Showcase: True Crime - New York City launch

Activision recreated the mean streets of the Big Apple to launch a range of computer games, writes Claire Bond.

A distinct New York feel came to south London in late August, with hotdogs, graffiti artists and baton-toting models dressed as NYPD cops.

It was not a film shoot for a gritty US drama, but could have been a scene from the latest in a line of movie-quality computer games - and that was exactly the intention as software publisher Activision invited guests to step into the world of True Crime: New York City.

About 100 guests attended the game launch event at The Bridge SE1 venue, not far from London Bridge station, where the launch included breakdancers and a DJ.

The proceedings followed a day of presentations at the Thistle Tower hotel in London which covered a range of games and gave guests a chance to try out the latest in gaming technology. Forthcoming releases presented in the daytime itinerary included Ultimate Spiderman, Star Wars: Battlefront II and The Movies, and to hand were Xbox, Playstation 2 and Gamecube consoles, as well as PCs, with which to try out the new additions.

Activision's in-house public relations manager, Bo Eatwell, who was tasked with managing the event, says: "The hands-on element is essential. We could send out games but this event provides the chance for the press to come together. Until they can play the game they can't appreciate it. It's important in the critique of the product."

Activision hired the Thistle Tower, which overlooks the River Thames, because of its location and the amount of space it is capable of providing.

"We needed a venue in central London which offered a vast number of bedrooms as well as extensive meeting room facilities," Eatwell adds.

To make the event even more memorable, promotional staff roamed the hotel's meeting rooms dressed as characters from each game, including Marilyn Monroe and Star Wars' Princess Leia.

The event served as a pan-European launch, initially targeting international gaming press who remain at the heart of promoting such products pre-release.

A larger marketing campaign, including television advertising, will roll out as each game becomes available towards the end of the year.

True Crime: New York City, which will hit shops next month was first choice for the evening's entertainment theme. Hyped as delivering a highly authentic and accurate depiction of New York, the game follows Marcus Reed, a former gang member turned cop, as he fights crime on the mean streets of Manhattan.

"It was our idea to have the evening event themed as True Crime: New York City, as it is a big project for us. It follows on from the earlier success of True Crime: Streets of LA," says Eatwell.

However, although the creative theme was provided in the brief, logistically the event was not without its challenges.

Fledgling agency Blonde Productions was tasked with organising the evening's activities, having worked on an earlier Activision event for the launch of stablemate game X-Men at the end of July.

Katie Fenelon, Blonde Productions' event manager, says: "We were given just two weeks lead time on the project. Activision asked for us to help on the project following our work on the X-Men launch at the Vinyl Factory."

The Bridge SE1's cavernous surroundings, filled with dry ice, provided the perfect setting for an underground New York feel.

Food provided, by Blonde Productions' preferred caterer, Last Supper, included noodles in addition to hot dogs from an authentic New York-style stand. A vodka luge fashioned as a pistol also proved popular with the predominantly male crowd. But as if to prove that the best laid plans don't always come to a seamless resolution, an NYPD car which was booked as part of the theming broke down on the way to the event.

"These projects are always challenging to pull together in such a short space of time," says Fenelon. "The logistics of involving the car was quite tricky and it was unfortunate it broke down so late that we couldn't replace it."

Overall, the New York theme targeted a very gender-specific audience and allowed the creative teams to go to town.

Fenelon adds: "This is quite a male orientated industry so we wanted the party to appeal to the male audience. We also felt the type of press that were attending would appreciate touches such as breakdancing and graffiti."

FACT FILE True Crime: New York City Date: 24 August 2005 Venue: Thistle Tower hotel and The Bridge SE1, London Client: Activision Production: Blonde Productions Caterers: Last Supper Vodka pistol luge: Ice Box Props: Men at Work/ Theme Traders Entertainment: Graffiti artist - Boardman Bookings Breakdancers - Second to None DJ: Freaky Beatz Lighting: Halo Lighting Sound: Systems Etc

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