Microsoft Driving Game Promotes Live Search Maps Service

When you’re driving down the Strip in Las Vegas and you get crunched between a Mad Momma in her green station wagon and a Golden Oldie who laments he “doesn’t have any insurance,” then adds “there’s nothing like the feel of some new support socks and the open road,” don’t worry. It’s all part of Microsoft’s latest effort to introduce users to its Live Search Maps Web site.

Microsoft, with its agency EVB, has created Live Derby 2007 as a “Pac-Man” style game where players can drive their car along city streets and pick up points while avoiding other drivers like Mad Momma, Golden Oldie and others. What makes the game different from other maze style games is that the mazes use actual Microsoft Live Search Maps of San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Las Vegas and London, complete with satellite imagery. The “power-boost” locations players can drive through to charge up their cars are actual locations in those cities, and players can click on those destinations to access the real listings using the Live Search Maps interface.

“You have these maps and it’s only so exciting, but you add an element of a chase or a maze to it makes it more interesting,” said Nick Mitrousis, an associate technical director for EVB who worked on the game. “You’re playing with real world data. The links are right out to Live Search.”

Microsoft has often sought to get its brand name noticed through more traditional banner and text ads; the company decided to create a game using Live Search Maps to reach out to users in a new way.

“We actually didn’t want consumers to think about it as just another marketing initiative being pushed at them, we wanted to give them a great game experience and share it among their community,” said Kevin Hagwell, senior product manager for Live Search Maps for Microsoft. “We wanted to show the real information because that’s the value of the product.”

The challenge of getting people interested in mapping technology led digital agency EVB to consider how to “integrate all the features of the maps but do it in a way that is really fun,” said Daniel Stein, CEO of EVB. “It’s easy to do advertising that talks about the features of a program like Live Maps, but the truth is with a virtual product like that you really need to show it and draw people in to involve them.”

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