Countdown to Xbox One: Harvey Eagle on PS4, defying the critics and THAT TV ad

After eight years Microsoft is finally releasing its third generation games console. And it promises to launch Xbox One in spectacular fashion. MCV speaks to UK marketing boss Harvey Eagle to get the details

It’s been a challenging road for Xbox One. How has it been for you and the team?

We unveiled Xbox back in May and it has been an interesting journey for us, I don’t think that will be a surprise for me to say. Where we are now, a few days from launch, we are in a good spot. There’s great demand for the console out there and we are wholly focused on launch.

There have been challenges along the way, and I think we have done our best to respond in what we think has been in the right way for our fans. And we think we have a great launch line-up for games.

The promotion for Xbox One has switched from entertainment to games. Why?

When the judges at E3 give us 110-odd awards for our launch line-up, which is far in excess of what the competition has got, then it is clear there is an appreciation that we have a set of great games for launch. When you are selling a console, and people are thinking about buying a console, at some point they’ll ask themselves: What are the games I want to play?” So that is critically important.

We have the right line-up and a good balance between some great third-party titles and first party titles. But what is also really important is that we have a great pipeline of games coming after launch, which is something that perhaps the industry hasn’t done tremendously well over previous years. We tend to get very focused on the Christmas period. But I think it’s important to have a good line-up throughout the year. And with Xbox One, not only do we have that great launch line-up – which is imperative – but also some great games coming over the next six months.

What’s the strategy behind your TV ad? How has it been received?

It’s gone down really well.It was posted up on YouTube and we had more than 3m views in a week.
It broke on TV over the weekend during the Newcastle/Chelsea match, and you will now start to see it on TV pretty regularly from here on in, all the way through the holiday period and into January. The ad is called ‘Invitation’ and I hope it is clear for those that have seen it that the ad is an invitation for them to have some great experiences on Xbox One.

How does this launch campaign compare to your other launches?

Each one is unique in its own way. If I go back to the beginning, the original Xbox launch was obviously the first time we have come to market. When we launched Xbox 360 we were very much a challenger brand, and over time became the market leader. For Xbox One, it is important that we maintain that challenger brand mentality that served us so well.

That said this is the biggest ever launch we have done, both in terms of the volume expectation and the investment we have put into launch. So it makes this bigger than anything we have done before.

You’ve announced a lot of outdoor marketing – what’s the total campaign like?

There’s a few key elements.

Consumer trial is one of those, born from a belief that we need to give people opportunity to go hands-on as much as possible. You have seen that in things like the presence we had at Eurogamer Expo, and you’re seeing it now with the Xbox One trial tour starts off in London with a residency in Shoreditch and moves up to Manchester. We have a branded SUV Xbox One vehicle that is also driving up and down the country, turning up at shopping centres and giving people the opportunity to get hands on. Eventually that trial will move into retail as we get towards Christmas.

In terms of retail, turning store staff into Xbox One advocates is also a big bet we have made. There’s a bunch of training that we do with those people to make sure they are fully informed on what makes Xbox One great. Between July, when we kicked off that programme, and the end of October we had trained more than 4,500 store staff so far.

The third piece is demand generation. It’s not just TV. We have a very strong digital campaign that will deliver more than 380m impression, we have out-of-home for Xbox One up and down the country at about 2,000 locations. We will be in cinemas and that will reach about 10m admissions. We have advertising in magazines, which have a total circulation in excess of 7m.

When you put all that stuff together those are the fundamentals of the campaign.

Did you have ramp up heavily given the proximity to PS4?

Honestly, I would say no we haven’t really changed how we’ve approached the launch of Xbox One. We have built the very best launch plan we can, and we have done that independent of the competition.

Now, I’m not nave enough to say we are not aware of the hype and media interest in the fact two consoles are launching. But our plan has very much been focused on telling people about the incredible launch line-up of the games we have, why Xbox Live is the best multiplayer service out there and why Xbox One is a console we have built for the future.

With that said, I am also aware that there are huge logistical challenges for our retail partners in trying to manage two launches of this magnitude in such close proximity.

What is the stock situation like?

We are extremely pleased with consumer demand for launch and beyond, I think our operations team is doing a fantastic job to meet as much of that demand as possible. If you look today, you are going to struggle to find a console with guaranteed availability to launch, so I advise consumers to order now to avoid being disappointed for Christmas.

We have been clear with retailers in telling them their day one allocation. It’s the retailer’s decision whether they hold back any stock for on-shelves. Currently pre-orders are in excess of supply, but ultimately we leave those kind of decisions to retailers.

When do you think you can take Xbox One beyond the core and into the mainstream?

There is no doubt that the people queuing at midnight will be the core gamers, but what we are finding is that as more people find out about the broader Xbox proposition, which is great gaming but also some of the entertainment functionality, then they are being influenced to come to our platform perhaps quicker than they have been in the past. We are getting that feedback from things like our trial tour and also through social media. We are seeing interest in the platform increase beyond just those early adopters.

There’s a week until launch. What’s your message for the trade?

Thank you for your incredible support so far. We can’t do this without our trade partners. It is the route to market and we count on their support, thank them for their support and we will need their support from here on in.

There are challenges around things like supply, which is typical at the launch of a new platform. So that means we are not always able to give our trade partners exactly what they ask for. But we ask for patience, our operations team is working as hard as they can to meet that demand, and I am confident at one stage in the future we will get to a free supply situation, so I ask for patience until we get to that point.

But we are incredibly excited about launch and hope that they are too – it is not only a great opportunity for us, but hopefully they see it as an opportunity as well.

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