Product Placement in Games Done Well
I’ve heard for a long time that product placement in games was coming. I know there have been a few Coke machines in shooter games here and there, but I haven’t seen a lot of it. The latest is product placement in social games. This seems to me like a great business idea, because the placement doesn’t have to be negotiated before game launch. You can launch your game, and then roll out a product placement as a special event. Which is what Zynga has been doing with Farmville lately–to great effect.
There have been three events over the last few months. The first was somewhat mixed: McDonalds was added as everyone’s friends for one day. If you visited the McDonalds farm, you got a free decorative McDonalds blimp and a McCafe. Drinking the McCafe makes you move really fast for one session. Sorta cute, but no big deal. The second placement was much more fun–crop insurance from Farmer’s Insurance. Everyone was given a Farmer’s Insurance blimp, and if you flew it over your farm your crops wouldn’t wilt, for a period of a couple weeks til the promotion ended. Crops wilting is a big hassle in Farmville, so this was a substantial benefit. Finally, today was Megamind day. To coincide with the launch of the new movie, Megamind was added as everyone’s friend for the day. If you visited Megamind’s farm, you got a Megamind decorative blimp and also a spray bottle of “mega grow.” The mega grow makes all your plantings ready to harvest instantly. If I’d known how cool it was, I would’ve saved it and plotted to do something more substantial with it like instant watermellon (which take 4 days normally). I was just expecting it to be a fertilizer–finding out what it really did was a fun surprise. Can I have more mega-grow? Please? If I go to the movie maybe? The Farmer’s and Megamind placements were more successful in my view because the game bonuses were actually substantial enough to matter. I have a warm fuzzy feeling about the brands and the advertising events because they enhanced my game play. And participation was voluntary–you could ignore them and they’d go away.
This is the first product placement in a game that has worked for me. Many people are spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to copy Zynga. Here’s an example of another success to ponder.