A recent study claims that the average consumer inadvertently gets exposed to around 5,000 advertisements per day, which is a pretty lofty number. Even those who opt to stay indoors are buffeted with online advertisements and email spam, and even YouTube binges flaunt one product or another during mandatory commercial breaks. Video games are often one’s escape from the hustle and grind of life (and its included ad-spam), but sometimes even this medium throws ads at consumers.
While it makes sense for race sponsors to feature their brand in racing titles or for Nike to sponsor some sideline advertisements in sports games, sometimes advertising companies absolutely fail to make an ad blend in its host video game. In many cases, there was no subtle effort even made to try and make the ads blend into their digital surroundings, and in other cases the advertisements were just plain strange. In either event, we’ve taken the liberty of rounding up what we believe to be some of the worst offenders seen in the industry yet.
Alan Wake Watches A Verizon Commercial
Alan Wake is a psychological thriller, and players will spend a large portion of the game keeping up their battery supply so that Wake can keep up his fight against the darkness. While the game features some logical branding like Energizer batteries that he hunts down for his flashlight, things take a turn for the worse if players opt to turn on a television found partway through the game. The cryptic scene around Alan is quickly replaced with generic commercial tunes, and a real-life commercial for Verizon will begin to play. As if this wasn’t strange enough, achievement hunters have to sit through the entire Verizon commercial if they want to collect the ‘Boob Tube’ achievement.
Many fans weren’t happy that developer Remedy Entertainment locked an achievement behind an in-game commercial, while others just felt that the ill-fitting Verizon commercial came from far out of left field and detracted from an otherwise immersive game. Remedy would later release DLC called The Signal, and within it Alan Wake depends on a Verizon cell phone to keep in communication with someone. We’re not joking when we say that another character actually says “Can you hear me now?”, so fans should probably count themselves lucky that Remedy stopped just short of putting the guy from those old Verizon commercials into the game itself.
Obama Campaigns In Paradise City
Political parties spend a significant fortune during election season, and 2008 was no different: Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain collectively spent over a billion dollars scrapping up potential ballots from on-the-fence voters. The younger demographic tends to vote in far lower numbers than their elders, but the Obama campaign had an idea to reach the youth of America: why not reach out to them in an untouched, digital area? This place was, of course, the high octane streets of Burnout Paradise.
The unique advertisements ran for a month across Xbox 360 consoles in 10 different states, with the majority of those states traditionally being held by a Republican majority. Electronic Arts reportedly approached John McCain to see if he would like to offer a digital rebutle to the encroaching digital Democrat, but his campaign manager passed on the videogame-based campaigning. While there’s no telling how much of a difference this decision made, in the end Paradise City drivers may have voted early for the future President in a place where few would have expected him to be.
Homefront: Home Of Hooters
When one realizes the entire premise of Homefront is that a unified Korea invades the United States in an effort to crush the western ways of life, it’s downright surprising that the entire game is littered with Hooters restaurants that have, at least structurally, seemed to have avoided taking any damage. It seems like every city block in San Francisco has a Hooters on it, and at one point a voiced character literally shouts “Quick, get in the Hooters!” as the action gets heavy. Bafflingly, developers Kaos Studios didn’t make a cent from the chain’s in-game presence: it wanted to make a more believable America, which apparently means littering the streets with Hooters locations.
The game is also littered with White Castle locations, the first one of which arrives as soon as the players get through the railroad opening sequence. There’s also a giant TigerDirect store, and gamers who return to the game anywhere during Chapter 3 will be greeted with a menu screen prominently featuring its storefront. For its part, Kaos Studios only put in one TigerDirect location, and didn’t slather them on every city block like it was a Hooters or something.
SimCity Awkwardly Adds Overpowered Nissan Buildings
Electronic Arts made a surprising move and released free downloadable content for SimCity for those who stuck with the game through its woeful launch. The free content was none other than a Nissan Leaf Charging Station, a rare piece of branded SimCity content that otherwise blended in with the hustle-and-bustle that comes with SimCity life. However, in order to make sure people actually placed the Nissan-branded stations instead of ignoring them, Electronic Arts made sure the charging stations were (no pun intended) extremely overpowered.
The city planning aspect of the game itself is thrown out where the Nissan Leaf Charging Stations are concerned: placing one brings a city-wide happiness boost regardless of where the citizens are, and drivers will travel limitless distances to go charge their vehicles at the Nissan Leaf Station. The stations require no workers to run, and oddly enough don’t require any electricity either, meaning the station must have the world’s most efficient solar panels on top. In any event, this is one piece of in-game advertising that players just can’t “leaf” alone.
Mario Kart Rolls With Mercedes Benz
Nintendo shocked fans this year by revealing that Mario would be interacting with regular-sized humans in New Donk City, with the plumber’s short stature making him an obvious stand-out on the street. Equally strange was when Mario Kart decided to include Mercedes-Benz DLC, meaning the crazy world of blue shell calamity, banana slips, and kite-gliding autmobiles would now be graced with the presence of slick metallic vehicles aimed at business executives.
It goes without saying that the Mercedes-Benz downloadable content feels extremely out of place, and few Mario Kart fans would have predicted they’d be driving a GLA-class SUV along Rainbow Road before the DLC was announced. Mercedes-Benz was evidently happy with the partnership, because it later added an SUV-driving Mario as a costume option in Super Mario Maker, exclusive to those who completed the Mercedes-Benz Jump’N’Drive course.
Hey, who could blame a New York plumber for snatching up any opportunity to drive a Benz?
Final Fantasy 15 Just Loves Cup Noodle
We’ll just go out and say it: Final Fantasy 15 has a mighty strange love affair with Nissin Cup Noodles. Billboards and trucks for the food brand can be seen all over Eos, but evidently Square Enix and Nissin thought that blatantly showing off the brand in logical in-game advertising locations wouldn’t be enough. The companies have now announced everything from an in-game Cup Noodle Helmet for Noctis to real life noodle cartons based around bosses from the entire Final Fantasy series.
In turn, Nissin produced the above tie-in video with Final Fantasy 15, where the company ‘improves’ the trailer by adding Cup Noodles to every scene. It features everything from a giant Cup Noodle as part of a platform to the Ragalia driving along with a huge pile of Cup Noodles in the back, with several of them falling down to the road as the vehicle progresses. Somewhere, somebody had to go through and edit the physics behind a vehicle loaded to the brim with Cup Noodles. Forget labeling this as weird in-game advertising – this is a work of art.
Phantasy Star Portable 2 Pizza Hut Armor
Out of all of the weird in-game advertisements listed, this one probably takes the cake (or is that pie?) for the strangest. SEGA Japan was evidently hungry when staff were working on post-launch content, as the studio not only decided it would add an actual Pizza Hut location in one of the game’s worlds, but it also decided that gamers would love to deck out their warriors in Pizza Hut armor – after all, nothing makes a better shield than a cardboard pizza box.
Along with the shield comes a pizza-pan sword, a Pizza Hut costume, and even Pizza Hut’s Japanese mascot Cheese-Kun, who has figurines that made their way in as purchasable house decorations. The restaurant itself sells legitimate in-game items like seafood pizza, cheese pizza, and coffee, which restore valuable hit points for the wounded warrior. While it demonstrates exactly how out-of-the-box advertisers will go to reach an audience, we have to compliment SEGA Japan for inadvertently making the world’s easiest Halloween costume.
It goes without saying that the above companies really went above and beyond to get their products noticed. While some evidently attempted to blend into their host games, others either hoped to be strange enough to be worth noticing or simply just didn’t care. Whether gamers are being told who to vote for while they race down city streets, or are simply being encouraged to eat some comforting Cup Noodles during times of war, at least one thing seems to remain consistent: these kinds of weird advertisements will always keep coming.
What do you think is the best example of weird in-game advertising, Ranters? Did we miss anything?