Commentary

King Of The Advergames

It's become clear that earlier this month, when I was singing the praises of "Gears of War" for its role in the Christmas success of the Xbox 360, my attention was totally misplaced. Apparently, the top gaming experience on the 360 this year isn't turning your opponent's head into a fine red mist from 500 feet; it's sneaking up behind him and slipping him a burger while dressed in a strangely creepy king costume.

Microsoft and Burger King can't stop talking about how "Sneak King," "Pocketbike Racer," and "Big Bumpin'" three advergame titles released late in November, have outsold "Gears of War," the current hot title for the 360. According to Burger King, they've sold over 2 million of these titles at $3.99 each, with the purchase of a meal at any of their restaurants. The games all feature the BK mascot--the plastic-y king who is at once funny and terrifying, as well as the famous Subservient Chicken, who was very popular, but may or may not have sold any chicken sandwiches.

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Burger King's advergame is stacking up to be one of the most successful such campaigns ever launched. It's not an especially crowded field--most advergames are Flash games, hosted on microsites, and played by cubicle drones and tech journalists wondering how they can possibly write 250 words on a game about bathing toddlers. But there are a few gems: "America's Army," produced by the U.S. government as a recruitment tool, is widely considered one of the most successful advergames. Twenty-eight percent of the visitors to the "America's Army" Web page click through to the recruitment page, and 19% of 2003's freshman class at the U.S. Military Academy stated they had played the game.

So what did Burger King do right? Company strategists leveraged an extremely recognizable, even iconic part of their brand--that creepy, creepy King--and they hired a firm that knew what it was doing to create the titles. The company on the job was Blitz Games, which developed "Fusion Frenzy"--a party game that amounts to a bunch of casual games slapped together. "Fusion Frenzy" was never a huge hit, but all its mini-games were fun and addictive, which is really all you need for a solid advergame title. Plus, they were selling Xbox 360 games for $4 apiece, when the standard price point is $60--a tough deal to pass up.

Kudos to Burger King and Blitz Games for topping the sales charts this holiday season, beating out big-budget hyped titles like "Gears." The example that the King sets is one that any company looking to promote through advergaming should follow.

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