World of Whatcraft? How gaming has changed – and not changed

Old School vs New School Gaming Advertising

Deja-vu in gaming advertising? Somethings don't change...

I am not a huge gamer. My experience with online gaming is limited to my Rock Band landing 689th place playing a rendition of The Knack’s “My Sharona,” which put us in the top 1% of the overall Xbox community. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud.

Because of this lack of knowledge, my social media class on gaming was a huge eye opening experience. I enjoyed watching my professor Mike run around the virtual world of World of Warcraft (suddenly that ‘Call of Duty’ episode from the office made a lot more sense.) I could not believe there was that many people inside that virtual world at the same time.

The idea of interactive computer games has been around for a while, and although the idea that you are interacting with real people – in real-time – in a virtual world is rather mind-boggling to me, it’s not something I would write home about.

What I do think is fascinating is the idea of using these games to make money, advertise, and promote real-life products.

Inside Second Life, Starwood Hotels established the aloft Hotel, which opened up online months before the real hotel even opened its doors. This fall, Massive‘s video game advertising network added many multi-player games, including World of Warcraft, major EA sports, and Guitar Hero.  Even back in October 2008, a Barack Obama billboard appeared in Burnout Paradise, making him the first Presidential candidate to purchase in-game advertising.

Beyond the video game world, I’ve noticed companies trying to get involved with online games within social networks. The game that stands out to me the most is that of Farmville, the online farming game that allows you to plant, grow, and manage crops. Last October, the game’s maker Zynga advertised a “Sweet Seeds for Haiti” program, allowing players to purchase limited edition sweet potato seeds that never wither and last one week. Half of the proceeds benefit charity. They recently also added in-game pop-ups advertising their other games.

Unofficially, I can also testify that the company BioTech approached Farmville with the idea of having Farmville showcase a special “BioTech seed,” which would grow faster/last longer etc. Farmville responded with a quote of $200,000 for a 2 week promotion. That is ridiculous!

Though this process nevertheless fascinates me, I’ve found it is hardly ground-breaking. In looking back through the years, you can see that these advertisements are nothing new: FIFA_International_Soccer

Above, an Adidas billboard is displayed in the foreground of the 1994 computer game FIFA International Soccer.

Cupa Chups in Zool

Also displayed is a screenshot of the “Sweet World” in Zool for the Amiga system (1992), in which the iconic striped Chupa Chups products can be seen in the background.

As you can see by these screenshots, and even the playful t-shirts above, advertising in games is not a new concept, but it’s one that has certainly evolved over time.

(Something tells me little ol’ Chupa Chups was not submitted to a $200,000 sponsorship fee.)

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