I can’t wait for Halo 3 to be over. For starters, I want to see how Bungie wraps up the story, because Halo 2 left us unforgivably hanging, and the tale’s been very good so far. But just as important, I want to see the end of this incessant Halo 3 marketing push. During the past week I’ve received no fewer than eight emails related to Halo 3 marketing tie-ins, and thank God the Cortana lingerie didn’t get the green light, or I may have lost my mind. And not in the excited cosplayer sense.
Here’s a partial list of the products that have muscled their way into my email inbox during the past week:
- Halo Action Clix from WizKids
- Halo 3 collectible trading cards
- Halo Ghosts of Onyx (a novel by Eric Nylund)
- Halo 3 Frag Fest t-shirts
- Halo 3 hats
- Halo 3 Messenger bags
- Console sling bag and hardware organizers from BD&A
- Halo Graphic novels published by Marvel
- 2008 Halo calendars
- Halo Uprising Comic (issue one) from Marvel
- Halo soundtracks from Sumthing Else Music
- Weapon replicas from Master Replicas
- Limited-edition figurines from the diorama created for the ad campaign
Impressive? In a sense. Annoying? To a degree. Excessive? Absolutely. But then again, maybe the monkey-sex mentality of Halo 3 marketing is also necessary to finally break gaming into mainstream consumers’ psyche.
Bungie and Microsoft have being trying to avoid “pissing off their fanbase” with too many tie-ins. They might have succeeded for gamers themselves, but they’ve surely failed with gaming media who’ve been inundated with all these product announcements. But while certain members of the gaming crowd might be overwhelmed and tiring of the tie-ins, the sheer number of Halo 3 products, promotions and participating outlets could be just what it takes to make non-gamers aware of just how big — and how grown up — our beloved medium has become.
It’s heresy to say that in some circles, because we gamers like to think of our industry as larger than life. But outside of a console launch and the subsequent stories about consumers getting stabbed or making an eBay fortune because of their new hardware, gaming doesn’t get much attention on the nightly news. Tell me: outside of “game-related violence” or the recent story about a man dying in a Chinese Internet cafe after gaming for three days, when was the last time you read a mainstream news article about our industry? I’m not talking about the Mercury News or Wired, I’m talking The New York Times or USA Today. If the story wasn’t about a console’s launch, it was about Halo 3.
So I say again: as painful as this marketing push may be to endure, the millions of dollars being spent to hawk this game could very well be what it takes to take videogames — as a medium — to the next level. There’s still a very large population out there that thinks “games are for kids.” But that’s a hard argument to uphold when Hot Topic has Finish The Fight messenger bags, or when 7-11 has exclusive Halo 3 Slurpee cups, or when Halo 3 (like Halo 2) gets honest-to-God teaser trailers in the movie theater. You want to talk about Finish The Fight? That’s just what this massive marketing campaign might do in terms of finally breaking the stigma of gaming as a kids’ activity.
Again, I can’t wait for Halo 3 to come and go. I want to finish the excellent story Bungie has weaved so far. I want to play the campaign cooperatively online with friends. I want to see whether Bungie is actually pushing any envelopes or really just relying on its rabid fanbase to drive sales. But above all, I want to see whether this massive and massively annoying Halo 3 marketing push can boost awareness of videogames as a mature medium for a mature audience. This marketing campaign could be evil in some gamers’ eyes, but it might just be a necessary one for finally reaching a mainstream audience.
— Jonas Allen