- Microsoft and Warner Bros. are running a social media contest to find the best new ideas for a video game tie-in for the movie sequel "Space Jam: A New Legacy," which will be released next summer in theaters and on streaming platform HBO Max. The campaign is part of Microsoft's effort to promote education in computer coding, per a company announcement.
- Basketball legend LeBron James, who stars in the film with Bugs Bunny and other Looney Tunes characters, announced the video game contest on his Instagram account. Two winners will see their ideas brought to life in the official "Space Jam: A New Legacy" arcade-style game that Microsoft will offer as a perk to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members next year. The prizes also include a virtual Microsoft coding workshop for winners' local communities.
- To get teens interested in coding, fans ages 14 and up can submit their ideas on a microsite that asks them to choose a gaming genre — such as "action shooter" or "sports brawler" — and describe their idea in fewer than 500 words. The contest started on Dec. 14 and runs through Dec. 30, per the announcement.
Microsoft's promotional tie-in with the Warner Bros. "Space Jam" reboot is novel in parlaying interest in video games among teens — which has grown during the pandemic — into support for coder education that prepares them for the workforce. Amid pandemic-related disruptions, the tech giant this year announced an initiative to help 25 million people, including those from underrepresented groups, to get new digital skills in the "COVID-19 economy." With video games acting as a gateway to an interest in technology, Microsoft is offering a variety of online resources to inspire young people to think about video game design as a profession. Its educational material includes "Space Jam: A New Legacy" coding workshops for beginners and Microsoft Learn lessons for more advanced coders.
Microsoft's tie-in with "Space Jam" comes as it promotes its new Xbox console as a rival to Sony's PlayStation 5. Both companies this fall introduced their first gaming platforms in seven years, and seek to drive a massive upgrade cycle that lasts into 2021 and beyond. The rollouts of their respective gaming consoles helped to drive an 80% jump in advertising spending to a yearly high for the video game industry, according to researcher MediaRadar. The industry spent more than $45 million on print, TV and digital ads during the first two weeks of November to prepare for the onslaught of orders for the holiday gifting season. The health crisis has interfered with global supply chains for electronics parts, making it hard for tech companies to keep up with consumer demand for hardware. Microsoft and Sony have indicated they expect console shortages to last into next year, adding an element of scarcity that may result in heightened hype around the new devices.
For Warner Bros., the campaign gives the studio an early start on promoting "Space Jam: A New Legacy." The feature is a sequel to the 1996 movie that paired live-action stars such as NBA legend Michael Jordan and Danny DeVito with animated characters including Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Parent company WarnerMedia, which is part of AT&T, this week stirred controversy with its plan to release all of its movies simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max next year. While the move has angered movie producers and theater chains, which have been slammed by pandemic closures, the health crisis' impact on moviegoing has forced studios to consider creative ways to deliver content. HBO Max also needs fresh content to help lift subscriptions. It currently has 12.6 million subscribers, far behind rivals Netflix with 195 million worldwide and Disney+ with 87 million, the New York Times reported.