Monday, November 5, 2007

Guitar Hero: guitars, groupies, and... Axe?

So, in my last post, I went on a slight rant about how, despite all the forecasts of huge amounts of advertising going toward video games, I still hadn’t seen any evidence of it actually happening. Well, here comes some of that evidence now. Recently released Guitar Hero III features a rather wide variety of real-life brands, which the company hopes will bring more realism to the game.

Many of these brands make perfect sense to have in the game, and do add to the over-all feeling of realism. The musical brands present include Gibson, Guitar Center Audio-Technica, Crate, Ernie Ball, Krank, Line 6, Mackie and Zildjian, as well as music publications Alternative Press, Decibel, Guitar Player, Kerrang and Paste. However, there are several brands represented in the game that seem not to belong. These include Axe Body Spray and Pontiac, which appear in the form of sponsored venues, guitars, and go-go dancers. On the one hand, it's true that real-life venues have sponsor logos everywhere you look, so the "realism" argument has some legitimacy, but on the other hand, it's a video game that people pay rather a lot of money to play which is now shoving irrelevant ads down their throats.

I'll say one thing for the ads in this game - people noticed them. At least that one aim of all advertising was achieved through this effort. What Axe and Pontiac did not achieve, however, is brand support. Game reviewer Alex Navarro of Gamespot said that it was "disappointing that Activision has finally decided to corporate up the Guitar Hero experience with a fair amount of lame product placement and dynamic in-game advertising." He later described the whole advertising experience in the game as simply "gross." One extremely miffed fan went as far as to want some of his money back for the overload of advertising he was forced to swallow in the middle of his game. In 10 comments replying to his post, other Guitar Hero lovers expressed their mutual disappointment in the prevalence of advertising that did not seem relevant to the game.

It is important to note that not a single person seemed to have a problem with the musical brands that were in the game. They all seemed to agree that this added to the realism of the game, and that it was fair for them to be there. It was the brands that have nothing to do with music that really seemed to bother people, and even take them out of the game. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - in-game advertising is a great way to get people to interact with your brand; but it has to make sense in the context of the game. Sponsored venues may have seemed like a realistic way to go about it, but it obviously stood out enough to bother the gamers. I am all for the continuation of in-game advertising as a way to break through the clutter present in other media, but if this is a sign of things to come, maybe I should worry.


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