In the past, our publisher's legal department had to ask us to change or remove the logo on the front of the Opel blitz truck that the Germans used in WW2. They asked us to do that because we don't have the rights to use the Opel logo from 1944. If we did a product placement deal with Opel, we could use the logo and actually better fulfill the authentic promise we're making with our game.
These are just two examples where cooperation with brand owners via advertisers actually helps improve the authenticity of the experience.
Increased Budgets: Not all games are created equal. The difference between some games that have a great promise but don't quite fulfill it and the really great games is often about budget allowing the commitment to quality that most game makers have. The folks working on games that don't turn out so well generally care just as much as the developers for those that do; the difference is usually about budget. The better the budget, the better the game. If we can find ways that bring value to you and help us increase the budget, everyone wins - we think that it's a good thing to proactively look for opportunities where everyone wins.
Out-of-Game Promotion: Sometimes, cross-promotional activities exist outside of the game and the goal of these activities is to reach people. Examples include the special "Halo" version of Mountain Dew that was launched just before Halo 3 came out. The value that this kind of activity brings is that it gets more attention for the game. For people who care about our games, the idea of bringing more people to the games is very exciting. The community benefits by having more people to play with and share in the experience of playing, and can benefit from more support for the game post-launch.
These are the kinds of things we hope come from Double Fusion helping to connect Gearbox with advertisers. The smart and successful advertisers' goal is for you to trust and respect them. If their ads invade or injure our entertainment, we get angry and reject them. If, however, something feels natural and unintrusive, they get the value they were looking for.
So, please don't judge us by the fact that some folks out there do it wrong and with exploitation as their key driving factor. This is not our motivation or intent. Don't judge us based on fears that may not turn out to be true.
Instead, judge us from the result. If you see in-game ads for some stupid product that has nothing to do with the context in which it occurs and actually detracts from the experience, then you can feel justified in bashing the developer, publisher, or advertiser that made that decision.
However, if we can improve authenticity and make things feel better or more natural because of the right kinds of permissions with folks that have important brands, if we can make better games with higher budgets and if we can help bring more people to the games we love, then I think we're fulfilling our mission of creating entertainment that serves you – the gamers.
A challenge for the forums:
- What kinds of examples can you think of where an in-game, in-show, or in-movie product placement felt really good, natural and actually added value?
- Conversely, what are examples where it was done wrong and should be avoided?
Here’s some examples I thought up to start you off:
- Toy Story: The movie was better and more authentic because Mr. Potato Head was one of the toys, not in spite of it. The Pixar guys rule and do a great job, we respect them a lot! We respect their decision to use a few real toys in Toy Story – we don’t hate them for it!
- Cast Away: Tom Hanks’ character worked for FedEx. That was much more authentic than if he worked for some fictional over-night air delivery service.
- Super Monkey Ball: The bananas have the Dole sticker! I thought that was cool and funny, not cheap or sucky. It felt natural and was a nice detail that added character. It did not feel like an advertisement that was exploiting me.
[This opinion piece was originally made available on Gearboxity, the official community site of Gearbox, and is reproduced with permission here. If you'd like to comment directly in the Gearbox forums on this matter, a special thread has been set up for gamer and even developer feedback.]