Branding Worthy Of Note

The "Guitar Hero" series of games has been an industry phenomenon, getting a huge amount of buzz and a fan following, and succeeding in a business model that has historically failed. That model is, of course, the peripheral one.

Gaming peripherals have been around for decades. Some have even risen to infamy, such as the Nintendo "Power Glove" (the wii-mote of the 1980s). And most have done rather poorly. There are exceptions, when there was a large game base for certain peripherals such as the NES Zapper ("Duck Hunt," anyone)? But largely, gaming peripherals died out around the time of the SNES onward. My favorite? The Xbox's "Steel Battalion" controller.

But "Guitar Hero" became a top seller despite peripherals historically hurting rather than helping. And Harmonix, the developer behind "Guitar Hero," is poised to launch a multiplayer version, Rock Band (sort of -- Activision owns the rights to the "Guitar Hero" franchise, so in making this game on its own, Harmonix can't associate directly with the franchise). For the new game, Harmonix struck some clever branding by pairing with Fender Musical Instruments to design its guitar peripheral in the image of the Fender Stratocaster guitar.



All in all, a clever development. I think the key takeaway, though, is that it looks like the developers initiated this partnership, which reflects an important point: developers are looking to integrate with brands when it furthers the authenticity or enjoyment of their games.

It might be wise for key brands to leave a calling card with game developers, along the line of "if you'd like to integrate us in anything you're working on, give us a call." I mean, just think if Gibson had left a card for Harmonix -- the guitar company lost out on a significant branding opportunity by not doing so. Currently I'd suggest doing this with Bethsheda, which just secured the development of "Fallout 3." After all, the post-apocalyptic genre is wrought with potential for brands.

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