Cannes Lions

Xbox: Made From Dreams

215 McCANN, San Francisco / MICROSOFT / 2021

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Xbox was launching their next generation video game console, the Xbox Series X. But the average gamer didn’t see the point. Graphics and processing power were already great and there was a feeling that the next-generation machines would only offer minor, incremental improvements.

Dispelling that perception would be hard because there’s some truth to it. While next-generation consoles are a step change, the launch games aren’t. Until game developers have enough time to optimize their games to the new specification, games on the Series X won’t look dramatically different than games on the current generation console. The marketing challenge was clear: How do you get gamers talking about (and lining up to buy) our new console when the games don’t look or feel like an improvement? Our objective was to drive engagement, media buzz, and ultimately sales during the launch window.


To prove that the Series X has the power to bring gamers dreams to life, Xbox created a first-of-its-kind dream study. Xbox partnered with one of the world’s leading research universities to conduct an experiment that analyzed the dreams of gamers after playing the Xbox Series X for the first time.

To capture each dream, researchers used a breakthrough research method called Targeted Dream Incubation (TDI). Gamers were guided to a semi-conscious sleep state known as hypnagogia, which can be pinpointed by the breakthrough technology within the Hypnodyne headband they wore. During hypnagogia, we begin to dream, but can still hear the world around us. This is when each gamer was asked to describe their dreams after playing the Series X. At the end the study, the dream data was sent to artists and creators, who stayed true to each of the gamers’ subconscious narratives when bringing them to life


Research showed our gamer audience expressed limited enthusiasm to skepticism around the next-generation consoles. They were not passionate about the high-tech specifications. They were, however, interested in the actual experience they might have when playing.

We reframed our thinking from what they play on to why they play. Despite stereotypes to the contrary, gamers brains are made better by games. Gamers don’t play graphic fidelity; they play to expand their experiences beyond their reality. Imagination, creativity, and curiosity are rewarded in games. As a result, games make us dreamers. The console Xbox was launching was not a ten-pound black box called the Series X, it was the squishy three-pound enigma between gamers’ ears. The hardware was simply a means to an end. Our strategy was to show that all the power of a new gaming console existed to bring gamers’ dreams to life.


Made from Dreams is a first-of-its-kind dream study that consisted of gaming influencers play specific games on the Xbox Series X for the first time and having those game influence their dreams. The data collected from their dreams was then matched with a specific type of artist/creator that works in medium that aligns with both the gamer and the specific game they played. The dreams were realized in different digital art forms – film, digital art, augmented reality, audio – which were released on Xbox’s social channels. The creators, gamer participants, and game studios also shared the content on their social channels.

MoonLiteWolf played “Halo Infinite” and “Ori and the Will of the Wisps” and dreamed a non-linear narrative that was adapted into a film by an Oscar-winning director. MoonLiteWolf and the real dream scientist played themselves in the adaptation.

EmericaGirl24 played Cyberpunk 2077, a futuristic dystopian game that influenced her to dream of plugging accessories into her head. The dream data was then adapted into a series of Instagram and Snapchat AR filters created by an augmented reality specialist.

Stallion83 played Assassins Creed Valhalla, and a digital visual artist specializing in video loops brought to life the expansive world he described in his dreams.

BlindGamerSteve, a visually-impaired gamer, played Destiny 2. His dreams were turned into an immersive 3D audio story so that everyone could experience how blind and low-vision gamers dream.


The Series X launch was the most successful in Xbox history. By every measure the campaign beat its benchmarks, driving awareness, buzz and ultimately sales.

The launch campaign generated a significant lift in awareness among our target audience. Brand attribute measures for innovation and leadership rose dramatically, a strong indicator the power of the Series X was coming though in an emotional and memorable way.

The campaign sparked curiosity and intrigue, even more than when the console was first revealed. Our social media efforts during the launch window generated higher total engagements than any preceding Series X marketing beat. And net sentiment, measured via social listening, was 99% positive.

This gamer excitement drove demand. There was a significant lift in purchase intent beating benchmarks, and Xbox recorded record sales, making the Series X their best console launch in history.

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