Q&A: Gears of Wars' hype machine

Chris Di Cesare, Microsoft's director of Xbox marketing, talks about promoting the Xbox 360's marquee holiday season title, cemeteries, and chainsaws.

While Sony and Nintendo are all-hands-on-deck in preparation for the launches of the PlayStation 3 and Wii, Microsoft's holiday focus is on games, particularly the much-anticipated Gears of War from Epic Games. The game was already featured in an MTV special and is a sponsor of Megadeth's Gigantour, but Microsoft has more events lined up.

The company is promoting the game with a series of events known as the Match Made in Hell, beginning with a tie-in with New Line Cinema's Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. Gamers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago will be able to see a prescreening of the movie and then play Gears of War on the big screen.

GameSpot chatted with Chris Di Cesare, the director of Xbox marketing, to find out how a company steals some of the thunder from two high-profile system launches, the effectiveness of viral marketing, and Emergence Day.

GameSpot: There's a lot of attention being paid to Gears of War this year. How important is Gears to Microsoft this holiday season?

Chris Di Cesare: Well, clearly just by anticipation alone vis-à-vis you can check it out from E3 on, we clearly see this as our big action game for the holiday, and obviously it's exclusive to the platform and a great showcase both visually as well as for multiplayer. It is our marquee title.

GS: In a sense you are taking on the PlayStation 3 and the Wii, which are launching around the same time as Gears of War, with the Xbox 360's second wave of games. Is this something where you would say you've got them right where you want them? Is this where you expected the Xbox 360 to be by now?

CD: Obviously the fact that we've been a year in the marketplace gives us the opportunity where we have a big portfolio of games out there and great first- and third-party support. So our lineup is really strong, and obviously what people ultimately want a platform for is games, and we've got great games. So it definitely gives us an edge on that standpoint of having a year in the marketplace with that momentum we're having.

GS: Back to Gears. You're doing the Match Made in Hell promotion. Can you describe the type of person you're trying to reach with it?

CD: As we've done with Halo, there's just huge excitement, community excitement, for it. It's largely an event that we're catering to our most loyal fans for Gears of War as well as Xbox in general.

GS: Is there a demographic you're targeting with these Gears of Wars promos?

Marcus Fenix's Chainsaw Massacre.

CD: Somebody wrote that it's the ultimate chainsaw double-billing, if you will, for this event. I mean, if you look at horror fans for Texas Chainsaw Massacre as well as fans of Gears of War, it's the 18- to 24-, 18- to 34-year-old males who are our big fans. That's the primary audience for both, so as the line is, it's a perfect match made in hell, if you will.

GS: Yeah. A lot of blood. That'll be fun. How did the idea of showing the game alongside Texas Chainsaw Massacre come about? Who approached whom?

CD: Actually, it's an interesting question. We obviously vis-à-vis Xbox Live are doing a lot more partnerships with movie studios. The audience for Xbox Live is growing and so forth, and we reached that audience. [It] is hard to reach for a lot of typical TV viewers because people are playing more and more games and not watching nearly as much TV, so studios are attracted by that. So partnerships with the studios, distribution of their high-def trailers and other original programming or content is something that we're seeing more and more of. I was at a meeting with New Line Cinema and they were talking about their upcoming films that they're going to heavily promote, and I was doing the same around the [much]-anticipated games that we have going. And then they brought up Texas Chainsaw. Obviously there's a lot of synergies there [with Gears of War]. So it made the perfect sense to partner on that. Kind of a mutual agreement rather than one approaching the other. It came out of a conversation.

GS: The pairing with Texas Chainsaw Massacre is only going to be done in four cities. Is this sort of an idea that is a test for future projects? It's a fairly new idea what you're doing.

Yep--this will work with Gears of War.

CD: Yeah. I don't think it's ever been done before, kind of a double billing, if you will, a first public viewing for both a film and a game. I think it's something we definitely would do or consider doing in the future. I think it's just a matter of finding a synergy, a partner where it's mutually beneficial to both. I mean, you couldn't think of two properties that kind of align so well that are both launching around the same kind of launch window. And on top of that, it's all taking place in the month we go gold for Gears and the movie premieres. So there's a lot of synergy within a one-month period of time.

GS: You're also doing stuff with Gigantour, and you had the MTV special that was focused on Gears. What is it that makes Gears so marketable to nongaming audiences?

CD: I think just one is when people see it, they're blown away. Visually it's really a testament to kind of how far gaming is going in terms of immersive experience where we're really approaching movie-quality look and feel, and on top of that being interactive. I think that really attracts people. And they say it's kind of like Band of Brothers meets Resident Evil or that kind of horror genre meets combat. And just with the excitement surrounding the month [because] of Halloween and edgier content that you see during this period of time, I think there's a lot of interest in the game and the marketing surrounding it.

GS: There were also some mumblings on the Internet about some messages that were sent over Xbox Live from the two main characters from the game. Whatever happened with that?

CD: You know [the thing is] I wasn't involved with that, so if I knew, I could give you more details. It's just I don't know about it, actually.

GS: What's your opinion on the whole viral-marketing and alternative-reality-games thing? Do you think they work?

CD: What I always say is you need the right property, the right idea, and the right team to help execute it. Especially with Halo. Obviously with I Love Bees it was something that just really struck a chord and was done kind of covertly and spread virally, and it was hugely successful. But you can't ever do that again--you can't do it exactly like that. While it can work, you have to continue to reinvent that formula to appeal to the community with the right kind of interactive entertainment experience in it's own right. Because that's what it is. It can't be an overt marketing messaging or anything like that.

GS: Now, we've heard a lot about Emergence Day, which was originally designated as November 12, but then Epic Games' Mark Rein said that Gears is shipping on November 7. What's going on with that, and can you clear up any of the confusion?

Now this is synergy!

CD: Well, my understanding is that we will have some limited distribution starting on [November 7] and then full distribution at all retailers on the 12th. So some level of product will be out there, but I think we wanted Emergence Day to be truly when the product's available to the broad consumer public. So we're using that date as a launch day, even though there will be some trickling of product out before that.

GS: Rein also said that Microsoft is planning some cool Emergence Day events. Is there any chance you can fill us in on some of those details?

CD: We're really focusing on the first event. This is one of a series of three different events that we're going to be having during the month of October, all what we call the Match Made in Hell tour. So it's more partnering with content--edgier content--that kind of coincides with the game itself and having a unique experience for people. So it's Gears of War plus something else interesting or fitting with the product and the time frame of October. So this first event obviously is a partnering with Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Another event that we're going to be having closer to when the game goes gold at the end of the month is being held at a cemetery location where you get a chance to play the game, and there will be celebrity guests. But all of them are hands-on play of Gears of War before it's officially available. And then the last event is going to take place at a Fright Night-like location, so it's a part of Great Adventure [theme parks] where we'll be taking over the park in the evening and also having a private performance by Megadeth and having Gears of War playable. But also it'll be the first time Megadeth--who obviously through Gigantour became big Gears of War fans--are going to do their first performance of a Gears of War set, if you will, or perform a Gears of War song that they've scribed and will be a part of the new album. So you know, Megadeth and Gears of War, Texas Chainsaw and Gears of War, cemeteries. They all have this theme of giving gamers a chance to play the game before it launches, but then having some fun extracurricular activities.

GS: [Gears of War designer] Cliffy B.--everyone loves him. He's about as close to a rock star as there is in the industry. Do you think that in the future the people behind the game will become as marketable as the game itself?

CD: Yeah, those are the rock stars, the developers themselves. I mean, the passion that they have for the project comes through. Some guys are a little bit more open to the camera, Cliffy B. being one of them. And he's quite a charismatic personality on top of being a great developer.

GS: Stepping aside from Gears of War, what sort of marketing strategies are you taking with the other Microsoft Game Studios titles, like Viva Piñata and Forza 2?

Viva Piñata--not a chainsaw in sight.

CD: Well, it's a little bit early for Forza. Piñata's a very different property than Gears of War. You can't [confine] two extremes. Saturday morning we're running the Viva Piñata animated series, which is a great way to reach that young audience on a property that we believe in. And we're partnering with Kellogg's and Radio Disney around that as well. We're doing a lot more content media outreach and so forth that's geared towards a very family-friendly game, which Pinata is all about.

GS: What's being done with promoting Gears of War is only a drop in the bucket compared to what's going to go down with Halo 3, right?

CD: Well, listen, I think I would say that Gears of War is our big blockbuster title for the holiday. But expectations for Halo 3 are through the roof. So I can't really compare the two in terms of that, but I would say that obviously anticipation is growing even now for Halo 3, even though it's out next year.

GS: Yep, it definitely is. Thank you very much.

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124 comments
locomissloca
locomissloca

i seriously cant wait! i hope the single player is good, but i am defetneily sure the onlyine multiplayer is gona kik ASSSS!!!

Bloodhawk_DX
Bloodhawk_DX

Viva Pinata!? I think Microsoft should have left Rare with Nintendo. Keep kiddy games on a kiddy console.

DeathgiverX
DeathgiverX

Cliffy B. to the rescue. I smell a Halo Killer for Microsoft lol. At least until Halo 3 that is.

ztron370
ztron370

Microsoft I am going to put this as gently as I can.You don't have to convince me that this game will replace Halo as the master blasting game of the gaming world,I already new it when it was first shown back at E305.

SetsuOkun
SetsuOkun

welll i liked it since the day we got the firts pics but come on don't you get tired of those neverending nevertired neverhuman types of character? i'm fed up of that "sarge" cigarsmocking-60yo-alwaysangry so non appealing character. i would like to play with girls(bigones(xena types) small ones(kristin kreuk types) ) men too REAL ones not that kind of i-ve-done-all-sort-of-dirty-war-and-i-m-not-proud-of-it cliche (and i've seen all my comrades die etc) so big one or small one too(come ont hey've got armors you don't have to put an already muscled he-man in it! i would like to have the choice of playing. it would be on pc i would hope of a cheat or mod/skin for that but on console....too bad i can't say anything to the team behind that "WOA!!" game.

hemakm3
hemakm3

Gears of War will rock.

Alcotamaysees
Alcotamaysees

I'll probably buy Gears of War (even if it flops) just to check out the chainsaw :D

_Sam_
_Sam_

I hope it's good

7HR1LL3R
7HR1LL3R

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

DasLaMar
DasLaMar

Fall of Man, 40 on 40 multiplayer that seems to be the main focus of the game if you watched any of the interviews on gametrailers.com or ign.com. You would think it would be the "next gen" graphics or the game play. It should get around a 9.2ish out of 10 on most sites. Though personally I'd rather play call of duty 3 than fall of man because the immersive game play and music. Anyway the game Sony really made the PS3 for is Metal Gear Solid IV. Which may come out November 2007 or early 2008(Feb-April).

GodsBusy
GodsBusy

I can't wait for both GoW and Zelda, but listening to the last couple of posters, I'm glad I don't work for a game retailer, 'cause though I get some hype, I'm not assaulted by it - by companies and customers alike, I'm sure - day in and day out. They just look like cool games I'll enjoy. My big question for anyone that may be more "in the know" than me is, what is Sony's big title? I'm not going to get a PS3 at launch (not because I don't want to - just because I've already got a 360, and want Wii more than PS3, and my wallet can't take anymore abuse), but maybe that's in part because I'm not hearing about any huge, exclusive titles - I've heard good things about Fall of Man, but that's it. So someone fill me in, what's Sony's marquee title?

DasLaMar
DasLaMar

If you think the hype for Zelda or Gears of War is bad right now just wait till next Oct. 1 when every thing will be GTA this, Metal Gear That, and Halo forever.

viewtifuljosh
viewtifuljosh

Legs1986 I too work at a game retailer (GameStop) and would have to agree that as of right now there is more marketing for Gears of War but in less than a month I believe Zelda will be the same way. And I'm on the opposite end, all I hear about all day is Zelda and hardly anything about Gears of War. I'm buying Zelda and I'm looking foreward too it but I can see where you're getting sick of hearing about one certain game. But although theres massive hype around it and I can get sick of it I still look foreward to learning new things about each game as the draw closer. So although there is massive hype, unlike what you stated earlier, I still care about Gears of War. And that about sums it up.

legs1986
legs1986

viewtifuljosh "Kind of ironic coming from a person with a Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess picture. (Wasn't that game due out a year ago? And isn't the hype on it through the roof by now?) But on a side note I will be looking foreward to both Gears of War and Zelda Twilight Princess. Sorry but i found legs1986 comment funny. I mean, just because a game gets hype you don't like it anymore? You sound like one of those guys that doesn't listen to mainstream music because its mainstream. Kind of lame. " Zelda was supposed to be out a year ago, yep. Hype through the roof... not as much as GoW. Sure it's being talked up, but it's not being crammed down my throat like GoW is. Keep in mind I also work for a game retailer, and there is a LOT MORE being thrown at OMG GEARS OF WAR!!!!!!!!!!! than there is for Zelda. It's just at the point of, I've seen and heard so much about it that while I'm sure it's going to be sweet, I just don't care anymore.

TheBigD80
TheBigD80

I Was Also at the screening and i enjoyed the movie that guy really was in the military he was a pisser, as 4 the game it kicked total ass. problem was the guy playing sucked ass. not once did he use the chainsaw. der der der.. Freeman80

emanson101
emanson101

I attended the SCreening Last night in NYC. I'm not a fan of slasher movies so i found the movie boring and stupid. However, Gear of War was freaking Awesome. Believe all the Hype this game is something ealse. The controls are smooth and the graphics are incredible. And best of all, when u get close to some one, hold B, and you will get a nice surprise.

Sanguis_Malus
Sanguis_Malus

Interesting marketing concepts, the Graveyard idea could be construed as bad taste though.

qrawler
qrawler

This game looks awsome, cant wait to cirb stomp someone in the multiplayer and of course chainsaw some noob!!

SilentHillX
SilentHillX

Is it just me, or is GOW pretty much Killswitch with aliens? lol Wheres my Killswitch 2!!! Sure the game lasted like 4 hours, but damn, that was a fun 4 hours... Take it easy.

Bathyj
Bathyj

Oni This is probably going to be the 1st true "nex-gen" title to be released on Xbox. I was going to agree straight away but then I thought about it. In reality its probably not that different from other games like it except its really, really pretty. The gameplay looks fairly standard. Having said that, this is exactly the kind of game I love. I love to use cover and then jump out to take out a bad guy (or alien.) This game IS the reason I have an X360 and I'm looking much more forward to this than Halo 3. Dont get me wrong, Halo is awesome. Its just that I've played it twice already and its hard to get to excited about it anymore. GoW (and possibily GRAW) are the only games on X360 worth buying the machine for. I would consider Dead Rising Next-Gen as well since theres no way it could be done on current gen machines.

peeweeshift
peeweeshift

Apparently most people havn't played many epic games. Epic is know for having games that have sick gameplay(uc2lc sticks out pretty well.). This game will be amazing and will keep everyone busy until halo3 or whatever other game people are waiting for.

Dic_Dasterdly
Dic_Dasterdly

Man, lot of sony boys on this forum. I will give this game a chance, cant compare it to halo, halo is already out there we've already played two of them. What I dont understand is where is the hype for lost planet. I think that game looks better then GeoW and its also exclusive.

sasuke55
sasuke55

Can't wait for Gears Of War!!!!!! But to fore runner and every one else that thinks this will come to PC is ABSOLUTELY WRONG!!! IF you look in the OCTOBER issue of Computer Gaming there is an interview with the VP of EPIC GAMES the issue has Team Fortress 2 on the cover. This is the Conversation and I quote.. CGW: Its a good dream but lets talke games Gears of War, specifically. It's coming on November 12 to the 360. What's the deal with a PC version? MR ( Mark Rein) There is no PC verison. This is a 360game The blinders are firmly on our heads to make the best Xbox 360 game that we could possibly make and to push the 360 as hard as we can possibly push it. If we were trying to make the game on two platforms, it wouldn't be possible to achieve that. Could Gears of War come to Windows? perhaps someday, but not now. It goes on to say that UT 2007 is coming to the PC and PS3 and they are trying to make that the best Multiplayer ever and Taking the Onslaught portion and moving that forward to an even better, deeper game type that they are currently calling Warfare with smarter bots.

wild_world_girl
wild_world_girl

Shtinky - you're a fanboy. All one has to do is look for your icon in any Microsoft (or Sony) related post to read the spew of the day about why "M$" (so clever and original BTW) sucks.

HeyzeusNYC
HeyzeusNYC

Look honestly Im getting gears of war due to 1 reason only... I actually got to play it in Dallas since Im a gamestop mananger...we had a convention their.. Gears of war is a reallly good game they had the Wii and the Ps3 their.. I played them for a few..oh and by the way i seriously dont see no difference between PS3 and Xbox360... anyways Gears of war is a tremendos game and it rocked... All the other gamestop manangers were beasting for me to get off but I couldn't get my hands off of it... only thing I was bothered by is the loading times while playing some levels... thats all i can say

vince956
vince956

Why do you all compare GoW and Halo 3. Be glad that 360 is getting to awesome games that the other systems are not. Heck yeah ill be playing GoW the day of its release, and heck yeah ill be playing Halo 3 on the day its release. So you all just stop complaining and comparing and just be happy your getting 2 awesome games. :) I know i am :)

Jaeme
Jaeme

My only worry about this games is that the last game they hyped like this was perfect dark zero which was absolute garbage. (This site gave it a 9.0 and I no longer trust their reviews as a result). Hopefully MS knows better now.

jmartinez1983
jmartinez1983

What's this about a "trickling" of the product available on the 7th? Either release the game to everyone or don't release it. Hopefully at least this will mean that Gamespot and IGN will have reviews out early for the game.

kingkongjay
kingkongjay

Gears of War should tie me over until the Return of the King (Halo3)

chiefmegadeth
chiefmegadeth

demollyon I have played the game and it's AWESOME! PS: Megadeth rule! Peace Sells...but who's buying? im with demollyon Megadeth does rule!!!! best band ever!!!!! Killing is my business and business is good! ps cant wait for gears of war

Oni
Oni

This is probably going to be the 1st true "nex-gen" title to be released on Xbox.

inferno394
inferno394

Futhermore, I never said this looks anything like RE4. The looks alone are awesome. But the gameplay seems to mimic RE4.

hotdork70minus1
hotdork70minus1

Why doesn't everyone just shut up and wait for it to come out ? Then you can say what you want. I don't see how anyone can judge this game by seeing the opening level being played over and over. Give it a shot when it comes out, give it a chance and then give your two cents.

Maquis_UK
Maquis_UK

don't don't don't believe the hype

Darko
Darko

Well, obviously, vis-a-vis...

spidey008
spidey008

GOW looks great, but I'm not sure about the gameplay. Epic is a great developer. I'm sure it will be great.

demollyon
demollyon

I have played the game and it's AWESOME! PS: Megadeth rule! Peace Sells...but who's buying?

viewtifuljosh
viewtifuljosh

"The more hype the less I care; kinda sucks because I was really interested in this title at one point." - legs1986 Kind of ironic coming from a person with a Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess picture. (Wasn't that game due out a year ago? And isn't the hype on it through the roof by now?) But on a side note I will be looking foreward to both Gears of War and Zelda Twilight Princess. Sorry but i found legs1986 comment funny. I mean, just because a game gets hype you don't like it anymore? You sound like one of those guys that doesn't listen to mainstream music because its mainstream. Kind of lame.

GFofgaming
GFofgaming

I also think the game is overhyped. Graphically it would be have the best in winter.............. if Crysis hadn't come out. PC Gamers rulz!

UltraWoody
UltraWoody

Gears of War and Halo 3... what an AMAZING library so far... really!

solidte
solidte

I think this game will be good but i think Microsoft is over hyping Gears of War waaaay to much i mean c'mon theres that Emergence day thing, the Texas Chain Saw thing, Peter Moore is saying this will be the best looking game of the year. I just think there is just to much hype for this game, i have no doubt this game will be good but to much can be really hobo its just my opinion.