Why Product Placement In Quantum Break Is Fine

Product placement isn’t exactly anything new in the world of entertainment and it seems Remedy’s latest game Quantum Break also has its fair share of product placement but does the game take it too far? We see a ton of product placement of Microsoft products such as Windows phones and Windows 10 devices but with a game and a studio that is partnered with Microsoft in an exclusivity deal, it’s easier to swallow these instances of product placements. However, do advertisements of Nissan cross the line?

Product placement, brand integration or embedded marketing, is, according to the United States Government “any form of audio-visual commercial communication consisting of the inclusion of or reference to a product, a service or the trade mark thereof so that it is featured within a programme, in return for payment or for similar consideration”.

Product placement is very common in forms of media such as film and TV but it’s somewhat less common in forms of media such as video games. However, that doesn’t mean it’s never been apparent in video games. For instance, Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 3 made a deal with Subway to feature a subway t-shirt in the multiplayer section of the game and even had a TV ad with Drake holding a Sub. While some may see these instances of product placement in video games as egregious in nature, it’s worth noting that these sorts of deals can end up making quite a bit of money for developers and hence can aid towards making a game better.

In a case that is closer to home, Remedy’s previous cult classic ‘Alan Wake’ also featured some form of product placement. In Alan Wake, there are the batteries, and the fact that they’re all Energizers. Many were divided at the time whether this was intrusive to the experience or whether it added a level of realism to the game. Alan Wake also featured in game billboards for brands like Verizon and Energizers but since most of that game is spent in dark woods, even then it wasn’t much of a problem.

There is always a hoo-ha about this sort of thing. The sanctity of the games that we love always seem to be in danger whenever we hear of these sort of things but how big of a deal is it?

Well, product placements in video game software have been around since the 1980s. Back then, Sega was placing banners advertising Marlboro in its auto-racing arcade games. However, this kind of product integration isn’t always about the cash. Just as product placement in movies promotes credibility and realism in the movie, it can be said to have the same effect in the space of video games; making the “environment” of the game more lifelike and adding a layer of realism to a game.

Especially in the case of Quantum Break which boats perhaps the most sophisticated TV tie-in elements ever seen in a video game, it’s not too far off to presume that this kind of product placement is just that – a means of adding another layer of realism to the world and environment of Quantum Break.

However, there will inevitably be some who see this as a ‘dirty’ deal and will think that product placement or advertising like this has no place in video games. In some ways, and even more so than other mediums of entertainment, gamers can become very attached to video games and seeing things like this can leave a bad taste in the mouth of some. It seems that gamers have different views on the benefits of having in game advertisements in video games but how do you feel about them? Do you think in-game product placements such as Nissan with Quantum Break is a bad thing? Let us know how you feel in the comments below.

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  1. This is a truly horribly written article, completely bereft of any actual content or insight. How someone with your writing skills ever became journalist is completely beyond me. I don’t know how much you billed for this drivel, but the fact that you received any money at all for this means you were astronomically overpaid. You merely stated that different opinions exist, and provided no actual merits to the differing opinions, except your half-assed justification of in-game ads as a way to infuse “realism” into the digital world, which made you sound like more of a shill for the advertisers than the developers themselves!
    It’s a shame too, because this is a serious issue, which has the potential to shape the face of an emerging art form forever. The question of whether or not we the audience will accept and allow advertisements to encroach on the digital space will determine how gaming is viewed as a media and an art form. The same question was asked of the television audience, and I personally am not a fan of how that turned out. The basic complaint against product placement, which you failed to even touch upon, is that the need doesn’t currently exist for that income source. Yes, it can put a little extra cash in the developers pocket, but that’s not the economy the video-game industry is built upon! Video-gamers value and respect the product (for the most part) and pay significantly more than a television viewer or moviegoer for the experience. No other entertainment product even comes close to the $59.99 MSRP that is standard for most AAA titles, nor the $25-$40 that most really-good indie games will go for. And then when you factor in Downloadable Content Packs, and limited or collectors editions, you have plenty of opportunities for a developer to gain some extra income. If games were being streamed to our consoles for free, like a television or radio broadcast, then the question of sponsored content and in-game advertising would be a much different, and more necessary issue. I understand that people have to pay the bills, but gamers have demonstrated time and again that they’re willing to pay a premium on their media of choice to enjoy a safe space devoid of the corporate indoctrination that is so ubiquitously prevalent in our modern society. One should not, however, pay over 60 bucks (after taxes or shipping) for a digital product, and then be treated to an experience not unlike the television programming they can access for free. When you pay a premium for something, it should feel “premium”!
    Another big complaint against ad-infused game-worlds is that it robs the developer of the opportunity to fill the advertising space that WOULD exist in the real-world with a more creative amalgam. One of the best parts about RockStar’s GTA series is the in-game ads for fake in game stuff, which provide points of humor and social commentary into the game, and actually make the world feel more realistic within the confines of its own narrative (Which is truly the aim of any good simulation). In Bethesda’s Fallout series, in-game advertisements for pre-war products provide clever insight into the values and culture of the world before the bombs fell. Bethesda makes perfect use of this space to draw analogies to the hyper-patriotic advertising and propaganda of the WWII era, all the way into the fifties (which is the era the pre-war world seems to be based upon), and poignant commentary on our society and our values. This element truly helps make the setting, and even develops in game brands that Bethesda can then capitalize on through merchandising. “Nuka Cola” is a fictional soda brand that has a sort of brand loyalty with fans of the series, who would gladly buy and sport Nuka Cola brand merchandise as though it were an actual product in our world. Imagine if Bethesda had just used Coca Cola (the obvious real-world amalgam) for “realism” as you state in the article, like the developers of Alan Wake. Not only would they have missed the opportunity to create a brand that their fans can identify and respond to, but they would have damaged the immersiveness of their overall experience. One of the coolest things about Fallout is that you can get completely lost in the world of the game because every thing you see from the cars to the music to the objects is contained within the narrative of the setting, and requires no outside frame of reference. That is truly the mark of a perfectly crafted world, and would be completely lost if Bethesda had chosen to open up their franchise (even just a little bit) to real-world corporate advertisers. In other games like Bioshock, and even some of the Spider-Man games, in-game advertisements help clue the player in to upcoming plot elements, weapons and abilities. In Spider-Man 2, Treyarch put their own logo on the bilboards throughout New York, as sort of a tongue-in-cheek way of telling the player that an advertisement WOULD go there, but they chose to promote themselves instead. All of these examples of fantastic ways companies have utilized the “realistic advertising space” in their respective game worlds would have been cheapened if developers had had your mentality, and taken the easy and more lucrative option.
    The advertisements you show in the screenshots in your “article” look horrible and out of place, causing them to stick out against the natural backdrop of the game (which I guess is the point). They don’t look natural or realistic at all, since they don’t utilize the same light and shadows of the other objects around them, so they essentially look like someone photoshopped an big ugly ad into the picture and then turned up the brightness on it so it jumps out. These ads very clearly add nothing to the atmosphere and setting of the game, and do little more than distract and break the immersion. These ads are a perfect example of in game advertising gone wrong, and the fact that you can put up screenshots like this, and then defend them as being “okay looking” makes me wonder whether or not you’re on the take. Your integrity and motives as a journalist are questionable at best. There’s so much more to say on this issue, and so many more excellent points against (and even a few for) in-game advertising, none of which are included in your worthless fluff-piece. I could go on for pages talking about this very important topic, but frankly, I’m tired of doing your job for you for free.
    I say this to the powers-that-be at thisgengaming.com: if you want well written, insightful articles that discuss issues at the heart of the videogame industry, fire this Charlie Oakley idiot, and pay me half as much as you pay him for this rag. I’ll keep your pantries fully stocked with a truly hearty fare!

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