I love gaming and, whilst I'm not particularly keen on Christmas itself, I love Christmas lights, so this latest bold activation by Xbox for their recently released Dead Rising 4 game certainly hit my buttons when it popped up in my news feeds last night. McCann London, who created this latest unique activation for Xbox, have a recent history of using their most zany ideas on the brand, having just last year created the now infamous “Survival Billboard” campaign for Rise of the Tomb Raider. This, however, is something a little less extreme, more relaxed and upbeat. Though there are zombies involved! Obviously.
To celebrate the launch of the festive-themed game, which sees players take on hoards of the undead in progressively inventive and decidedly tongue-in-cheek ways, Xbox and McCann London installed a series of Christmas lights that form the first-ever game trailer you can walk through. The lights, which hang above the shopping plaza in London’s Brunswick Centre, don’t feature traditional festive imagery either. Instead, they tell a less familiar story about hordes of flesh-eating zombies rampaging through the streets on Christmas Eve. The lights trailer mimic the actual trailer, beginning with an age rating logo and concluding with the green Xbox closing frame. There were also, of course, hoards of the undead on hand to delight and distress those in attendance.
The online fan-base of the game, which was developed by Capcom for Xbox One and Windows 10, worked together to switch on the lights. By interacting with a cryptic Facebook Live stream of a zombie hand suspended above a button, Xbox followers moved the hand downward to press the switch and turn on the display, revealing the trailer to the world. The Dead Rising Lights consist of nine panels of lights, suspended consecutively above a busy shopping plaza with the lights switching on and off in sequence to reveal a brand new narrative to gamers. The direct-response switch-on mechanism was part of a fully-integrated campaign revolving around the light installation, also comprising: live streaming on social media, unique, geo-fenced Snapchat filters and an immersive, interactive 360 degree video that allows those unable to visit the London installation to experience it remotely! The campaign was created by Jim Nilsson and Jacob Björdal at McCann London, and directed by Sam White through Helix.
Adrian Simons, Director of Global Windows and Devices at Microsoft, said: “Most Christmas lights are switched on by celebrities, but in this case the honour went to Xbox’s global fan-base. And they are not just any lights, they bring to life a new form of game trailer which we believe is a world first. This is a fun, bold and innovative undertaking in keeping with our commitment to our fans – and it’s all done in the true spirit of the game.” Laurence Thomson, Chief Creative Officer at McCann London, added: “We wanted to reinvent the game trailer to connect with today’s gamers. What better way to celebrate the festive season and the launch of Dead Rising 4 than a gory Zombie apocalypse lit up in glorious technicolor? By subverting the traditional Christmas light display we’re kicking the schmaltzy Christmas advert out of the window and instead appealing to gamers’ tongue-in-cheek attitude.”
It's a bonkers idea, but it works wonderfully, and will please the same crowd who argue every year that Die Hard is a not only a Christmas movie, but the best Christmas movie. Juxtaposition is something that always works in advertising when the product itself warrants it, and the Dead Rising games have always been wildly acerbic games that perfectly suit this kind of treatment. All in all, a fabulous festive frolic.
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK who thinks all Christmas gatherings should contain zombies from this point onward.