Saturday 13th August 2022

How Xbox lit up London with its Series X launch


Unit9 and Edelman Deportivo won the ‘Music and Entertainment’ category at The Drum Awards for the Digital Industries 2021. Here, the team behind the winning entry reveal the secrets of this successful project…

The challenge

After a year of growing intrigue since its initial announcement, rising to a fever pitch among fans as a well-executed global comms plan was rolled out, Microsoft was finally ready to launch its powerful new generation of console: the Xbox Series X. The console set a new bar in speed and power, the pinnacle of console gaming technology.

Microsoft wanted to demonstrate the capabilities of the hotly anticipated console with a show-stopping launch event that targeted the Xbox community. But with consumers in lockdown and hands-on demos out of the question, we had to find a way for fans to experience the console’s speed, power and accessibility – remotely.

The strategy

The best way of communicating the strength of games products is by letting users experience them, but with this not being an option in 2020 we needed an impressive platform to demonstrate the power, games portfolio and USPs of the Xbox Series X.

The strategy for the campaign focused on delivering an activation that could be many different things all at once – an attention-grabbing experiential stunt, best-in-class digital content campaign and a product showcase for both hardware and game titles all rolled into one – and all delivered against the backdrop of consumers being confined to their homes.

Central to this was an understanding of the myriad of digital touchpoints through which to connect with the modern gamer – whether that’s participating in a live broadcast, viewing short clips across social channels, or by engaging with custom competitions – and ensuring there was a range of opportunities for all to feel part of the launch.

So we created ’Dreams Within’ – a spectacular audio-visual installation that put the Series X center stage to celebrate the launch. We built a 14ft tall monolithic structure that replicated the iconic design of the new Xbox console and used 4K projectors and in-camera holography to transform it into an immersive canvas to showcase the console’s power from a distance. The installation formed the centerpiece of a six-hour live broadcast through Xbox UK’s content channel, Xbox On, on Twitch and YouTube. Fans were able to interact directly with the installation and affect the content in real-time from the safety of their own homes throughout the livestream by engaging with social channels during the launch.

The activation

The installation was situated on the roof of One New Change, with St Paul’s Cathedral in the background, transforming the London skyline with a spellbinding scene that blended physical and digital. To elevate the experience further, we incorporated an innovative VFX technique that had never been done before. Stunning projection content with calculated forced perspective allowed us to capture the installation from multiple camera angles while simultaneously overlaying real-time visual effects to create a world-first holographic display.

The projection content was specifically orientated around mind-bending visuals that encompassed the history of Xbox, its flagship game franchises, the new console’s hotly anticipated games and its unique characteristics. Accompanying the visuals was an AI-generated Dolby Atmos 3D soundtrack that mirrored the impressive audio capabilities of the console, making this a truly immersive audio-visual feat.

During the six-hour livestream on the Xbox On Twitch and YouTube channels, there were various engagement opportunities that enabled fans to interact with the installation and influence the content – turning them into participants instead of passive viewers. By sending in comments via Twitch, fans could get their names projected in real-time onto the monolith itself, becoming a part of the experience.

Throughout the broadcast, highlight clips were shared out across social channels to ensure that fans who couldn’t view the livestream could still follow the action and experience the installation in all its visual glory.

The results

Despite the potential challenges of launching a product at a time where hands-on experience was out of the question, ’Dreams Within’ was part of the biggest Xbox launch in history, with the new console selling out in seconds. A record amount of engagement was seen from the Xbox community, with 22m+ content views, 1m+ interactions across social platforms and 180,000+ competition entries making this an iconic launch event to remember. In fact, online activity around the launch was so high that UK broadband data use records were smashed and network speeds were slowed down as a result.

The digital installation also got people talking. 26 earned media articles about or containing ‘Dreams Within’ content supported by impactful visual content from the activation achieved a combined reach of 282m and #DreamsWithin trended on Twitter in the UK, clearly showing the widespread interest and excitement around this launch.

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for the Digital Industries 2021. Find out which of The Drum Awards are currently open for entry.


Read More:How Xbox lit up London with its Series X launch