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Beta-7 (for Sega ESPN NFL2k)

Project type:
Videogame promotion
In support of:
ESPN NFL Football 2K4 (Sega)
Agency:
Date:
March - September 2003
Description:
Beta-7 was an online persona created by Wieden Kennedy, Sega's marketing firm to promote ESPN NFL Football 2K4. The campaign was unusual, to say the least: In the campaign, a person known as Beta-7 began posting messages on gaming-oriented websites complaining about bad side effects he had received from serving as a beta-tester for the ESPN football game:

-Bruises and welts on and about my head, neck, torso, arms, and legs, as well as a debilitating sprain to my right ankle and cuts on my right forearm.

-Threat of further physical violence.

-Destruction of my personal property.

-Loss of my job and livelihood.

-Unpredictable, uncontrollable, violent outbursts that I have no memory of, which have made me a stranger to my friends and family.

The notoriety of Beta-7 grew among the gaming community, and he eventually acquired his own site, www.beta-7.com, where his alleged injuries were documented with reconstructed shredded documents said to be from the Sega dumpsters, phone call recordings, videos of other gamers blacking out while playing the game, and "ambush video" of Sega employees. Through all of this, Beta-7 insisted that the game was dangerous and that, in compensation for his injuries, he should receive some sort of cash settlement and Sega should be prevented from shipping the game. Eventually, a second site, www.gamerchuck.com appeared as either (a) the voice of another satisfied Sega beta tester who called Beta-7 a fraud, or (b) a shill for Sega. Or so went the mythology of the campaign, that is. The event created some serious buzz for the game, and won Wieden Kennedy a Clio.

Wieden Kennedy offered some impressive data on the campaign in this article in Electronic Gaming Business. While the sites attracted about 70,000 unique visitors -- good but not great numbers -- there were over four million downloads of videos and voice messages from the sites. The vast majority of these downloads were not from site visitors, but rather from e-mail messages between gamers, passing the downloads' links from one to another. This suggests that there is real power to these kinds of immersive techniques, but that it's important to look beyond simple web site metrics to properly understand and appreciate this power.