Nintendo tries to trademark the phrase 'It's on like Donkey Kong'

By David Kiefaber on Mon Nov 15 2010

Donkey-kong-country-returns

Looks like Nintendo finally heard someone say "It's on like Donkey Kong," because the video-game company is trying to trademark the phrase before Donkey Kong Country Returns is released later this month. I'm not sure if they're doing this in good faith, or if it's just a weird, roundabout way to promote the game, but it's a shallow cash grab that makes them look as clueless and greedy as the music industry. They don't need to own that saying. Nothing's being taken from them in strict monetary terms, and pop-culture aphorisms like that one keep their intellectual property alive in ways that wouldn't happen when there's a price tag dangling from it. Now, granted, a lot of game companies try to swallow up phrases like this before a new game drops, but this is a fan-generated saying that's been around since 1992 at least, so I'm hoping it's just a publicity stunt. In case it isn't, I'll forgive Nintendo if they settle infringement lawsuits by throwing barrels at the accused.

Microsoft's Kinect is fun to play, when you're not getting maimed

By David Kiefaber on Wed Nov 10 2010

Microsoft's Kinect motion detector is shaping up to be the Family Dollar Dart Gun of multi-player gaming, given the number of people who've injured themselves or their children (on film!) while using it. Of course, Microsoft has an out—most of the people in those videos weren't allowing enough space between them and other players, and you can hurt yourself doing anything if you're not paying attention to your surroundings. Look at all the WiiMote accidents that have been documented over the years (caution: not while you're eating), and this becomes less an indictment of the Kinect and more a harsh reality of physically active gaming. It also explains why, once upon a time, many of these simulated activities happened outdoors. Point is, if the risk of possibly-disabling ouchies didn't scare people away from the Wii, the Kinect will survive this, too. Not that long-term sales projections will make this kid's face hurt any less, but you know what they say about omelets and eggs.

Electronic Arts finds a world of fighters for new MMA video game

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Nov 8 2010

If a marketer doesn't have the coveted and lucrative UFC license for a video game, what's the best way to draw attention to a new title? Go global. That's the approach, anyway, taken by EA Sports and its agency, Heat in San Francisco. Using bits of judo from Japan, jiu-jitsu from Brazil, Muay Thai kickboxing from Thailand and boxing from the U.S., the game maker will try to draw grappling fans to the generic-sounding EA Sports MMA. (Mixed martial arts is a mashup of all those fighting styles.) The campaign launches in two weeks with TV and online in Europe and the U.S. on channels like ESPN, Spike and TNT. There's also branded entertainment called "The Sherdog MMA Fighter Exchange," which pits four young fighters in bouts that will stream online; fans can also watch behind-the-scenes action and international training via a partnership between EA Sports, Web site Sherdog.com and the Strikeforce fighting league.

Cinematic 'Fable III' video-game trailer channels the Old Masters

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Oct 18 2010

By definition, commercials for video games need to be cinematic these days. For Fable III, the latest in the hit medieval franchise, San Francisco's agencytwofifteen tosses in another artsy layer: The spot looks like an Old Masters painting (or a bunch of them) brought to life. It debuted recently on Comedy Central, ESPN, Adult Swim, FX and other networks, with added drama from indie band The Black Angels' single "Young Men Dead." There are high hopes for Fable III, from U.K.'s Lionhead Studios, coming on the heels of 6.5 million unit sales for the first two installments. (There are plans in the works for parts IV and V, but only if Fable III outperforms its predecessors, according to Lionhead honcho Peter Molyneux.) For the launch of the threequel, which is an action-adventure/role-playing mashup, there are also online games, social media, print, in-theater and mobile under the "It's a revolution" tagline. The game and its soundtrack drop Oct. 26.

In-game advertising boosts real-world sales, according to study

By David Kiefaber on Mon Sep 20 2010

Hockey

Nielsen recently looked into the effectiveness of ads inside video games and found—whaddya know?—that they actually work. The study, commissioned by Electronic Arts on behalf of Gatorade, showed that in-game advertising across various EA titles increased household dollars spent on Gatorade by 24 percent. EA's svp of global media sales hails the project as "a milestone for interactive entertainment," adding that "brands can feel confident in adding gaming as a core media channel for their advertising." And it is a milestone. This is really the first time anyone has put the effect of video game advertising into practical terms. Whether or not it will signal a glut of advertisers to swarm in and make mainstream video games completely unplayable has yet to be determined, but initial positive results are certainly good news for any brand looking to expand into this virgin territory (pun intended). On the other hand, Gatorade already has good market presence based on decades of successful marketing, so using them as a measuring stick was almost too safe a choice. The real test, in my view, will be if a lesser-known or developing brand sees big jumps in sales after putting its logo in a video game.

Fox's first 'Glee' licensed product is logical one: a karaoke game

By T.L. Stanley on Wed Jul 21 2010

Glee-karaoke

You might not be able to belt out an '80s pop tune like Glee's Rachel Berry, but you can sure try. (And don't feel bad—Berry is really musical theater actress Lea Michele, who cut her teeth on Broadway. So, she knows her way around a Queen ditty or two.) Unleashing its first round of licensed merchandise from the hit show this fall, Fox has partnered with Konami Digital Entertainment for Karaoke Revolution Glee for the Wii. Here's the first peek at images from the game, which lets fans sing 35 songs from the musical dramedy's first season alongside the so-dweeby-they're-cool characters. Prediction: If it captures the fun and aspiration of the show, this product will crush. Time to dust off your Journey repertoire.

'Sims' lets you realize your most disgraceful, degrading fantasies

Posted on Tue Jun 22 2010

Years of reality TV may lessen the impact of these purported "testimonials" promoting the console version of Electronic Arts's hit video game The Sims, but it's still a clever idea. A muscular guy, a young woman who seems like she's trying to be Sarah Silverman, and a nun, among others, confess their various peccadilloes—cheating on a boyfriend, walking around naked in public, trying to get the butler and the maid to make out. Before long, you realize they are talking about stuff they do in The Sims. Thank God. Second Life is still safe then, I guess.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Skittles, Comedy Central team up for some online time-wasters

Posted on Mon Jun 14 2010

Skittles-pop

Skittles wants you to "play the rainbow." The Wrigley candy has teamed up with Comedy Central to launch a gaming arcade on ComedyCentral.com. One is a "Snood-like puzzle" called Skittles Pop in which you shoot similar-colored Skittles into a cloud of candies to make them "pop." (Line them up incorrectly, or have poor aiming skills, and the sky of Skittles slowly builds up to suffocate you.) The arcade consists of six "fun games for bored people," including "Important Things with Demetri Martin" and "Michael & Michael Have Issues." There will also be an "addictive soccer game" launching soon, Comedy Central tells us. Said Rebecca Keszkowski, vp of digital integrated marketing at MTV Networks' Entertainment Group: "We developed this concept to connect [the] humor of Comedy Central digital with Skittles' sensibilities. We wanted to create an interactive experience for fans to virtually taste the rainbow of Skittles and engage with [its] brand and brand message."

—Posted by Elaine Wong

'Truth or Lies' video game will test out a rudimentary lie detector

Posted on Fri May 21 2010

TOL

That harmless game of Truth or Dare—you know, the one you play when you have no intention of sharing past indiscretions—just got a techy new twist that may make it harder to fib. At the very least, it could open you up to all manner of accusation and humiliation. Let's play! THQ, a video game company best known for releasing a lot of licensed WWE and UFC titles, might see some smackdowns in the living room when Truth or Lies debuts in the fall. The "party" game, in development now for the Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, provides a bunch of "thought-provoking questions," according to its press materials. And with a "proprietary voice calibration system" that works with a USB mic or Xbox 360 wireless mic, the game will measure the stress level in players' voices, acting like an on-the-spot lie detector. No detective required! So, parents can grill their kids (let's just guess they'll substitute their own questions) and gauge the answers in front of the whole family—all in the name of fun! I want to get a look at this ad campaign, which should include this caveat: Thumb tacks (for shoving into your feet and cheating the system) not included. Or maybe that's the deluxe version.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

EA's 'Skate 3' commercial cries out for cameo by William Wallace

Posted on Wed May 12 2010

EA Games has gone tribal in an ad campaign for Skate 3, its new Xbox and PlayStation game that's only tangentially like Braveheart. But equating the two makes for a spiffy commercial, where competitive skateboarding comes close to clan warfare. Hey, is that a horse on a halfpipe? The campaign, from Heat in San Francisco, is aimed at young male gamers who are apt to be more interested in the action-sports title if they see its team play in action, the agency said. The bull's-eye target, skaters, might like the medieval theme (especially the slow-mo mass charge across the "battlefield" at the end). The ad aired as part of a one-day takeover Tuesday on gaming sites like IGN and GameSpot. TV breaks this month on cable networks like MTV, Comedy Central, G4, Adult Swim and Spike.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley


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