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The Best-Selling Games of the Holiday Season

Reading through the “advergaming” article on Wikipedia, I came across a link to a press release on Gaming Nexus about the following:

“Released on Nov. 19, more than 2 million [Burger King] Xbox games have been sold in just four weeks — making it the best-selling collection of games published for the Xbox/Xbox 360 platforms this holiday season.”

These are those games advertised on television — Sneak King, Pocketbike Racer, and Big Bumpin’. I guess these are the latest marketing ploys of BK’s newish ad house Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the folks responsible for the Subservient Chicken (amongst other viral tricks).

Anyway, a few things:

One: Has anyone played any of these? Apart from the blatant marketing, are they good games? The descriptions make them look a bit generic and simple — but they’re $4 games. Maybe they’re $8 worth of fun.

Which leads me to: $4 games? We touched on this issue in class, I believe, about how much of the economics of designing and building a game are dependent on the $30-$50 sales price range. It takes millions of dollars to make something the consumer will put out that amount of money to play. What happens if players get used to paying less that $10 for a game?

Finally, these games have apparently done huge things for BK’s bottom line. (Quarterly earnings up 40%?!) Are they a fluke, or might this become a viable future venue for advertising. People are willing to sit through 10 minutes of commercials for a free hour-long television program, after all. Web-based games aside, I can’t think of many home console “advergames” besides these and the 7UP “Cool Spot” game from the early 90′s.

Anyway, this seems to be a crucial event in the history of gaming and marketing. It’s a bit sleazy and manipulative as all marketing must be, but maybe worth talking about in the context of the business of making games. Especially if it turns out these games don’t actually suck.

3 Comments

  1. Bob wrote:

    I actually enjoyed the SNES/Genesis “Cool Spot” game. Wasn’t it designed by David Perry, or some other people who went on to Shiny Entertainment? But yeah, it did feel like an extended commercial for 7-Up, which I didn’t mind so much when I was in grade school. Other attempts at building solid games which also advertise products haven’t fared so well, in my memory. Remember “Yo ‘Noid”? Then again, we’re also forgetting the major market of tie-in games for movies, comics and TV shows, which have been around for about as long as video games. Aren’t pretty much all those games mere commercials in ther form of games?

    Saturday, February 3, 2007 at 9:18 pm | Permalink
  2. frank wrote:

    > One: Has anyone played any of these?

    Yes. I played “Sneak King”, which is widely agreed to be the best of the bunch.

    > are they good games?

    No.

    Well, the answer is more complicated than that, but basically no, Sneak King pretty much sucks as you might expect.

    The production values are fairly impressive within the actual game itself, things like the 3D engine, animation, textures, and lighting. Not amazing, but quite good. The game interface stuff was surprisingly amateurish and under-designed by comparison.

    As for the gameplay, it was pretty flat and repetitive. Basically a watered down version of the stealthy parts of MGS. No depth, no variety, some challenge, very little reward.

    One thing of note is that the game has a curious style, a distinctive, kind of creepy, tone that matches the BK tv commercials, and it’s quite effective. I think it really shows how LITTLE style most videogames have – how incredibly bland and predictible they are in terms of style, whether that style is grotesquely hyper-violent or saccharine-sweet, most videogames lack any sense of distinctive personality.

    However, this personality is purely surface. The actual play of the game, the actual player experience (both moment to moment and overall) is quite generic.

    Regarding economics, and the repurcussions of game pricing, I think they are complicated and interesting. However, at the end of the day, for me anyway, the real cost of a game is the time I put into learning it and playing it.

    Saturday, February 3, 2007 at 9:20 pm | Permalink
  3. Charles wrote:

    I don’t think that this is a fluke. What it is however, is a novelty. I think that if Burger King keeps doing this, and their competitors start doing it, then everyone will begin to see lower returns on their investments pretty fast. What’s really interesting to me is that I feel like it’s an inversion of the usual lisence model. Where it used to be that a terrible game would sell because it was associated with a popular license, now it seems like a well-known lisence is selling simply because it is a game, terrible or not. This seems to me to be a great indicator at how far gaming has come in terms of popular culture. Then again, my knowledge of the history of advertising isn’t very extensive, so maybe all this isn’t as unprecedented as I’m making it out to be.

    Sunday, February 4, 2007 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

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