Hot on the heels of yesterday's report on Ourcolony.net comes further evidence that Microsoft is waging a viral marketing campaign to promote its next-generation console.
During his 2005 Game Developers Conference keynote address, Microsoft corporate vice president and chief XNA architect J Allard showed off some of the features that will be part of the next iteration of Xbox Live. One of those features was the "Gamer Profile," an online profile that will feature basic information like a person's Xbox Live tag, stats, gaming achievements, and motto.
The Gamer Profile will also include a picture of the gamer. When Allard demonstrated the Gamer Profile in action, he showed his own profile. Next to his Gamer Tag--"Hiro Protagonist," named after the main character in Neal Stephenson's cyberpunk novel Snow Crash--was a photo of Allard sporting a green T-shirt. On the front of the T-shirt was a large white ant with a distinctive mark on its abdomen that resembled an "X."
As can be seen in a side-by-side comparison, that same ant is also the emblem of Ourcolony.net, a Web site that appears to reward players of an alternate-reality game with partial pictures of the next-generation Xbox. Although it has been up and down almost all day today (presumably due to increased traffic), the site does display the same ant prominently on its home page underneath the password field and in an intermittent circular image. The ant is also the emblem that appears on the anonymous fliers that have been popping up all over major cities in the US and UK.
The addition of the photographic link to an already existing pile of evidence all but cements Ourcolony.net to a next-generation Xbox teaser campaign. However, Microsoft dodged the assertion that the site is another alternate-reality game/marketing tool in the vein of Ilovebees.com. "J [Allard] is a gamer and there are a lot of gamers playing Ourcolony.net," was all a spokesperson for the company told GameSpot.
However, Microsoft's implication that Allard is just a player of the game is somewhat undermined by a few facts. Though the Ourcolony.net URL was registered on February 4, 2005, the first comment in its forums is dated April 5, 2005. So unless the forums had been cleared or launched at a later date--unlikely, given that they are key to recruiting players to join the site's group-centric game--Ourcolony.net launched on April 5. Allard's GDC presentation was given on March 9. Together, the facts beg one big question: How could Allard be a fan of Ourcolony.net nearly a full month before the site went live?
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