Advergames: Controlling Our Minds Since 1989

Advergames: Controlling Our Minds Since 1989



Worst: Sneak King

In 2006, Burger King released three games developed by Blitz Games. Customers could buy these for $3.99 after purchasing the BK equivalent of a Happy Meal. Originally, the games were intended to be released on Xbox Live Arcade, but it was decided that since they were so "high quality," they would get a physical release. Now, I'm not sure who goes around deciding which games head to XBLA and which ones become box products, but they should probably lose their job. I like the King's Creepy Stalker-ish antics as much as the next guy, but they're distinctly unfunny after more than 30 seconds; the length of an average commercial.

Sneak King is a stealth-action game a la Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid. The object of the game is to quietly deliver Whoppers to unsuspecting citizens. After you deliver the meal, the king does a creepy little dance and you move on to your next victim/customer/plaintiff.

And it took me longer to write that last paragraph than I could stand to play Sneak King.

Sneak King actually fits into an uncomfortable category of games. A lot of games are so unfun that there's a certain campy value to them, but the Burger King games are just good enough to sidestep all that charming campiness and just bad enough to be completely unenjoyable.

Though, I must admit, I did kind of want a whopper when I was done playing. But I probably would have gone to McDonald's out of spite.

Advergames: Controlling Our Minds Since 1989

The Weirdest: All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros.

The more I think about it, the more I am confused by the very existence of All Night Nippon Super Mario Bros. The game was part of a contest for the All Night Nippon radio program in 1996. It's exactly the same as Super Mario Bros., but many of the enemies have been reskinned and the princess has been replaced by a myriad of Japanese celebrities.

Advergames: Controlling Our Minds Since 1989

Actually, I kind of wish that Nintendo had kept the "Bowser kidnaps celebrities" theme going. I would always warp past the Elijah Wood level and pretend that Bowser had kicked him into a lava pit.

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The Most Backward: Pepsi Invaders

As if being the biggest soda company on earth wasn't good enough, the Coca-Cola Company commissioned Atari to develop a customized version of Space Invaders to in order to heckle Pepsi. Only 125 copies were printed and handed out to executives at a 1983 sales convention. Players were placed in the driver's seat of a Coke bottle and tasked with defending people from an onslaught of inferior Pepsi products.

Advergames: Controlling Our Minds Since 1989

I've actually played Pepsi Invaders, and I've always wondered why Coke didn't reverse the roles. It can be a very difficult game, and it takes forever to play, which means that Pepsi almost always wins. If I ever get my hands on a time machine, I'll probably point out this mistake to Coca-Cola's 1983 marketing team.

I might also tell them about my idea for an RC Cola/Coca-Cola advergame. Basically, players would control a Coca-Cola executive who can't stop laughing anytime RC Cola is mentioned.

Conclusion

The thing that most people don't understand about this type of advertising is that the purpose is actually not entirely about short-term product sales. It's actually more about building a long-term customer base. It's the type of "get them while they're young" advertising that McDonalds took all kinds of flak for after Super Size Me hit theaters.

And marketing companies haven't stopped making advergames. In fact, they're being churned out at a much faster pace. The difference is that they've found a home online instead of your beloved console. Toyota currently has a web-based game that allows players to customize their own Scion. Hot Wheels has a racing game. And the FDA recently put the kibosh on a Viagra advergame called "Viva Cruiser." I'll leave the content of that one to your imaginations, but I will mention that it involved a scooter.

Advergames: Controlling Our Minds Since 1989

Obviously, advertisers are willing to invest in this type of marketing, but is it actually working? I played Avoid the Noid and 7up's Spot games, and I don't feel particularly attached to these brands. Then again, I have a 2-liter of 7up in my fridge, and I ordered a pizza from Domino's tonight.

I wish that was a joke, but it wasn't. Obviously our corporate overlords are doing something right.

By Josh Engen
CCC Contributing Writer

*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*

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