Thursday, 6 October 2011

Advertising and Games - Is There a Point that Crosses the Line?

Okay, before going on any further, watch this:

For those that don't know the character you're seeing in the movie above, that's Nathan Drake, the protagonist from the Uncharted series which has been one of Sony's best received IPs in this current generation. And yes, you are seeing Drake shill Subway merchandise because of the joint venture between the aforementioned company and Sony.

Now, I can understand the need for marketing. Publishers want their games to reach a wide audience, including those that might not otherwise consider purchasing them. Likewise, companies like Subway want to appeal to gamers, offering things like the early multiplayer and custom taunts, skins and what have you to the people that come into their stores, hopefully also engendering brand loyalty as well.

But is there such a thing as going too far? I believe in all honesty that there is. It's really hard to take that above commercial seriously, and considering the persona that Drake has built in the Uncharted universe, it probably seems a little odd to his fans to see him, drink and sub in hand, talking about how players can get in on the action with the "Taste for Adventure" promo. It all seems to smack of a rather elaborate joke, and I'm not honestly sure whether the fact it isn't makes it funnier or not.

Certainly this isn't the first time that we've seen games and characters being advertised in such a manner. Mountain Dew had pictures of Master Chief on their cans and bottles to help promote the Halo series at different points, and on the other side of things I remember when Burger King even released games starring The King in order to promote themselves with Xbox playing patrons.

This does, however, seemingly mark the first time that gaming promotions have gone this far. Many have joked about how in the future when there's a pause in the action the character might take a moment to swig a bottle of Fresca or something and then shill the product, but that was always brought up as a joke and nothing more. Now it seems like a little less of a joke and more like something that might be disturbingly close to happening more and more if this kind of marketing proves successful.

I don't have anything against something like Master Chief appearing on cans of Mountain Dew, but I think that it would have been a different story if he'd been in the advertisements saying stuff like "Mountain Dew is a flood of flavour, which is the only kind of flood I like." or something like that. Perhaps it's a bit preachy on my part, but I do honestly believe that characters do have amounts of integrity, even fictional ones. So to see a character hawking a product like that just comes off as wrong. Besides that, in cases like this it kind of works because Drake is a guy that, in terms of gaming, is relatively tame and human. What happens when people start seeing The Lich King selling freezies or Donkey Kong shilling bananas and ties? It can only get more ridiculous from here, and that's honestly what I'm afraid of.

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