careful care to pay heed to the Japanese art form. Microsoft’s first foray with 343 Industries will be these films, and it is going to be a key experiment to see how successful Halo can be outside of its games.

The films are expected to launch this fall with a preview on Xbox Live through a new Xbox 360 feature allowing friends to watch videos with each other at the same time (Xbox Parties). The films will them hit on other mediums, including DVD, digital distribution and, funnily enough, Blu-Ray, a key system feature of the PlayStation 3.

The important key Microsoft is pushing is the fact it’s taking the anime art form very seriously, enlisting people like Shinji Aramaki to gain that all-important street cred, Aramaki is the director of anime classics Appleseed and Ghost In The Machine, and his attachment has the anime community buzzing in anticipation.

Microsoft’s holding of preview events on Xbox Live is a masterstroke, allowing a feature that may be underused (simultaneous movie watching) to take the spotlight, getting users acclimated to using their console in other ways than in just playing games. It should also be a relief to 343 Industries that Microsoft is releasing these films in other mediums, most notably Blu-Ray.

Halo Legends is taking a very open approach to pushing the Halo brand, regardless of the medium or delivery, and its success should grease the wheels of other publishers when faced with any exclusivity arrangement for a game or DLC. More potential users equals more paying users, period.

Halo (Movie)

A live action movie for Halo seemed like a natural fit given the blockbuster success of the game series. Microsoft went so far as to commission a short-film by Neill Blomkamp, director of the newly-minted hit film District 9. We’ve embedded the video below.

{video link marked “private”}

Pretty cool, huh? Blomkamp was tapped to direct a full motion picture, and a script was written and picked up by 20th Century Fox. Peter Jackson was set to be executive producer, but the movie was held up after five months in production. Jackson and Blomkamp went on to create District 9, and the Halo movie was on indefinite hold.

Earlier this week, more news came out of Hollywood regarding Halo, with Steven Spielberg taking up the executive producer reigns to take a new script to fruition, although Microsoft is denying the movie has resumed production.

Ultimately, it’s to everyone’s benefit to get Halo onto the big screen, and it will happen. It’ll just be a matter of time. And with names like Jackson’s and Spielberg’s being attached to the project, our money is it’ll be a quality production (unlike video game movies like Doom or Super Mario Bros.).

Halo as a motion picture represents the ultimate test of how well Halo has marketed itself, not only to a hardcore consumer, but to the general audience who make films like Iron Man and Star Trek huge hits of the past couple of years. If the Halo movie gets made and receives a warm reception, both critically and at the box office, the floodgates will open, and if you’ve got a cool IP, it could soon be ready for a big screen debut.

Halo Evolutions (Books)

This week, 343 Industries continues its multimedia push with a new book series announced taking place in the Halo universe. Books based on the Halo series have been well received, and the latest book is rumored to be the basis of the Spielberg-helmed Halo movie.

The new book series continues work on expanding on the Halo universe, similar to how Star Wars used novels to expand that universe and maintain a hold on its fanbase for decades between the two movie trilogies.

“The chance to explore corners of the Halo universe, whether obscure or popular, is something we are always excited to do, but the chance to shine light on these dark corners with the talents of these wonderful luminaries, is a pleasure indeed,” says Frank O’Connor, Franchise Development Director, 343 Industries. “The combination of fresh eyes and old hands guarantees a brilliant continuation of a Halo tradition.”

You may think gamers don’t read, and you could be right. But Halo is making its push into non-traditional (for gamers) mediums to make sure that the hardcore user can satisfy their appetite for as much Halo as possible. Those are the users that are the hardest to please, but once you’ve won them over, they’ll never be able to get enough (again, look at Star Wars).

Halo Waypoint (Games)

Speaking of the hardcore, Microsoft will be launching Halo Waypoint on Xbox 360 later this year. The vision of Halo Waypoint is to have videos (everything from classic ads of the first Halo to the latest Halo Legends anime shorts), mini-games and more to appeal to Xbox 360 owners regardless of how much they like (or loathe) Halo.

This will be an interesting experiment, and one Sony has been trying with the different spaces in PlayStation Home. The idea is to engage users right on their console with a variety of multimedia and games, continuing to push that series as games, movies and books come out.

Halo Waypoint will segue into the anticipated launch of Halo 3: ODST later this year, which will in and of itself be a test of whether the Halo name or the Master Chief character is what resonates with gamers. The game, a prequel to Halo 3, deals with members of the human army, fighting the alien army on Earth.

Not only that, but next year has the launch of Halo Reach, a game that has very little details behind it, and this one is expected to be the last in the Halo franchise developed by creator Bungie Studios before they move onto a new, unnamed IP.

Microsoft and 343 Industries have a bunch of hurdles in front of the Halo series, but they look to engage the right people in the right ways and mediums to make this an unequivocal success. The marketing of Halo will be extremely important as Microsoft looks in the medium-term to continue a Halo push, both with and without Bungie, both with and without Master Chief. The pieces are in the right place, it’s just up to Master Chief and his cohorts to take aim and pull the trigger.

Coca-Cola Mii Party

Coca-Cola, which channeled World of Warcraft {link no longer active} and Grand Theft Auto {link no longer active} for ads in the past, seems to be drawing from the game well again.  The look for a recent ad promoting its Fanta brand features characters that look as if they walked out of a Nintendo Wii.  The computer animated spot has an art style noticeably similar to the Mii avatars users create for Wii.  The premise might as well be a poolside party where the Miis get crazy (maybe held at someone’s PlayStation Home).

The comedy premise involving mime dancing and techno music may not relate to everyone Stateside, but the art style makes the ad stand out.

Watch it at ADVERTOLOG.  If you have trouble streaming, download the QuickTime version of the ad at the same link.

Stop-Motion Eye Candy

AdFreak is featuring a stop-motion animation video project that’s a feast for the eyes.  The video is the brainchild of advertiser Isaac Bell, a designer and photographer at DDB London.  Bell seems to understand that after light and colors, movement is the next biggest stimulant for the retina.  As AdFreak suggests, there is enough going on to warrant watching it more than once to catch all the nifty moving parts filling the frame.

Watch it at AdFreak.

U.S. Holiday Shopping Forecast

MarketingProfs is featuring survey data for the U.S. holiday shopping season released by the National Retail Federation and BIGresearch.  The research shows that overall holiday sales are expected to decline by one percent year-over-year to about $438 billion in 2009.  This decline is the second in as many years, with 2008 and 2009 representing the only down forecasts by NRF since it began tracking retail sales in 1992.

Surveys of spending habits found consumers plan to spend less but shop early and look for discounts.  About 84 percent said they will curtail their budgets for the holidays this year, with nearly two-thirds citing the state of the economy as the underlying factor.  More than 43 percent cited sales and discounts as the most important factor in their purchase decisions.  A strong majority, more than 70 percent, said they plan on shopping at discounters.

For product categories, the survey found declines in almost every category except gift cards.  Gift cards are among the most popular items tracked annually by NRF, followed by entertainment media (books, DVDs, videogames), clothing and electronics.  The report also says that retailers are preparing for a bumpy holidays by scaling back inventories.  NRF predicts lower inventories could mean shortages on popular items, as retailers sell out but can’ restock in time for holiday shoppers.

Read more at MarketingProfs.

Putting The ‘Public’ Back In PR

Writing for Ad Age, Michael Bush looks at a growing trend among major companies bypassing traditional PR and press outreach to communicate directly with their consumers.  The trend is seen as a strategy shift coming as mass media outlets shrink while social media facilitates another kind of corporate communication.  Bush cites a figure by web site Paper Cuts that shows 30,000 journalists have left the media profession since 2008.  With fewer outlets and reporters to pitch, companies have turned to YouTube and Twitter to broadcast their messaging, and they’ve found success.

Bush covers notable efforts by major brands such as Best Buy, Procter & Gamble and Mastercard.  The most drastic about-face might be Mastercard’s strategy.  Where once the company would’ve have reached out to reporters to present expert commentary, it now creates YouTube videos of executives commenting on issues.  Only after the videos are posted does it Tweet the media with links to notify them that the company has made public statements.  Brave new world, indeed.

Read more at Ad Age {link no longer active}.

China Online Game Makers Turn Westward

Chinese online game companies are looking to leverage their success at home to expand into the U.S. market, reports Reuters.  Successful companies such as Changyou and Shanda Games are preparing to roll out games in the U.S. using their expertise in running micro-transaction driven free-to-play online games.  With more than 50 million online gamers in China, the companies have the know-how.  They also have the cash.  Changyou recently raised $120 million in an IPO on NASDAQ.  The company could be the first to enter the U.S. with their multiplayer martial arts game, Dragon Oath.   The game is in final testing and expected for release in late 2009 or early 2010.

ThinkEquity analyst Atul Bagga tells Reuters challenges still remain for Chinese game companies.  They will need to spend a lot more than they do at home to market their products in the U.S.  They also have to overcome negative sentiments in the West about games with heavy Asian themes to build an audience.

Read more from Reuters.