Bringing families and friends together is the marketing hook behind Microsoft's Xbox, as well as promotions from rival Nintendo for its Wii game system. The tech titans want to reach beyond teens and adult technophiles and ring up more business from casual gamers.
"We're growing our consumer base," says Jeff Bell, a Microsoft (MSFT) corporate vice president, about the company's new ad campaign and the Oct. 22 launch of the family-oriented Xbox 360 Arcade console. "We want to broaden our appeal."
Microsoft's new ad efforts, which include commercials that show a father and daughter playing with guitar-shaped controllers, position "Xbox as a connector that brings people together," Harris says.
* A fresh ad campaign. TV and cinema ads show ordinary folks at spots such as a shopping mall parking lot. Their day-to-day activities are disrupted when a group of people crash the scene through unusual means such as hot-air balloons.
The outsiders set up a mock living room, complete with a couch, TV and an Xbox. Bystanders then crowd in to check out Xbox.
* Family-friendly video games. Rough-and-tumble Gears of War and Halo 3 are among the more well-known games that Microsoft publishes.
But the company is also promoting less-violent fare, such as Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action, which launches this week. The $59.99 game has a range of puzzles that use movie trivia.
* Less-expensive console. The $279.99 Xbox 360 Arcade comes with five free family-friendly games such as Uno and Pac-Man. Microsoft still offers the regular Xbox 360 for $349.99 and the Xbox 360 Elite -- targeted at hard-core gamers -- for $449.99.
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