Scion Revels in Squareness, Launches Virtual Gaming World

Car maker Toyota quietly launched its own virtual gaming world last weekend where viewers can watch movies, play games, and even win points that can be traded in for prizes, all intended to bring a younger and savvier demographic to its latest Scion car design, the xB.

The brand’s creative agency, Attik, created the Web site as a prelaunch for the new car expected later this year. Attik played off the car’s boxy shape and created a “square” universe. Each side of a cube represents a named virtual world with its own theme. Four of the areas are currently available, the other two are still to be developed.

Instead of branding the car throughout the site, the individual worlds have named such as “Wastelands” and “Urban Zoo.” They feature free video games, social networking features and original movies, most of which center around the box theme.

“The xB is a box, so we wanted to own that word. We don’t hide from the fact that it is a bloody box at the end of the day,” said Simon Needham, Attik co-founder and group creative director, referring to the Scion. “We don’t want to jam the car down people’s throats. It’s not about selling a car, it’s about gaining credibility with our audience. By association they will then find the cars reliable.”

To get younger audiences interested in the site, Attik turned to game developer Bunchball, which specializes in enabling gamers to play against other gamers within a social network. Bunchball provides 4 games placed within the site, with six more on the way. Each game has a new “skin” given to them for the Scion site. A “Frogger” type game called “Penguin Crossing” has become “Roadkill Dodging” for example. Attik also created its own games for the site.

As an extra step, Attik enabled a point system for the games which players can accumulate towards items like key chains and even plasma screen televisions or DJ turn-tables.

“It makes the experience so much more powerful when it’s not just you playing against the computer, but against another player. Community, networking and games are things that are never going to go away,” said Rajat Paharia, CEO of Bunchball. “And if you win you get points in the Scion world, but if you lose you don’t, so it puts this extra level on the experience.”

However, Attik is not buying traditional media like television or print ads, or even Internet media like banner ads, to promote the site. Instead the company has taken “the guerilla line” with street teams, events, wild postings, all of which has already generated a level of interest from users, according to Justin Smith, VP of interactive media for Attik.

“We’re already seeing there are people spending 15 to 16 hours on the site accumulating points,” said Smith. “There’s no way you can buy that kind of engagement with regular media.”

Toyota has a history of promoting its five year-old Scion brand online and with virtual worlds, in experimental ways to attract a younger demographic that might purchase the cars, but Attik’s Smith stresses its also a demographic that influences styles and trends, and can smell a phony.

“For Scion, one important thing for the brand and for Attik is we’re reaching out to an audience that values authenticity. Their opinions reflect what people wear, what they drive, what they buy and what they think,” said Smith. “Scion is about doing things differently. The youth market just wants to be represented honestly.”

This story was altered to reflect the fact that playing the Bunchball games on the Web site is not the only means of accumulating points.

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