Saturday, October 13, 2007

Advergaming gone horribly wrong

So, last week I was talking about the Burger King games and asking why nothing along those lines had been done since they came out last year. I mean, getting your customers to not only see your message, but to interact with it for longer than they would ever spend with an ad is a good thing, right? However, this is really only the case if your game is executed properly; a message that apparently never reached Toyota when they were planning their new Xbox 360 game, "Yaris".

"Yaris" is the first game on Xbox Live Arcade to be fully brand-supported, making it free to download. It's a racing style game where you drive a Yaris down a futuristic looking track while shooting robots with a gigantic arm coming out of the hood of your car. The cars themselves are customizable, and you have a variety of weapons to choose from. You can race your friends or take out your robot enemies alone on eight different tracks. Why not? Sounds like as much fun as any other casual game I've heard of, at least for a few minutes - especially because it's free.

Well, not so much, according to Dan Dormer, a game reviewer for Joystiq. Dormer describes the game as: "Crafted in a circle of Hell even Dante didn't believe existed, the developers of Castaway Entertainment created Yaris with an objective I can only believe is to cultivate anger in those who play it." He goes on to describe how the game does nothing right, from the graphics to the controls to the online play, and concludes that Toyota should stay far away from all advergaming in the future, saying that scooping his eyes out with a rusty spoon would be more fun than playing the game. Ouch.

The rather unfortunate example of Toyota's venture into advergaming should serve as a warning to all advertisers. Games can be a great way to promote your brand and get people involved in your products. However, people can smell advertising from a mile away, and they almost never like it. They are not going to play your game just because it's there and they can't wait to interact with your product. Also, they are getting used to extremely sophisticated gaming with incredibly life-like graphics, and if your game doesn't make some effort to be worth their time to play, they won't. The heart of advergaming has to be the GAME, not the advertisement, which is what made the Burger King games so fun to play, and what could bring a lot of advergames in the future a good deal of success. Don't put any less effort into your games then you do in any other aspect of your marketing, or it will simply get thrown back in your face.

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