Microsoft Gets Dark, Viral With New Game Site

You get an email from a friend that reads: “Is this who I think it is? I’m warning you, it’s pretty disturbing.” When you click on the link, you get a first-person view of what it would be like if doctors were desperately trying to revive you. But it doesn’t work. When the perspective shifts and you see the toe tag on the corpse, your name is on it.

That’s the way many people will be introduced to the new Web site AKQA has launched for the Microsoft Games Studio release, “Perfect Dark: Zero”, which goes on sale in November along with the company’s Xbox 360 game system. The idea, AKQA Account Director Rikki Khanna told ClickZ, was to introduce gamers to the themes, look, interactivity and environment of the futuristic game before it’s released.

“[The target audience members] have very highly evolved media habits and don’t like being marketed to. They’re also highly opinionated about entertainment releases,” he said. “Taking that into account, our strategy is always to create entertaining experiences that would resonate with that particular audience and that they would choose to participate in and share with their friends.”

Users discover, after they’re toe-tagged, that they’ve been done in by the game’s main character, Joanna Dark. To sic her on a friend, one need only rat the person out as an ally of the dataDyne Corporation, Dark’s enemy. Enter an email address, and the cycle starts anew. As the sender, however, you’d receive a phone call (if you opt-in with your phone number) from Dark letting you know when “the job is done.” AKQA also sends an email with a proof of death as a follow-up.

“That’s how this campaign works,” said Khanna. “You get invited to participate from a friend that you trust. You go through and you think it’s cool, and you pass it along to a friend as well.”

AKQA employees, many of whom are in the target 17 to 30-year-old demographic, are trying to kick off the viral effort by sending it to their friends and contacts. Curious visitors to the site can also send the viral emails. A print advertising campaign, designed by McCann Erickson, is driving people to the site. Television, also by McCann, will launch “in the next week or so,” according to Khanna.

Online advertising is planned for early next month. Creative is being finalized. Khanna says the media plan will involve sites such as IGN,, GameSpot, UGO and The agency may also tap a 250,000-strong email list of names gathered on the site, also created by AKQA.

Once site visitors go through the storyline, they can explore the darkened environment by mousing around and clicking on various elements. They’re rewarded with looks at documents, pictures and videos set in the game environment. AKQA produced all the original video on the site.

The agency is currently working on sites for other Xbox 360 games. Web efforts for “Project Gotham Racing 3” and “Kameo: Elements of Power” will launch in the next few weeks.

Related reading