ANALYSIS: Xbox Live's next step

Dominic Sacco
ANALYSIS: Xbox Live's next step

Hundreds of press and industry members attend the annual glitzy launch events for each Call of Duty game.

Celebrities make appearances at huge venues like Old Billingsgate, from Sophie Ellis Bextor to Joe Calzaghe.

Thousands of consumers queue up for midnight store openings. Then there’s the eye-catching point-of-sale imagery and mammoth marketing on TV, websites and even bus shelters.

But how do you create that same buzz in a world where consumers sit in front of their TVs in their pants and simply download games?

Microsoft thinks it has the answer. The platform holder runs promotions that house several download games under one roof. ‘Summer of Arcade’ and ‘House Party’ are two such promotions, and have previously featured Lara Croft, Alan Wake and Fruit Ninja Kinect. 

Arcade Next is the third promotion and is now underway. It consists of big brands such as Minecraft and Fable (see ‘Fantastic four’).

“They’re all really good IPs,” Xbox Live UK product manager Pav Bhardwaj tells MCV. “Between House Party and Summer of Arcade, there’s a gap where we thought we’d pack all of these titles together and plug them.”

MARKETING MINECRAFT

The difference between these ‘packs’ of digital content and standalone download titles is they have their own big marketing push.

An Arcade Next trailer kicked off the campaign and there’s even been retail activity with posters, banners and more. Online ads have appeared on Xbox channels and Xbox Live users have been contacted via social media. Microsoft is also hosting live gameplay streams of each title.

And by targeting retail, thousands of more gamers will be made aware of Arcade Next. GAME customers will be able to buy the titles in-store in the form of digital codes, which can be redeemed on Xbox Live. 

“As with any anticipated new digital content release, we also expect to see an increase in Microsoft Point sales both at retail and directly through Xbox Live,” adds Bhardwaj. “The four Arcade Next games will be available at selected GAME stores as part of our ongoing digital code distribution business model.”

It’s not unusual for sales of Microsoft Points cards to rise at retail following a popular piece of Xbox Live content. For example, when Black Ops: Escalation DLC arrived last year, week-on-week points card sales rose 131.6 per cent from 57,000 units to 132,000.

REVVING UP SALES

Trials Evolution has already broken the record for first day Xbox Live Arcade sales, with 100,000 downloads recorded in 24 hours. It’s from developer RedLynx, which is owned by Ubisoft.

So did being included in Arcade Next play its part for the studio?

“It definitely helps,” says RedLynx CEO Tero Virtala. 

“We have been able to drive Trials Evolution further and get more support.

“Many of Xbox Live’s most successful games have been launched as part of a campaign like Summer of Arcade. And Arcade Next has a very good line-up.”

100,000 day-one sales puts a lot of boxed games to shame, and it says a lot about how the games market is shifting.

These Xbox Live titles are a success not just for their quality, but because Microsoft involves retail, kicks off marketing activity and treats its digital games like triple-A boxed releases. 

It might not have the same excitement as a typical Call of Duty launch. But events like Arcade Next are certainly a step in the right direction.

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Tags: Microsoft , xbox live , next , step

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