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What happens when you mix MTV and Microsoft? The Xbox 360 unveiling
It sounds like the start of a joke — “What happens if you mix MTV and Microsoft?”
The stodgy, boring software maker Microsoft has been trying for years to be hip, going back to the Windows 95 launch (or was it Windows 98? My memory isn’t so great…) featuring the Rolling Stones and “Start Me Up.” With the unveiling of the Xbox 360, Microsoft put its hippest minds to work in creating a brilliant, lavish event — who decided they were far too boring for the task and turned to MTV for help.
I was going to write a brief blog entry about this, the 30 minute “event” (by “event” I mean “infomercial”) was so jam-packed with… something, that I decided it warranted a minute-by-minute journal-style entry. Unfortunately, I decided this AFTER I took my notes about the show, so all the timestamps are approximate. If you look at your notes and see that West Coast Customs showed up at 8:39 and not at 8:40, please don’t send me angry letters. I’m sure you’re right.
8:32: Who better to emcee the unveiling of a Microsoft product than longtime Microsoft icon… Elijah Wood? Does he really represent hip young culture today? Like, seriously? The hobbit? I kept waiting for his eyes to start glowing and demand everyone get away from his ring.
8:34: “And now… the Xbox 360!” Or… at least a model carrying a messenger bag and swinging her hips unnaturally. At first I thought it was Denise Richards, but then I remembered she was busy being pregnant and divorcing Charlie Sheen.
8:35: Oh, ok, there’s the Xbox. They put it on a glass table with green lasers shooting everywhere. The green and black make the theme of the evening clearly “Riddler.” This is straight out of Batman Forever, when E. Nygma unveils his brain-sucking device. Seriously. Watch the movie again (no, seriously, go watch it. It’s not THAT bad a movie. And you can’t tell me Michael Keaton had you fully convinced he could actually beat up his small animals, let alone criminal masterminds).
8:36: MTV’s production values are all over this thing. There’s flashing lights, screaming fans, hip young cameos everywhere, and a general mosh-pit feel. All that’s missing is Carson Daly.
8:37: And now, it’s time for a random musical guest! Introducing… the Killers! How about that Xbox! At least we know what it looks like now. Wait, we’ve known that for a while now.
8:38: OK, I know I just made fun of MTV bringing on the Killers, but I take it back. This is the best part of the presentation so far. Great song — Mr. Brightside. MTV can’t produce a product unveiling, but they know how to produce a rock show. The flashing lights fit, the camera angles are good, and the sound quality is good. And they’re not overfocusing on the lead singer — the whole band is getting some time. Nothing annoys me more than when the poor band gets ignored and the lead singer gets all the facetime.
8:41: Speaking of random cameos, it’s the West Coast Customs guys! For those of you older than 23, they’re the guys that “pimp your ride.” For those of you over 30, that means they accessorize your car with tons of crazy gadgets and fun toys that no normal person can afford. They turn an old scrap heap into a roving entertainment center. It’s like Trading Spaces or Extreme Makeover, but for your car. What they’re doing at a computer hardware device unveiling is beyond me.
8:42: Oh, I get it! This is a “segue” so that “young people” can understand why they “need a new Xbox RIGHT NOW.” West Coast Customs pimps your old ride — and Microsoft is going to pimp your Xbox! Ha ha ha!”
8:43: The first bit of information comes out — the Xbox 360 will have a removable face plate so you can customize your Xbox! Hooray! I’m going to get just the face plate, and tell all my friends I have an Xbox 360, but when they try to play it, I’ll explain I don’t believe in electricity.
8:44: An MTV guy interviews some Microsoft engineers, and brilliantly deduces for the audience that the Xb0x 260 is a “full entertainment experience.” And he deduced that only given the information that the Xbox 360 will let you shop and do auctions online and stuff and has wireless controllers. Impressive!
8:46: Interesting — a commercial for Pantex featuring a large red dot symbolizing a woman’s period. The gaming demographic has truly shifted — it’s not just for teenaged boys anymore. Girls are into it too — all the more of an audience for Microsoft to reach!
8:50: Ryan Cabrera makes an appearance. I’m not sure why. But this gives me an opportunity to point out that I’ve seen his former band, Rubix Groove, like, a lot. Rubix Groove was Dallas based, and somehow managed to show up wherever I was. Any time I went to see a local band, Rubix Groove was opening for them / the other band was opening for Rubix Groove. They weren’t bad. But I certainly didn’t predict a nationwide craze. Pretty average stuff, I thought. Oh yeah, nothing has changed, if you ask me. But props to the local SMU guy for “making it.” You know you’ve “made it” when MTV has you appear in their Microsoft Xbox promotion even though you have nothing to do with video games.
8:52: Some professional gamers go to Rare and get “training” on Perfect Dark 0, including by talking to a motion capture actress. Now there’s two careers I’d like to have — professional gamer and motion capture actor. Do any movies or video games need a short guy motion captured?
8:53: One of the gamers grills an engineer about Perfect Circle 0 and the Xbox. It shows his questions, but not really many of the engineer’s answers. He did say there could be 50 playable characters per match — that is impressive. Not much information outside of that though. MTV did show his answer to the final question, though: “Well, is it FUN?” “YES!” Microsoft apparently believes not in giving information but just telling you that hey, it’s fun! Take our word for it!
8:55: After extensive trash talking and very little actual Xbox related content, the two teams of professional gamers duke it out with a Perfect Dark shootout. The cameras jump from gamer to gamer, showing expressions of joy and disgust and featuring plenty more trash talking. Every now and then, they even get a brief moment of the game in. But they sure are having fun! In case you were confused whether or not they were having fun, though, a gamer points out that “this is the most fun I’ve ever had!” The Xbox 360 — bringing unmatched levels of fun! With technology! And wireless controllers!
What little actual game footage they showed was impressive but nothing made me say, “Holy cow, I have to have an Xbox 360 RIGHT NOW!” The whole production was a giant informercial that was so thinly veiled it was almost embarassing. I almost felt embarassed for Elijah Wood — except for that he looked like he was genuinely tickled about being a corporate spokesman.
I wonder if Microsoft actually believes this 30 minute thing will make people want to buy an Xbox 360. Or maybe I’m being naive in thinking that I don’t think people will be fooled — that they have more sense than to go buy an Xbox 360 just because Microsoft told them to. The Xbox 360 might end up being a great system, but this bit of marketing didn’t do anything to prove it. At best, it might produce some buzz — but buzz that I think should be negative for trying to mask a commercial as an event.
If you want some real information, try http://www.kotaku.com/gaming/xbox-2/the-xbox-360-103338.php.
They did outro the show with the Killers — who were definitely the highlight of the “event.”
Thu May 12th, 2005 11:09 pm