The Xbox team this week launched the latest in the Forza racing franchise, Forza Horizon 5. Although playable across Xbox consoles, many critics have lauded the game’s next-gen, photorealistic visuals on Xbox Series X. The graphical horsepower was not only put to good use in making vehicles look incredible, but the developers at Playground Games have also aimed to “celebrate the culture of Mexico” in an authentic way, hiring a cultural consultant who also worked on the Pixar film Coco.
The marketing campaign played an important part in portraying Mexico’s role in the game too. Xbox worked with agency 215 McCann to create a “love letter to Mexico.” The spot features Cristo Fernández, famous for his Ted Lasso character Dani Rojas, acting in a dual role as both a bored rideshare driver and as an energized getaway driver who can explore the beautiful landscape of Mexico to his heart’s content.
The ad was not only filmed in Mexico by Mexico City native Tania Verduzco, but Latin American talent was prioritized throughout production. When it came to filling the lead role, Fernández was a perfect fit. 215 McCann creative director Nichole Geddes explained to Adweek, “When beginning our search for our driver, it was important for us to hire Mexican talent. Cristo Fernández, being from Guadalajara, was among the selects sent by the talent agency, and when we saw his headshot, there was a collective, ‘Dani Rojas!?’ gasp. Lucky for us, he had just finished Season 2 of Ted Lasso and was excited by the script.”
The Forza franchise, which ranks among the most popular racing series in history and amassed $1 billion in sales back in 2017, has managed to appeal to pure race sim fans through its Forza Motorsport line and open-world gaming fans through the Horizon series. As a day one release on subscription service Xbox Game Pass, Forza Horizon 5 is guaranteed to reach a sizable portion of the Game Pass base (over 18 million), and it certainly helps that racing remains a top genre for Xbox players. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, 22% of Xbox owners have played a racing game in the past three months compared to 17% of general gamers. Open-world action, of which Horizon 5 borrows elements, is also the top genre, with 29% of Xbox owners having played an open-world action game in the past three months.
Moreover, there’s some clear synergy between the Xbox audience and Apple TV+ subscribers, as 13% of Xbox owners currently subscribe to the service, compared to 12% of PlayStation owners and just 8% of the general population.