(the following was prompted by recent ridiculous screencaps from konami’s metal gear solid: peace walker from kotaku and kotaku japan)
ADVERTISING. a fundamentally basic concept that over the years has become so complex, twisted, and ubiquitous that sometimes i just can’t stand it anymore. and i know, you can’t either. modern advertising started with basic print ads in magazines and newspapers, then began to evolve. blank walls eventually began to become the canvas on which marketers and advertisers shilled their wares and peddled their goods. but then private property owners didn’t like that, and they ran out of walls. no problem! erect massive billboards – more wall for the shilling.
then came the 1980’s, and the dominance of product placement. product placement is an ad without the ad – sticking an item with your brand on it in a tv show or a movie to produce some consumer awareness. some do it perfectly – remember E.T.? remember the tremendous focus on reese’s pieces during that movie? worked great – didn’t take away from the film, didn’t explicitly shove product in your face, and worked it into the storyline pretty seamlessly. there are PLENTY more examples – as kids we drooled over super mario brothers 3 on the NES in the wizard, saw my big fat greek wedding‘s windex obsession, and (don’t lie) all wanted a delorean after back to the future. and on the topic of cars, let’s not forget will smith’s audi in i, robot. next came tv, and many were positive that we’d hit the saturation point.
NOPE. the silver and small screens weren’t enough. the emergence of video game markets over the last couple of decades has provided infinite digital space for advertisers to try to ram branded product down users’ throats. virtual billboards in racing games like need for speed underground 2 were emblazoned with burger king and old spice, the sims franchise struck a deal with alienware computers, and though second life doesn’t exactly count, ad space in that virtual world sells at a premium. sports games of course deal a lot with sports equipment – for example, you can be damn sure my golfer in tiger woods pga tour is rocking an odyssey putter, as there is one in actuality in my bag.
and i get it. video games really are the “now” as far as entertainment. the average gamer spends at minimum 5 hours playing per week, and that kind of exposure is great for advertisers. subconsciously players may associate the fun from playing the game with the associated advertisement, increasing their chances of buying those products and services. all of this stuff is on some level a necessary evil, as video games are in fact costing more and more to develop and produce with the huge strides in gaming technology. anyway, on to what the topic was SUPPOSED to be on…
metal gear: peace walker. what. the. hell? konami has packed this game so full of product placements it may as well be called pepsi gear doritos: walkman. hideo kojima and konami held a press conference last week in japan – not a release press conference, not a gameplay presentation, but a press conference to announce their product tie-ins and alliances. this included japanese manga and food items, as well as products the western world would be more familiar with – namely pepsi, mountain dew, doritos, sony walkman, and axe body spray. so why? why, after a slew of successful games in the MGS franchise, does hideo kojima decide to have all of these tie-ins? according to his twitter, “it’s because I want to surprise players. if there’s no surprise or freshness, then I’ll stop the tie-ins. It’s different from hollywood-style merchandising.” he also mentioned wanting to capture a younger generation of gamers – which is kind of confusing since every game in he franchise, including this one, is rated freaking M.
hideo kojima, i will tell you right now – this will bring zero freshness or anything new to the franchise. do you remember the good old days when keeping a game fresh meant creative writing and gameplay?
a bigger set of pictures and details from the press conference can be found at kotaku. so kick back and enjoy MGS: peace walker for the PSP – a handheld edifice constructed in the name of merchandising.