Creating a 48-hour computer game competition scheduled to run simultaneously in Los Angeles and New York was a welcome challenge, says Julia Zarro, creative director and production designer for Los Angeles-based Zed Ink. With only five weeks to plan the “Xbox Unleashed” event, Zarro and partner Arnold Serame worked to create a brand-exposure extravaganza for the debut of Microsoft's Xbox gaming console.
Once designs were drawn up, Zarro handed them off to a production crew in New York and concentrated on Universal Citywalk — the site of the Los Angeles event. Zarro says she worked with Lake Arrowhead, Calif.-based Image Event and Las Vegas-based A&D Scenery to “create a venue with easy photo opportunities for the media, and crank up the energy around Xbox.”
Because Universal Citywalk is a public shopping and entertainment venue, Zarro and her colleagues had to set up between midnight and 8 a.m. the day of the event, while the area was closed to visitors. During those hours, Zarro's team transformed the interior of Universal Citywalk's food court into a nightclub-like area called “The Hub.” Production staff decked out rented telephone booths with the fluorescent green of the Xbox brand. The underlying theme of the event was “Xbox's ability for gamers to connect with other gamers — for people to connect with people,” Zarro says. Phone booths, cabling and boxes filled with old cell phones were all decor elements emphasizing this message, she explains.
Most daunting, the crew set up a two-story green Plexiglas gaming arena that had to be constructed to withstand 70-mile-per-hour winds, as per Universal City-walk's regulations.
At the event, which began at 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 2 and was open to the public, enthusiastic gamers — 4,000 on each coast, according to Zarro — participated in a two-day competition. The top scorer on each coast won a new Ford Explorer Sport Trac equipped with an Xbox system.
As director of business development for Seattle-based GMR Marketing, agency of record for Microsoft Xbox, John Ellard adds, “Microsoft is not traditionally known for being a consumer marketing company in the entertainment genre.” In this case, though, he says Zed Ink “did a great job” ensuring a connection with the gaming public.
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