I recently returned from a vacation to Italy, where I saw the Palazzo Medici -- an exquisite palace built during the Renaissance by Florence's resident ruling family. If I want to access the Palazzo in Ubisoft's upcoming game "Assassin's Creed 2," I'll have to purchase the title from GameStop. This is hardly the only instance of this type of promotion. Here's a list of these incentives offered to GameStop customers. Target did something similar for "Shaun White Snowboarding ," providing Target customers who bought the title there access to "Target Mountain" -- a version featuring a mountain with Target branding on it.
Brand marketers should pay attention. There are two interesting points here. One is the concept of trying to shift purchase behavior with DLC content. Can a clothing brand sell more jackets or jeans if a purchase unlocked the branded version as a clothing option in a popular game title? The other interesting concept is the idea of breaking the user's suspension of disbelief by segregating additional branded content from the core game experience. Offering additional branded game content as an optional download gets around the issue of offending gamers by forcing integration where it doesn't make sense. The appearance of the Nike brand in a "God of War" game would likely upset many gamers as a forced anachronism. But an optional DLC level filled with Nike branding and the appearance of Nike, the god of victory - that might appeal to a very large number of gamers. Those who would get offended don't need to download the content.
The trend started with games offering exclusive in-game content to promote preorders. Now retailers are implementing exclusive content to drive sales. Brands will be next on this bandwagon. It's just a matter of which brands will be smart enough to jump on board first.