The Real Cost and Xbox make smoking a deadly game

Boy with headphones playing video game

At a glance

Goal: Generate awareness among teenagers around the consequences of addiction and the dangers of smoking, in a way that’s highly relevant and impactful so that they’ll never start in the first place.

Solution: Build a gamified, psychological thrill ride on Xbox that puts teens to the test to see if they’ll be the one to escape the horrors of smoking.

Results: The game has been installed over 861K times globally and counting.

Terrible addiction, brilliant approach

Research shows three out of four teenagers who think they’ll stop smoking, don’t1. That’s the morbid statistic behind FDA’s tobacco-prevention campaign hyper-targeted to an audience that is at-risk for tobacco use. The challenge became conveying this message to teenagers in a way that would be authentic, impactful, and entertaining. Rather than simply telling young people about the dangers of smoking, the FDA’s The Real Cost campaign turned to Verizon Media and Xbox to immerse teens in a virtual world with deadly consequences around every turn.

A scary good idea on Xbox

The Real Cost team worked with Xbox for a year developing One Leaves, a custom, free-to-download game available across the console. In the game, users explore a post-apocalyptic warehouse with gut-churning imagery evoking the dangerous outcomes of smoking. Players are warned at the beginning that as soon as they enter the world, their odds of getting out are only one in four - integrating the campaign’s key insight into the experience. Not only does the message behind One Leaves resonate with teens, but the game itself rivals the graphic and storytelling qualities of other major publishers on Xbox.

Breathing easy

One Leaves has been installed over 861K times to date. By engaging with teenagers through their consoles, the FDA was able to deliver a potentially life-saving message through an authentic experience, making a lasting impression at a critical moment for this audience. To overcome the dangers of smoking, Verizon Media and The Real Cost showed young people that the best way out is never going in.

Interested in replicating these results? Learn more about our premium integrations and partnership with Microsoft. Then, reach out to your sales representative or contact us


1 U.S Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults (Fact Sheet). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2012.

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