Origenxbox360.com now online

[UPDATE] Mysterious site goes live; Origen actually a European contest where two winners will be flown to a US Xbox 360 launch event.

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One of the oldest tricks in the big book of advertising is the subtle art of acquiring hype. The ilovebees.com campaign generated enough buzz and interest to have sleuths decrypt garbled clues that eventually yielded the date and location of special Halo 2 events, just days before the game's launch. The Ourcolony.net viral campaign slowly leaked information about the Xbox 360, if gamers took the correct steps to solve simple puzzles.

Microsoft's latest Web-based adver-teasement was origenxbox360.com. Over the past several weeks, the simple site has shown a tree growing out of a hole and bearing fruit, along with some green silhouettes of rabbits. Web detectives dissected the site and found hidden Latin phrases, concocted interesting theories that hearkened back to Alice in Wonderland, and even referenced The Good Book and Halo 3.

Yesterday, Microsoft has finally spoken openly about the Web site and has confirmed that tomorrow the "race for entry into Origen starts." A vague statement from Microsoft describes Origen as "the debut of next generation gaming. A real place dedicated to gaming pleasures. A place to play Xbox 360 before anyone else. A place to play all the Xbox 360 launch titles. A place to take on other gamers." It's not much to go on, but it's enough to debunk theories about its being a Halo 3 announcement.

[UPDATE] Earlier this morning, origenxbox360.com went live. While visitors to the site are still greeted by the now familiar tree, they must now select their country's flag before the site's mystery is explained. The only problem is that all the flags on the tree are European. As it turns out, the Origen site is nothing more than a promotional tool for a Europe-only contest, the two grand prize winners of which will be flown to a US Xbox 360 launch event. To enter the contest, visitors submit their e-mail address, answer three true-or-false questions, and answer a tie-breaker question. The contest is open until October 10, and the winners' trip will take place in November.

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