Media Lifeline: Microsoft Xbox

With Kinect launching this Christmas, Xbox is set to go head to head with Sony and Nintendo once more.

June 2009: Microsoft's chief executive, Steve Ballmer, announces plans for the launch of a motion-sensing peripheral device (to be unveiled as Kinect) for the Xbox 360 console. It will, he suggests, offer the "ultimate controller-free gaming and entertainment experience".

October 2009: The in-game advertising market, although it had consistently failed to live up to dotcom-era hype, has been growing steadily throughout the noughties - and Microsoft had responded by buying the in-game advertising specialist Massive Inc for $400 million in 2006. But three years later, Microsoft denies speculation that it has become disillusioned by market prospects and is looking to sell Massive.

June 2010: Microsoft chooses the Cannes Advertising Festival to showcase Kinect. Stephen Kim, Microsoft's general manager of global creative solutions, says that the choice of venue showed how keen the company was to get advertisers to think about what was possible in the Kinect game-playing space. He also reveals that Burger King was devising a character that would become an in-game ad vehicle within the platform's Kinectimals game.

September 2010: Now Microsoft reveals that it has signed a clutch of deals. Chevrolet, Sprint and T-Mobile are to have a presence in Kinect's Sports, Adventures and Joy Rides platforms. The company states that more deals will follow as advertisers begin to appreciate the natural user interface revolution offered by Kinect. The platform will, Microsoft adds, help to change the way that consumers relate to brands.

November 2010: Xbox Kinect launches, backed by a worldwide marketing budget of $300 million. Analysts predict a furious battle for the Christmas market, with Kinect going head to head with Sony's PlayStation Move and Nintendo's upgraded Wii Motion Plus.

Fast forward ...

January 2011: As speculation again mounts that Microsoft is still trying to dispose of Massive, the company announces a real advertising coup - Ford is to replace Chevrolet as the in-game advertiser within Kinect Joy Ride. Meanwhile, analysts are predicting that worldwide in-game advertising revenues will exceed $1 billion by 2020 - only ten years or so behind schedule.


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