We all know that advertising in video games is a rampant issue in the industry. If you’re any sort of veteran you’ll remember how it was back in the NES days and all the product placement games we’ve run into. Things have quieted down a bit through the years and advertising has calmed down considerably but it is still there. Recently I picked up PAYDAY 2 (Damn you Steam sales!) and they pulled off one of the best advertising campaigns I’ve seen in a game. I want to talk about why it is so good and why others have failed so miserably.
I’ll Take Some Gameplay with My Advertisements
If any of you are as much of a veteran as I am you’ll be able to recall some old games that were made just to sponsor a product. You know that Kool-Aid Man game on the Atari, McDonald’s game for the original Nintendo and the classic Cool Spot - the thinly veiled 7-Up game - on the Genesis. Oh, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
The point of bringing this time up is the fact that we can recall how prevalent advertising was in the industry. All of the top gaming magazines at the time had often ridiculous and over-the-top ads for their various games. Selling a product by any means possible was the way it was done back in the day. Just take a moment to think of when you were flipping through comic books, your gaming magazines, your childhood cartoons and playing your video games. You couldn’t go five minutes without an ad in your face.
The Modern Age of Advertising for Games
We still get some weird reoccurrences of the marketing strategy of yester-year in the form of some cartoons like Beyblade, Pokemon and the odd revival of Biker Mice from Mars in Scandinavia. For the most part, however, advertising in video games has calmed down remarkably. Sure you get some cross game promotions like DLC dependent on if you own another game or like Minecraft’s line of Lego toys. For the most part it has been a clam era of advertising.
Well, except for those pesky campaigns that requires you to purchase a ridiculous amount of some product to get a benefit in a game. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is in the middle running one where if you buy some crazy amount of Mountain Dew and Doritos you get a bonus in experience and all this other stuff. It gets kind of incredibly crazy to the degree they want you to go to so that you can get all of this nifty gear: download a 7-Eleven app, buy some crazy amount of drink and chips and apply all those codes to get the bonuses. You don’t have to buy in, obviously, but if you want to be “ahead of the game” you have to purchase these things and get the best bonuses!
This is where we are at and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. On one hand I want to say it is better that we don’t have the silly games like before that are just constantly pushing product into our face. On the other hand I feel like we’re at an age where that whole ‘purchase all these cereal box tops and mail them in to get a nifty toy’ thing spun way out of control. In either case I don’t feel influenced to go out to get these things after an advertisement runs in my face that I should get them for these bonuses.
PAYDAY 2 Gets My Money
One form of advertisement that has completely influenced my decision has been how PAYDAY 2 recently ran an update to their game that features John Wick from the upcoming self-titled movie featuring Keanu Reeves. PAYDAY 2 has updated the game to include John Wick as a character you can play as, gives you the opportunity to get all of these new items based off of John Wick and even offers a whole new skill tree. Did I mention that this is all for free for any player to enjoy regardless if they want to watch the movie or not. Did I also mention that they released an awesome video clip to go with it?
Now before you guys start saying that someone is putting some advertising money into someone’s pocket for this article I want to say that is not the case. This is all me just stating that I am thoroughly impressed by this advertising campaign. Prior to PAYDAY 2 I didn’t even care about the movie and didn’t plan on seeing it. PAYDAY 2 with all the silly references it makes to the movie and to the degree they went out of the way to influence me has won my wallet in this case.
Not only did they do it right, they did it at the perfect time. Those of you with Steam likely saw that PAYDAY 2 was free for a weekend or two. They launched that John Wick update during that time. That is a brilliant way to advertise through Steam their game and the movie. I was playing brand new content the same time as everyone else for free. By the time that weekend was over I gladly bought the game and all of its expansions. OVERKILL has done this right and I am eager to see how else they upset some standards I’ve come to know within our industry.
Don’t get me wrong guys. I’m not trying to say I like advertising in any way nor do I want to see more of it. I hit skip on YouTube just like the majority of everyone else. All I’m saying is that if I have to suffer some advertising then I hope some people take a page out of OVERKILL’s book to make it interesting and mutually beneficial for everyone involved.