Whooshing through tunnels into dense jungle, exploding up steep cliffs, plummeting down deep canyons as flash storms billow above you, and then careening into gushing waterfalls splintering with exquisite sunlight—wow. When the adrenaline's pumping, it's going to feel like paradise. But it's not paradise—it's very much unknown, to its very core. Do not be taken in by the lush beauty of the world's landscapes—they might look inviting, but they are very rarely what they seem.
That summary appears in the latest Rough Guides travel book. But you can't reach this particular place by plane, train, ship or automobile.
In fact, none of the exotic destinations detailed in poetic prose, and accompanied by gorgeous illustrations, are accessible IRL. Instead, the volume covers virtual worlds from popular Xbox games. It's an extension of last year's "Visit Xbox" campaign, which won four Clios at the Clio Entertainment Awards in November.
The italicized passage above describes the wondrous realm of Anthem, a multiplayer game set on a far-off planet of mystery and peril. Locations from Halo 5: Guardians, Metro Exodus, Forza Horizon 4 and other games also get the Rough Guides treatment.
This case study from last year, when the "Visit Xbox" project was announced, hits the highlights:
McCann London helped develop "The Rough Guide to Xbox," which launches today at the "Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show" in London. From Feb. 5, it will be available for purchase in Microsoft's online store, with all proceeds benefitting U.K. charity SpecialEffect, which helps people with disabilities. An ebook edition is also planned.
"The incredible picture quality of video games and the immersiveness generated by realistic landscapes gave birth to gaming tourism, which made more and more people explore games, rather than just focusing on traditional gameplay," McCann executive creative director Sanjiv Mistry tells Muse.
From the samples we've seen, the copy is consistently comprehensive and entertaining. The frequently breathtaking visuals—mostly in-game photography, along with finely crafted charts and maps—might inspire you to book passage (or at least try the games).
"Xbox as a brand has really embraced the idea that it's about making gaming for all," says McCann senior planner James Appleby. "People will spend thousands on travel—and we're offering them an alternative, a new way to explore and discover strange and wonderful places which are beyond anything normally found in the real world."
Indeed, with digital tourism booming, and gaming beyond pervasive, the campaign seems aptly timed. What's more, McCann believes the book transcends marketing, filling a real-world need for "travel" information in the best Rough Guides tradition.
"We live in a moment where virtual places can become more interesting than reality, and where some real places are not as interesting as you thought they'd be," says agency ECD Jamie Mietz. "If you feel a sense of wonder, discovery and excitement from traveling, does it matter if it's in the real world or the virtual one? Surely, what's important is the feelings that it invokes in you."
"In-game exploration has become an immersive experience for millions worldwide," adds Joe Legate, head of marketing at Rough Guides. "In this spirit of adventure, Rough Guides is proud to have worked with Xbox to create The Rough Guide to Xbox. The guide shows off spectacular in-game photography alongside our signature 'Tell it like it is' approach. So to discover things not to miss, how to get around and even shopping tips, don't forget your Rough Guide!"
Rob Doubal – Chief Creative Officer McCann UK and Co-President, McCann London
Laurence Thomson - Chief Creative Officer McCann UK and Co-President, McCann London
Jamie Mietz – Executive Creative Director
Sanjiv Mistry – Executive Creative Director
Jim Nilsson – Senior Creative
Jacob Bjordal – Senior Creative
Jim Nilsson – Director
Jacob Bjordal – Director
Juan Peirano – Senior Creative
Hetu Negri – Senior Creative
Karen Crum – Head of Strategy
James Appleby – Senior Planner
Dan Howarth – Head of Art
Matthew Thomas – Designer
Angelika Juszczyk - Designer
Clare Prager – Project Director
Anna Curtis – Project Manager
Hannah Graff – Senior Project Manager
Rob Smith – EVP and CCO at McCann UK
Sailesh Jani – Managing Partner
Nicole Robinson-Spaude – Senior Account Director
Melanie Vickers – Account Director
Anastasia Imam – Account Manager
Eloise Thompson – Account Executive
Sergio Lopez - Chief Production Officer McCann Wg EMEA, MD Craft EMEA
Kin-man Ly – Executive Producer
Ellis Faint – Head of Studio
Alex Dougan - Producer
Aurelija Salickaite – Junior Producer
Steve Tester – Print Producer
Jamie Cooper – Producer
Ben Twiston-Davies - Director
Fire Without Smoke - Production Company (Film)
Craft London – Post Production
Rough Guides – Publishing Company
MIAI – Partnerships Agency
Assembly – PR Agency