The scents of juicy Taco Bell beef engulfed my nostrils as I walked inside The VUDE event space in Seattle on a sunny summer Thursday evening. Asteroids, Star Wars, Pac Man, and other old school arcade machines filled the entrance before I wandered through a dark hall and underneath a green neon Taco Bell logo into the future, where the new Xbox One X console appeared in a glass box and waitresses hoisted platters full of $5 Steak Quesarito boxes.
This is what happens when Microsoft and Taco Bell team up to throw a party.
This weekend in Seattle, the two corporate giants are hosting the “Taco Bell Arcade,” a pop-up shop of sorts to help promote both a high-powered gaming machine and budget-friendly Tex-Mex food.
The marketing stunt opens to the public Friday and Saturday evening, timed for the beginning of the annual PAX gaming convention held this weekend in downtown Seattle.
GeekWire got a sneak peek on Thursday at an exclusive launch party, where attendees had a chance to play Forza Motorsport 7 on the new Xbox One X, a more-powerful version of the existing Xbox One that launches Nov. 7.
Of course, there was also plenty of Taco Bell food and special Taco Bell cocktails (more on this later).
It’s a reunion of sorts for Taco Bell and Microsoft. The companies partnered back in 2001 for the original Xbox launch — check out this blast from the past which featured the “new” chicken quesadilla and a cell phone so advanced that it allowed users to play games:
Larry Hryb, the long-time Xbox Live Director of Programming better known as Major Nelson, stopped by the arcade on Thursday and told GeekWire that it was a “throwback to the heritage of what we started with Xbox.”
“It just kind of made sense when we sat down with them,” Hryb said. “The demographics are very similar and the timing worked out.”
Taco Bell customers who purchase the $5 Quesarito box — which includes a Quesarito, a nacho cheese Doritos Locos taco, a crunchy taco, and a medium drink — will receive a code that gives them a chance to win the new Xbox One X. Microsoft is giving away a console every 10 minutes throughout the promotion, which started Thursday and lasts until October 4 at participating locations.
“It’s one of the biggest promotions we’ve ever done,” Hryb noted.
He added that initial pre-order sales of the Xbox One X “exceeded” Microsoft’s expectations.
Matt Prince, a PR manager for Taco Bell, also noted the crossover in demographics between Xbox gamers and Taco Bell eaters.
“There’s a ton of overlap as far as the gaming community and the Taco Bell community,” Prince said.
Taco Bell did a similar pop-up shop this past September when it worked with Sony to host a VR arcade in New York City that promoted PlayStation VR. The fast food chain is partnering with other tech companies, too, as it recently made headlines for its new partnership with ride-hailing giant Lyft.
“For us, it’s a no-brainer,” Prince said of linking up with companies like Microsoft and Lyft. “We don’t want to keep thinking like a fast food company — we want to keep thinking like an innovator and keep pushing those boundaries.”
I can’t do this write-up without addressing the food, given that — for better or worse, mentally and physically — I’ve become the de-facto fast food reviewer for GeekWire.
I was actually pretty impressed with the Quesarito. It’s basically a rolled up quesadilla with meat, creamy chipotle sauce, nacho cheese, sour cream, and “Latin rice.” The cheese can get a bit excessive but the combination of ingredients is solid.
The crunchy tacos are self-explanatory, though I should call out the Doritos Locos Tacos — the seasoned taco shell is a definite upgrade.
Now, proceed with caution — you may not feel ready to run a marathon after finishing off a Steak Quesarito Box. In fact, a better option is to probably chill out and play some Xbox. Remember what those execs said about the crossover in demographics?
My only complaint about the party? No vegetarian options. My guest doesn’t eat meat and left hungry. So, naturally, we drove to a Taco Bell after leaving the Taco Bell event.
Those interested in checking out the Taco Bell Arcade can make a reservation by calling 206-219-5092. It’s open Friday and Saturday night from 6 p.m to midnight.