While digital video-game opportunities continue to expand and many advertisers venture deeper into the space, most examples could be labeled simply as product placement, or worse -- logo slaps. However, the best programs will surpass simple product placement and effectively integrate their message into the actual game experience.
Last year's most successful game releases were the newest iterations from popular franchises, such as "Call of Duty," "Grand Theft Auto," and "Halo." Based on these success stories, game publishers are feverishly working to identify new intellectual property from development shops. Finding the next highly coveted franchise to compete with these heavy hitters could put a developer on the map or move a publisher to the list of elite video-game makers. For example, prior to 2005, not too many people had heard of game development company Harmonix or game publisher RedOctane. Following its successful release of "Guitar Hero" and "Guitar Hero 2," Harmonix was acquired by MTV Networks and later developed competing title "Rock Band"; RedOctane was acquired by Activision and later released "Guitar Hero 3."
Since blockbuster hits such as "Guitar Hero" don't happen every day, publishers have expanded their scope of concept ideation beyond just game developers to entertainment content creators. Electronic Arts (EA) partnered with movie director Steven Spielberg to create a puzzle video game, "Boom Blox," for the Wii console. "Boom Blox" is a strategy game that challenges players to solve nearly 400 levels of puzzles and allows them to create their own levels. Spielberg is reportedly signed on to do at least two more games. And EA recently announced a similar partnership with Zack Snyder, director of "300" and the upcoming "Watchmen," for three games. "I think video games are cool," told Snyder Game Guru, "because they offer an opportunity to tell a story in an entirely unique way."
As the emphasis on creating new concepts for games increases, the opportunity is right for marketers to integrate their brands into the experience. Instead of waiting for gaming partners to contact the advertiser with relevant product placements or licensing deals, marketers should take a proactive role in locating the next massive franchise. This partnership will work for a number of reasons:
With these points in mind, I challenge all of you great marketers out there to help bring next year's top-selling franchise to the forefront, with your brand playing an integral role. Your brand will receive an effective return, and gamers will love you for it.
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Matt Story is director of Play, a division of Denuo. He oversees the West Coast operation, maintaining key publishing and gaming industry contacts for the agency. With expertise and perspective from both the client and the agency side, he brings to bear dual strengths: interactive and videogame advertising and how they can transcend and evolve a client brand.
Matt and his team develop unique gaming integration programs on behalf of General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Miller, and others. In March 2007, he played an integral role in the 2007 Pontiac Virtual NCAA Final 4 tournament, powered by videogame "College Hoops 2K7."
Before joining Play, Matt was interactive marketing manager across P&G's antiperspirants/deodorants category. During his four-year tenure, he managed the creation of the first P&G blog, which supported the launch of Secret Sparkle Body Spray. He also led innovative development with the Old Spice brand's in-game integrations in multiple key videogame titles. To hear more from Matt and the various creative minds at Denuo, visit Denuology for their unfiltered perspective on the world at large.
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