Campaigning on Consoles

By Luis Badillo – Staff Writer

Owners of an Xbox 360 now have a chance to be inundated with campaign ads. The presidential race has broken through the “fourth wall” and is reaching out to younger voters through more unconventional means. Running since late August, The Xbox LIVE 2012 Election Hub has been available on users’ dashboards allowing them to catch up with a collection of services that have been packaged to inform the Xbox audience better about both presidential candidates.
The Hub will display tidbits on the candidates provided by Face The Facts USA. Voting registration will be possible through Rock The Vote. NBCNews.com will also be streaming election coverage to the Election Hub.
There are also interactive elements to the Election Hub. YouGov.com is providing support with polling statistics, asking users their opinion on the candidates, their running mates, and their platforms. This polling system updates in real time and refreshes questions daily. The 2012 Election hub will incorporate the system as it streams all three presidential debates and the vice presidential debate. Microsoft is also incentivizing users to watch the debates through the hub. In watching three out of the four debates, users will be rewarded with gold Spartan Armor (From the popular sci-fi shooter franchise, Halo) for their Xbox LIVE avatar.
Outside of the Election Hub, gamers may have seen the election elsewhere on their Xbox 360. Four years ago, when the president was then senator, the Obama campaign teamed up with several video game companies to purchase ad space inside the games themselves. Obama will again this year take out ads in games. Specifically, the Obama campaign will be teaming up with Publisher Electronic Arts(EA) to deliver their message to gamers. The ads in question will appear in virtual billboards in games such as Madden NFL 13, on casual gaming site POGO.com, and mobile titles such as Tetris. The Obama campaign has only paid for the ads to appear in swing states. Since Illinois votes consistently Democratic, the ads will not be showing up on most students’ Xbox 360s. Mitt Romney’s campaign has commented to NPR’s All Things Considered saying they too have advertisements in video games, though no examples were provided.
Regardless of which, companies are seeing this as a huge opportunity to connect the gaming audiences and the presidential campaigns together. When asked about the ads, Patrick Walsh of Indiana University had an idea as to why politicians are seeking out gamers’ attention. “You have someone there that’s captive; they’re typically not multitasking; they’re typically just playing the game…So they’re not on their computer, they’re not on their phone, and it’s a very desirable demographic.” That sort of attention from a population that is on average comprised of 30 year old (according to the Entertainment Software Association as of 2012) is valuable.
In an interview with TheVerge.com, on the 2012 Election Hub on Xbox LIVE, Microsoft economist David Rothschild said that this sort of initiative is “breaking the mold [and marks] the forefront of polling, moving forward. People want their voices heard.” Rothschild adds how he is “excited about being on the forefront of what’s gonna be the future of interactive TV.”