Hotels booked, fees paid, legs stretched, Marathon canceled.

My BER class at NYU started an online publication a couple of weeks ago to cover how the New York City area is getting back to business after Hurricane Sandy. I wrote a story about the fallout of the cancelation of the NYC marathon, consulting runners, the New York Road Runners, a PR expert, and marathon supporters. The consensus? The cancelation sure was a suspicious one.

Chicago resident Andrea Hutchins planned to run the NYC marathon this year, but when she found out the race was cancelled she and her friends and family went to Staten Island and helped a NYC Police officer start rebuilding his home in Midland Beach.Photo Credit: Andrea Hutchins

Chicago resident Andrea Hutchins planned to run the NYC marathon this year, but when she found out the race was cancelled she and her friends and family went to Staten Island and helped a NYC Police officer start rebuilding his home in Midland Beach.
Photo Credit: Andrea Hutchins

By Sonya Chudgar

As news broke of the decision to cancel the New York City Marathon late on Friday, Nov. 2, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, many runners grieved.

“I got a little emotional,” said Chicago resident Emily Hutchins, 32, who had trained for the marathon since March. “And then I just lost it. You don’t even think about the fact of the race itself. You think about the time and the energy you spent training for it, to get there, and of course, the money.”

The marathon brings a minimum of $340 million to the city annually. With most of the race’s 47,500 runners and their supporters already in the city by Friday evening, 36 hours from the race, some wondered whether NYC leaders held off on a cancellation after Sandy in order to capitalize as much as possible.

The lack of communication about future plans from the race organizer — the New York Road Runners — further frustrated runners, leaving a massive branding problem on the hands of the NYRR, its president Mary Wittenberg and its biggest sponsor, ING Financial Services.

The Suspicious Cancellation

The former treasurer of the New Orleans Track Club, Bonnie McAfee, 56, flew to New York on Friday before the cancellation decision was made. She traveled from Pensacola, Fla., with her husband, Scott Hoxie, who planned to run the marathon.

“The NYRR, they’re the same as any local track club, except for the fact that they’re like a normal track club on steroids,” McAfee said, adding, “[The NYRR] works with big numbers—millions and millions of dollars instead of, maybe, hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Total revenue for the NYRR was more than $1.7 million for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2011. The organization hiked up the cost to enter this year’s race by $60, asking $216 from NYRR members, $255 from non-members living in the U.S. and $347 from international applicants. It cited rising police costs as the impetus. 

Communication from the NYRR about the fallout—why the marathon was canceled so late and whether runners will be refunded or at least grandfathered into next year’s race—has been sparse.

A press release issued by the marathon’s organizers and Mayor Bloomberg cited a couple reasons for canceling the event, including the controversy of holding a race so soon after the storm and the marathon’s distraction from recovery work.

Few runners first learned of the eleventh hour cancellation directly from the NYRR. Hutchins heard it on CNN and got an official email a couple hours later. McAfee and her husband learned of it when they went to pick up his race package at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on the West side of Manhattan.

McAfee said the city should have figured out some way to hold the marathon, perhaps by moving the location.

In a request for comment on this article, the NYRR responded with its latest message to runners—a three-paragraph statement that said the cancellation was an unprecedented event, the NYRR’s priority it to address runners’ concerns and that it is working out the details.

Cheryl Snapp Conner, founder and managing partner of public relations agency Snapp Conner PR, said the NYRR should have realized it might be forced to cancel and thought through a Plan B.

“An organization this substantial should always have at least a template PR plan in place,” she said in an email.

Runners

But with no apparent plan to fall back on, the NYRR’s muddled actions left runners and supporters puzzled. Some began drawing their own conclusions.

“I’m thinking maybe what happened was, intentionally or unintentionally, Bloomberg got the $340 million because people were already there,” McAfee said.

She said she’d had a bad feeling since she arrived at LaGuardia Airport on Friday.

“We find out the first thing is that there’s a ration on gas. And our shuttle is going to be three hours late, ‘cause he’s sitting in New Jersey getting gas,” she said. “That’s the first indication that things were not hunky-dory in New York.”

Her journey to the marathon cost about $4,000.

Andrea Hutchins, 36, flew from Michigan to NYC to support her sister Emily in her first marathon.

“I think my sister, in a way, felt like a jerk for even being in New York,” she said. “We really saw that folks on Staten Island and elsewhere were really upset the marathon was going to happen … It probably would’ve been better if they had announced it sooner, because with the subways and everything not running and power down everywhere, we question why the decision was so late.”

The Hutchins sisters flew to New York with their parents and a friend on Nov. 2, with Emily offering to pay for everyone’s travel expenses and two hotel rooms in Brooklyn. She said the trip put her out $4,500.

The NYRR faced massive backlash from runners, many of whom flew in internationally and complained of the group’s irresponsible and negligent actions. McAfee looked into filing a class action lawsuit, inspired by a group of French runners who are doing the same.

“I think it’s caused a bad taste in the mouth of a lot of people from out of the country,” she said. “It makes me embarrassed, almost, being American. I wouldn’t handle a race like that.”

ING Financial Services, the marathon’s biggest supporter, also came under heat from aggravated marathoners. Some accused the race’s title sponsor of putting its monetary interests before New Yorkers’, despite the fact that city officials ultimately controlled the cancellation.

The NYRR pledged $1 million to Sandy relief efforts, or $26.20 for each runner, with the creation of its 2012 ING New York City Marathon Race to Recover Fund. ING donated $500,000 to the fund.

Another group of disappointed runners went after Mary Wittenberg, the NYRR president. They took issue with her salary of half a million dollars and her Tweets: “2012 INGNYCM will b run 2 show the vitality & spirit of NYC,” she sent out on Oct. 31. “Run 2 aid in recovery & show NYC will be back stronger than ever.”

Recovery

Contrary to Wittenberg’s Tweet, many runners agreed that canceling the race was the correct thing to do, especially as residents in lower Manhattan, coastal Brooklyn and Staten Island who were displaced by the hurricane had tried and failed to get hotels in the city that were booked by the marathon crowd.

“That was frustrating, to have just gotten there and just have it canceled,” Andrea Hutchins said. “But it put us in the place that I think we were supposed to be.”

Hutchins, like many runners and supporters, joined in an effort called New York Runners in Support of Staten Island. The association went live on Facebook shortly after the marathon was called off. It organized an impromptu mission to send runners to Staten Island with recovery items.

Andrea Hutchins said, in hindsight, she and her sister had a great experience in New York by helping the residents in need.

“There’s been many times that I know we’ve sat here in our Midwestern homes—where we’re not really impacted by hurricanes or things—and we see when Katrina came through and these disasters,” she said. “You see the news and you think, ‘What if there’s something else I could do? I would like to be able to help these people.’”

“However, the fact that we were there, and the experience we had, it was like, we were supposed to be here on this day,” she added. “It gave us that opportunity to look back on all of the times we’ve said, ‘We’d like to be able to help in one of these situations,’ and we were actually given the opportunity to do that.”

Her sister Emily agreed, adding that the experience made the trip worth it, despite the loss in finance.

“To be able to help those people and just bring a little bit of sunlight into their world for the hour and half that we helped them made the trip worth it,” she said.

What’s Next

Runners are still waiting to hear from the NYRR about whether they will get refunds and their qualification status for next year’s race.

Emily Hutchins, who wants to return to run the race in 2013, said the NYRR responded to her inquiry email saying it was working out details and would get back to her in a couple of weeks. Likewise, McAfee said she was still waiting to hear something definitive from the organization.

As for the future of the NYRR, public relations expert Conner said the best thing for the organization to do would be to hit the restart button: “Speak openly and candidly about where they fell down and what they’ll do differently as a re-emerged organization to ensure they emerge stronger and never have to re-learn these lessons again.”

She expects Mary Wittenberg will be given the boot or relegated to an administrative position soon.

“[It was] so badly handled that it will likely be incontrovertible,” Conner said. “Even if she didn’t handle it as badly as it looks, she has destroyed their PR and her own.”

Interview With a Journalist: Sam Anderson, Critic at Large for The New York Times Magazine

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Sam Anderson, the critic at large for The New York Times magazine. Sitting by the glass windows in the cafeteria of the Times building in Midtown, we discussed Sam’s cover story about the Oklahoma City Thunder and the magic surrounding it and its community. It was a great conversation about journalism today, sports, being a reporter, and the struggles and tremendous payoffs associated with the career.

The story:
“A Basketball Fairy Tale in Middle America” by Sam Anderson. It was the cover story of The New York Times magazine during the week of Nov. 8, 2012.

Sam writes about the Oklahoma City Thunder, the NBA team that competed against the Miami Heat in the Championship last summer. The OCT lost in Game 5, but its rise to fame was mysterious and marvelous nonetheless, and Sam went to Oklahoma to find the potion behind the magic. His story was both broad, decrypting the melting pot of Oklahoma’s citizens and its history as a state, as well as specific, zeroing in on such specifics as the personality of star Kevin Durant and even his teammate’s beard.

The author:
Originally from Oregon, Sam earned his bachelor’s degree at Louisiana State University. He stayed there to obtain his Master’s degree in English, and then moved to New York after being accepted to the PhD program in English at New York University—which he left when offered his first writing job toward the end of the program. Sam has written for various publications, including Slate and New York magazine. He is currently the critic at large for The New York Times magazine.

Sam says he thinks of himself as more of an essayist than a journalist.

The idea and pitch:
Sam says his editors at the magazine came up with the pitch. His editor, Lauren Kern, wrote him a one-line email that said, “Do you have any interest in writing about the Oklahoma City Thunder?”

The assignment was a bit of a departure from Sam’s usual work as critic at large.

“Left to my own devices, I tend to choose really weird and obscure subjects that no one reading a national magazine is really interested in,” he says. His piece prior to the Oklahoma City Thunder profile was on buffalo mozzarella.

He usually focuses on essays, which often are not source-dependent and require little interstate traveling.

But he knew immediately that the Oklahoma City Thunder was something he wanted to write about.

He said the only guidance he got on the OCT story came from Hugo Lindgren, editor of the magazine, who said, “There seems to be something strange and amazing happening in Oklahoma City. Why don’t you go down and see what it is.”

The research:
Sam has been a fan of the NBA since he was 10. Growing up in Oregon, his team was the Portland Trail Blazers.

“I waste a lot of time reading about basketball, watching highlights and stuff,” he says. “So, one great thing about a story like this is, suddenly all that wasted time is kind of justified because it gives you this vast background knowledge.”

Sam remembers watching Kevin Durant in college and being blown away by him. He followed him through the NBA draft—even as Sam’s Trail Blazers picked another rookie over him. Sam forgave Portland for its decision to pass on Durant, ultimately: “Eventually, he sort of won me over. If you watch basketball at all, it’s hard not to love the Thunder.”

He also rewatched a bunch of the Thunder’s games before he flew out, so he’d have better detail to draw from in his story. He also used his knowledge to prove to the players, when he interviewed them later, that he really understood the nuances of the game and had done his due diligence.

The reporting:
Sam took two trips to Oklahoma for the story. The biggest hurdle, he quickly discovered, was earning the trust of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s management and public relations team.

“It was a little like pulling teeth to arrange this with the team, to arrange access,” he recalls. “I called up and I was thinking, ‘Oh, I’m a hotshot New York Times magazine guy, and this is this small town basketball team, they’re gong to open their arms and welcome me in, give me access to everything.’

“And it was kind of the opposite.”

The OCT’s public relations point person was very skeptical of Sam’s intentions. When Sam said he wanted to write a portrait of the team and act as a fly on the wall, the PR person was not receptive to it at all. He gave Sam resistance every step of the way. When the team finally OK’d his story, accepting that Sam wanted to mirror the state’s history with the Thunder’s rise, the PR guy tried to put off Sam’s visit to the city. Finally, after having his trip pushed back multiple times, Sam booked a flight and told them determinedly, “All right, I’m coming. I’ll be there next week.”

Not that touching down on the tarmac in Oklahoma solved all his problems. His whole access to the team hinged on convincing the PR guy that his intentions were benign.

“When I met that PR guy the first time, he was so nervous,” Sam says. “He was so obviously nervous that I was going to write, like, a hatchet job, that I was this cynical, East Coast guy coming in to pop the bubble of the fairy tale of the Thunder.

“Finally, I was getting this vibe from him, finally I just said to him, ‘Listen. I’m not here to write a hatchet job. That’s not the kind of writing I do. That’s not my interest in this case. It’s not my personality. You know, relax.’ I don’t know if that helped or not; I don’t think it did,” he adds with a laugh.

But the initial visit broke the ice enough so that when Sam made his second trip, the Thunder were willing to arrange interviews for him with the players, the coach, and the general manager, becoming more generous with their time.

He understands the team’s reasoning for being so guarded, especially around a journalist.

“They were very, very, very wary. Which I guess makes a certain amount of sense. They have a lot to lose in a situation like that. Like I said, they are extremely conscious of their image. And I think because they’re so closely identified with the city, because their image is so wholesome, you kind of have to constantly be aware of threats to that,” Sam says.

Sam also had to break through with the general manager, Sam Presti, who upon their first meeting turned into what Sam called the least comfortable human being he’s ever seen from the moment he flipped on the recorder.

As Presti weighed each word in his mind and gave Sam quotes too fluffy or meaningless to use, Sam decided to turn off the recorder.

“And he breathed a literal sigh of relief,” Sam says. “And then we went on to have an actual conversation.”

The men talked for four hours, on background. Upon his second meeting with Presti, Sam didn’t bother to bring his recorder in. Presti grew so comfortable with Sam, that he called him out of the blue a couple days later, and the two had another hour-and-a-half-long conversation.

“That was my first experience with something like that,” he says. “You just have to feel out what makes the person comfortable. I think if I had insisted that we were on record the whole time, I would’ve gotten nothing from him, and he’s so in control of that organization, such a meticulous guy, that if I hadn’t broken through with him, I think, it would’ve been a very different reporting experience for me.”

As for his interviews with the players, Sam—who describes himself as a star-struck fanboy getting to sit down with professional athletes, who to him were almost “these mythological figures, like heroes out of Greek legend”—said his interviews ran the gamut from friendly and forthcoming to closed and unreceptive.

“One guy, Nick Collison (the Thunder’s power forward), was just kind of this blue collar, unglamorous role player, who was really open from the start,” Sam says. “You can just feel it, like, ‘Oh, this is a human sitting next to me. Not just thinking of me as a sport’s reporter who’s trying to get a few quotes, but as just another guy sitting next to him who he’s going to speak with really openly.’ That was an incredible conversation.”

Russell Westbrook (the Thunder’s point guard), on the other hand, has a public dislike of the media, and was appropriately short with Sam. He kept Sam waiting for an hour for the interview, and then took a call at the beginning. Their conversation lasted about 10 minutes.

Sam says it’s interesting to feel out the moment in the interview, regardless of whether it goes well. “It’s always an adventure when I go out into the real world and have conversations,” he says, adding, “It was just an extra weirdness that they were professional basketball players.”

The writing:
Sam’s writing process is always nerve-wracking, hard, long, and frustrating—although this time, it was better than usual, he says.

His newest process is to write a vomit blurt of an email to his editor, this time about various aspects of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I’d literally start with something conversational, like, ‘Do you know about Kevin Durant? Here’s the deal about Kevin Durant!’ And then I’d just start having to articulate the most basic stuff in a way that directly communicates with someone.”

In this patchwork method, Sam wrote the portrait of the Oklahoma City Thunder. It came out to about 12,000 words—he hadn’t been given a word limit by his editor and purposely had not asked for one.

“One of my bugaboos lately that I love to complain about is word limits,” he says. “I feel like magazines are so squished these days, all of the writing that I really love and that I read to train myself to do long-form journalism is so long by today’s standards.”

He says the Thunder profile felt like a big piece to him, so he emailed a note to his editors along with the finished product: “I know this is obscenely long by magazine standards, but I feel like it’s good, I feel like there’s enough here to justify it, and if you’re ever going to let me go crazy and do a 10,000-word-piece, I think this should be the one.”

The final version that went in the magazine was close to 8,000 words.

The response:
The PR guy who initially gave Sam so much trouble called him the day the story came out, gushing with happiness, “Which immediately made me be like, ‘Oh man, did I write this like a puff piece?’” he says with a laugh.

He says the Thunder speaks with one instutional voice, so if the PR guy loved it, general manager Sam Presti also likely did, too.

Response from readers was overwhelmingly positive, too.  He received many long, touching emails from Oklahomans telling him how validating it was that the national media, for once, treated the state as if it was an actual, complex place with people who deserve serious attention.

For example, some people wrote saying, “I have family on the East Coast, but I like in Oklahoma. They’re always making fun of me and saying, ‘Why would you want to live there?’ And I’m just going to print out your article and carry it with me and I’ll show it to people who ask that.”

He also felt a resonance to their validation; being from Oregon, he’s been asked before by serious adults whether the state has electricity.

“I do feel like there’s a provincialism to the New York media bubble world that I’ve always felt like an outsider to,” Sam says. “So, I do feel a kind of outsider pride or solidarity with the people of Oklahoma. So, when they feel validated to that, it makes me feel really good because I can identify with that feeling of feeling like you’re really far from the center of culture, like nobody really sees you.”

Sandy Recovery: Don’t Cut Taxes Now, Governor Christie

Check out my opinion piece on our NYU class’s online publication, Sandy Recovery. I discuss why it’s a bad idea for Governor Chris Christie to cut taxes in NJ at this critical junction.

Also, follow the publication on Twitter! @sandyrecovery12

Sandy Recovery

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Governor Christie should keep fiscally conservative policies in mind to help New Jersey rebuild.

By Sonya Chudgar

When Governor Chris Christie and budget officials in New Jersey sit down to assess Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the state budget, they should keep one point in mind: fiscal conservatism helped Louisiana beat Katrina.

This has little to do with politics. And it might sound contradictory at first.

You don’t need me to tell you that many New Jersey storefronts are still powerless, people homeless, employees jobless, denizens restless and communities faithless.

You might ask how financial conservatism will bring defunct businesses and shattered communities back to life.

Firstly, remember that conservatism does not necessarily mean moderation or opposition to change. It means calculation and deliberation. And if New Jersey follows the example set by Louisiana in 2006, conservatism will not tighten the reigns on the state…

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As Apple Leaves Steve Jobs’ Ideas Behind, Competitors Catch Up

Let’s be serious: Steve Jobs never approved of the iPad mini. Yet here it is, available for users to play piano medleys of Heart & Soul and do whatever else they’d like on it.

 

Steve Jobs with the original iPad

Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage last month during an Apple event and introduced the iPad mini and a smaller MacBook pro, among other items. As Forbes contributor Nigam Arora wrote, there was nothing flashy at this Apple event. No “wow” factor, no introduction of never-before-thought-of products—instead, there were simple improvements upon preordained products.

Why has Apple stopped introducing those mindblowing products? Where’s the mini music player that we all gaped at in 2003 before integrating the iPod into our lives and now being unable to live without it? Where are those flashy laptops with the pretty, indented apple logo that don’t run on Windows and are inherently intuitive? Why does the iPhone 5 have so many issues?

I guess it all leads up to the grand question: Where is Apple these days?

Let’s find a solution. Here’s a crash course in the basics of branding: it begins with defining your company’s personality or identity and building off of that.

Rob Frankel, an author and branding expert in L.A., spoke to BusinessWeek about branding and had some wonderful advice that Apple and Tim Cook may want to consider:

“Branding is about getting your prospects to perceive you as the only solution to their problem. Once you’re perceived as ‘the only,’ there’s no place else to shop. Which means your customers gladly pay a premium for your brand.”

Is the iPad mini going to continue to convince customers that Apple is the only destination for 7 inch? No. Absolutely not. Samsung has the Galaxy Tab. Google has the Nexus. And Amazon has the Kindle (Fire).

As Apple steps further and further from the revolutionary ideas that defined it in the first place—from it’s personality—its competitors are catching up.

Check out this article from BusinessWeek, describing how Samsung is the brand that’s hot on Apple’s tail. In fact, the article reports that Samsung outsold the iPhone during Q3:

“Strategy Analytics says that more Samsung Galaxy S III phones than Apple iPhone 4S handsets were sold in third quarter of this year. Samsung Electronics moved 18 million such handsets, while Apple sold 16.2 million during the three-month period, says the research firm.”

I can’t decide whether competitors are catching up to Apple now because it was only a matter of time, or if it’s because Apple has quit being the innovative powerhouse it once was. What I do know is that when my cell phone contract runs up, I’m considering ditching my iPhone for the Samsung Galaxy—and I never would’ve thought to do that two years ago.

The Truth Behind Whole Foods’ Appeal

Credit: Creative Commons

We all love shopping at Whole Foods, don’t we? The prices may be high (a myth I am about to debunk), but the interior is shiny, alluring, and has samples.

As a brand, Whole Foods has a reputation for clean, fresh food, especially if you have a special diet regimen such as vegan or gluten-free. It’s also well-known for its emphasis on employee healthcare. The Whole Foods healthcare plan encourages workers to work out and stop smoking in order to pay less for health care.

But, back to the point. How does Whole Foods remain so appealing to its shoppers? An article in BusinessWeek breaks it down for us (with fun cartoons!).

The highlights:

  • Whole Foods used to be overpriced, it says—living up to popular perception—but the recession forced it to slash prices.
    (The question remains as to whether Whole Foods needs to promote its brand as cheaper now. Will a post-recession advertising campaign talk about its lower prices? Or will doing so draw attention to the fact that its prices were high in the first place?)
  • Employees are encouraged to do things for customers, such as cut melons in half for the to purchase or open boxes of food for them to taste, if they ask.
  • The main competition for WF is Trader Joe’s. As a result, almost all of the groceries put out by WF’s store brand, 365, mirror TJ’s prices.
  • Feel like you’re filling up more in your WF shopping cart these days? That’s because the company has increased the size of its carts over the past three years, citing an ability to grow revenue by 40 percent.

iMessage Goes Down, and Twitter Goes to Town

  1. Around 3 p.m. today, Apple iMessage service went down. Reliability is at the core of Apple’s services. Its brand depends on satisfied customers—and the more often Apple introduces gaffes, such as its faulty Apple Maps app and this iMessaging blunder, the fewer loyal customers will remain.
    While Apple’s brand is known for its unbelievably loyal “fanboys,” there are clearly many vocal users who speak out against the brand when it wrongs them.
  2. kakabadze
    Apple’s iMessage service is currently suffering from systemic downtime http://flpbd.it/KbjvO

    Sun, Nov 18 2012 14:16:42
  3. kennawilkinson
    RT @TaylorBerger_: iMessage is nice and all when it actually works

    Sun, Nov 18 2012 14:16:41
  4. Savannah_Lee1
    RT @spoiledbratprbz: Come back to me, iMessage. I’m not going to survive much longer without you.

    Sun, Nov 18 2012 14:17:33
  5. _lauradoe
    RT @yhpaige: imessage isn’t working? http://pic.twitter.com/AMX593AK

    Sun, Nov 18 2012 14:19:44
  6. Brodsto77
    RT @Canadagentleman: Seriously Apple? One of the worlds largest tech giants & you can barely keep your messaging service running? #iMessage

    Sun, Nov 18 2012 14:21:50
  7. _leemitchell
    thought it was only blackberrys that had problems with the network, not apple!

    Sun, Nov 18 2012 14:25:44
  8. paige_ashleyy
    I guess Apple decided that we should all go Amish for the day.. #iPhoneProblems

    Sun, Nov 18 2012 14:30:21
  9. A consortium of Tweeters believe Apple’s brand has been mishandled and weakened since Steve Jobs’ passing in 2011.
  10. LeeRoge
    apple have gone down hill since Steve Jobs died.

    Sun, Nov 18 2012 14:22:42
  11. peteypabz92
    RT @realmisacampo: I’m pissed that Steve Jobs passed away. Apple is really, really effing up my iPhone love. Dropped the ball, dropped the ball.

    Sun, Nov 18 2012 14:29:38
  12. mywayorBUSHWAY
    Wake up Steve Jobs, we got a problem with iMessage down here.

    Sun, Nov 18 2012 14:23:56

Microsoft’s Little Angel: Let’s Just Call it “Halo”

You may have heard by now that Halo 4, the uber-popular video game produced by Microsoft, took in a small fortune in its first 24 hours on sale. While the rest of us were out voting last Tuesday, Halo 4 was raking in $220 million, or the amount that Disney’s successful Wall-E took in after 28 weeks in theaters.

Let’s all ask the question that’s on the mind of non-gamers like myself: What the heck?

To begin, we’ll look at some stats, as reported by The L.A. Times:

  • Microsoft projects “Halo 4” will generate more than $300 million of sales in its first week.
  • More than 4 million people played the game in its first five days, devoting more than 31.4 million hours (some copies of “Halo 4” may have been played by multiple people).
  • Microsoft also said that episodes of a companion live action series it produced, titled “Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn,” have been viewed more than 46 million times online.

Sometimes, amidst all the lucrative movies and television, it’s easy to overlook the draw of the gamer market. But it’s loud and alive, as proven by big releases such as this.

Credit: Microsoft-news.com

What makes Halo 4 such a draw? Microsoft certainly did a boastful job in promoting the release. A Halo glyph display of more than 113,000 LED lights and 50 feet in diameter flew over the Thames River in London last week, attached to the company helicopter and visible for miles. Tell me that wouldn’t get your attention!

Before Microsoft breaks out the champagne to toast this record-breaking success, I’d take a second to consider the month: with the holiday season upon us, shoppers will be looking for gifts, deals, and retail appeals. The all-time record for highest sales by a video game on its debut day is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which bowed at $400 million in 2011.

The latest Call of Duty, Black Ops 2, hits stores today. Is that a record I hear smashing in the background?