BK Cooks Up Branded Xbox Titles

  |  October 7, 2006   |  Comments

Burger King plans to offer three Xbox games to restaurant customers, and eventually to put five million units in the hands of gamers of all ages.

The King, Subservient Chicken, and Brook Burke will make the move from the Internet to the Xbox game console on November 19. That's the date Burger King plans to begin offering three branded video games for the Microsoft console alongside its fast food fare. The chain hopes to eventually move five million copies at $3.99 a piece.

BK worked with Blitz Games to develop the titles, which include "Pocketbike Racer," where players ride miniature motorbikes, "Big Bumpin," a carnival-style bumper car racing game, and "Sneak King," where the King sneaks up on people and bestows them with a Burger King meal. Each game will have an "Everyone" rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board and be designed to appeal to a range of players.

"We just like to say they're easy to play, but they're difficult to master. They're enjoyable for anyone at any age, and definitely have attributes that appeal to core gamers," said Burger King Spokesperson Adrienne Hayes.

As with other Xbox and Xbox Live titles, the BK games will come in a bright green jewel case. Each disc will contain separate Xbox and Xbox 360 versions. The 360 version is XLA certified, meaning it supports online multiplayer game play and will have achievement goals typical of a retail release.

"It's not just an Xbox game that you can play with the Xbox 360," said Hayes.

In-game advertising is nothing new to Burger King. The company previously brokered product integrations with EA's "Need for Speed" and "Fight Night Round 3." The King actually appeared as a character to fight in the latter title. The company is not likely done with in-game advertising. "Branding integration is a very relevant, popular marketing execution for us," said Hayes.

The volume of units produced is higher than the run of even some popular retail releases; Burger King clearly hopes the low price tag and its vast in-store distribution channel will move product. "A really successful game sells about a million units," said Kevin Browne, Microsoft's GM of new media and franchise development, during an Advertising Week session in New York. Over 5.1 million Xbox 360 consoles were sold by the end of June this year, and Microsoft expects to have an installed base of 13 to 15 million units by next June, he added.

Game publishers typically pay licensing fees of about $7 to $10 to Microsoft for each unit sold for the system, according to Billy Pidgeon, an analyst at IDC covering the video game market. "That's going to vary," he said. "They'll make special deals with people based on volume, and exclusivity can result in a much lower licensing fee." In the current case, however, where the release is structured more like a marketing deal, he said it's likely there are no licensing fees. Burger King declined to comment on manufacturing fees.

Launching branded video games for direct distribution to consumers carries a definite risk for marketers, given the associated development costs and the fickleness of the gaming community, and is hence rather rare. Should the approach become popular, marketers may eventually begin offering branded games for download via connected systems like Xbox Live, as some have done with free music offers in iTunes. However, that approach lacks the gratification of physical media.

"I would expect to see more games like this delivered over Xbox Live, it would be more economical," said IDC's Pidgeon. "Then again, having something physical to take away is pretty useful when dealing with the fast food environment. You might lose a lot of that momentum if you say, 'here's a ticket to download a game.'"

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Enid Burns

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