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  • Book Excerpt: Game Design Complete: Advergaming and Sponsorships

    - Patrick O'Luanaigh
  • Understand the Brand

    No matter what specific techniques you use to convey advertising messages in your game, you first should spend some time researching the brand that you are using. Really get to know it and make sure that you and your team understand all of the important implications. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

    • What do people first think of when they come across the brand?
    • What demographic does the brand appeal to?
    • What are the strong and weak points about the brand?
    • Are there any negative aspects that people associate with the brand?
    • What types of advertising does the brand holder do with the brand?
    • Does the brand have staying power?
    • Will the brand be compatible with the “theme” of your game?

    Take a look at how the advertiser has promoted the brand in other areas. What do its advertisements look like? Is there a consistent theme running through the promotion? Take a look at the company's Web site and see how it perceives the brand. If you understand the brand, you are more likely to use it in the right way within the game. This has two benefits: it keeps the advertisers happy, and if they're happy, they are less likely to insist that you do more in the game with their brand, thus reducing the chance of people noticing overt advertising in the finished title.

    Branding a Game

    One obvious route is to get a brand name either in the name of the game or on the box or packaging. Adidas did this with soccer games a few years ago, and Nike is apparently working with Sony on a fitness product as I write this. In order for this to be worthwhile from a game designer's point of view, either you need to be offered lots of money or the brand needs to help you sell your game. If you are developing an unbranded athletics game, for example, adding Reebok might help you sell the game, but it does add authenticity and is therefore a good thing regardless of whether the company pays you money or not. Having a brand attached to the name can damage games, though. If journalists feel that you've slapped on a brand name to try and sell a bad game, word may well get round, and you could end up with a more negative public reaction than if you hadn't used the brand.

    Reality Check : The Adidas soccer game didn't do very well, but this was almost certainly due to the fact that the game itself wasn't great. The lesson is that you can't make a poor game sell by adding a well-known brand! In fact, if you use a brand that is perceived as being very popular and of very high quality, you need to go the extra mile to make sure that your gameplay is really good (of course, you'd be doing this anyway!). The people who buy a branded game are likely to purchase the game having very high expectations, especially if you are using a high-end brand.

    War Story : Fixing a Dull Game with a Cool Brand

    When I was at Codemasters we created a game called No Fear Downhill Mountain Biking . In this instance, the “No Fear” brand was added to provide authenticity. At the time, this brand represented a very cool high-status extreme sport image, and it fit the game very well. The company who owned the brand was able to use the game to help promote itself, and we had a cool label attached to an otherwise fairly dull game name, so both of us won in this situation.


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