Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

How Halo Remains Relevant Over A Decade After Its Debut

How Halo 5’s advertisements smashed into the Top 1% of all iTunes tracks — 14 years after Halo first debuted

Ah, Halo. The first Halo game was launched on Xbox in 2001, but the franchise is still going strong 14 years on with the 2015 release of Halo 5.

Their branding was so wildly successful that as late as 2010, the industry judged particularly exceptional games as “Halo killers” — the only games comparable to the Halo franchise.

It’s clear that the Halo games are masterfully designed, but what’s the secret in making it enduringly popular and relevant? Turns out that word-of-mouth and social media messaging is a key ingredient in ensuring brand longevity, keeping the franchise fresh in the people’s minds.

That’s how it feels like every time a new Halo game gets released.

Augmented Reality Games encourage word-of-mouth

A recommendation from a friend is three times more effective than traditional marketing. The Halo franchise recognized that, and used Augmented Reality Games (ARGs) to encourage these recommendations.

ARGs provide real-life details and clues about the in-game universe, often through interesting plots, interactive websites, or online files. Many ARGs are intricate and offer tons of trivia.

But ARGs are effective primarily because they bring the game to the real world, unlike traditional advertisements. They make people co-ordinate and talk about that game to each other.

Everything’s better if you work together.

Halo’s 2004 ARG “i love bees” got would-be players involved, collectively working towards a common goal, gaining audio clues, and so on, which kept people talking about it. They talked about it so much, “i love bees” drew over a three million pairs of eyeballs over three months.

In 2015, Halo 5 duplicated the tactic with platforms such as SoundCloud and tumblr. The Hunt The Truth campaign spawned long reddit discussion threads, drew an audience 6.7 million strong, and broke into the top 1% of all iTunes podcasts.

The lesson learnt? Immersive experiences like ARGs work to draw people into your game. However, their true power lies in the ability to get people together and talk about your game with each other.

Use Influencers to Influence Others

The developers behind Halo understood that to convince many people, sometimes you just had to convince a few.

These few “influencers” would go on to spread the word across social media and through word-of-mouth. Identifying and using influencers was vitally important: 64% of marketing professionals view these forms of advertising as significantly more effective than traditional marketing.

Halo’s developers recognized this, and increased the beta volume for Halo: Reach to attract a record-breaking 2.7 million players.

But the ultimate use of influencers came from Halo 4’s campaign and the European country of Liechtenstein. The folks behind the game paired up with Liechtenstein to provide a jaw-droppingly immersive real-life game experience, complete with fictional warzone and a military coup.

70 people were selected to take part in the Liechtenstein event. The resultant effect, however, impacted millions worldwide. Millions watched it online, 14 million people picked it up on Twitter, and was covered in over 20 markets.

When people spread the word for you, it works.

The results speak for themselves. Halo 4’s Master Chief beat The Avengers in terms of sales in the first 24 hours of launch, pulling in over $220 million worldwide.

We all understand tight budgets hamper the ability to reach as many people as you want. But with influencers, you can unleash a tide of word-of-mouth that is far more cost-effective than traditional advertising.

Conclusion

So there you have it. While you may have beautifully crafted games in the Halo franchise, you need to ensure they’re on people’s minds to remain relevant and interesting.

Traditional advertising works well, but word-of-mouth beats it hands down in terms of reach and cost-effectiveness. Two things stand out:

  • Draw people together and have them talk! ARGs are a perfect example where people are incentivised to talk about a product to each other, all the time.
  • Use influencers to influence others! People value recommendations from their friends. Get people to spread the message instead of relying on traditional marketing.

Benjamin Leong

Benjamin is a current undergraduate majoring in politics, philosophy and economics. In his spare time he debates, coaches debaters, and wonders how to survive a nuclear war.

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