Wednesday, October 5, 2011

EXP Podcast #143: Deli Club DLC

If Antonio Banderas can sell sinus medication, why can't Captain Olimar sell herbicide? Maybe he can. Video games have been used to sell a wide variety of non-game related merchandise, but have our iconic protagonists ever been spokespersons?  If not, then Nathan Drake is changing videogames again, and this time he is doing it was sandwiches. This week on the EXP Podcast, we discuss the fourth-wall breaking personification of Nathan Drake, how it reflects the status of games cultures and narratives, and the ethical concerns about connecting game content with real world consumption. We encourage to watch, and the re-watch, the Uncharted 3 Subway commercial embedded below, and then leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Some discussion starters:

- Does this ad campaign water down Uncharted 3's story?
- Do you think this type of marketing will weave its way throughout videogames more often?
- Did you already buy Subway before even listening to this episode?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
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Show notes:

- Run time: 32 min 58 sec
- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. I don't know - it reminds me that the character of Nathan Drake is a kind of "available to the highest bidder" kind of guy. It doesn't exactly contradict his character, but it highlights an unattractive aspect of it.

    There are game characters where it would completely ruin them, though. Imagine Gordon Freeman taking time out from trying to save humanity from the nightmare rule of the Combine to spruik McDonalds.

    One other thing about promotion DLC - it pisses off international customers because we're blocked from accessing it full stop.

  2. Vomit! Hideous! I thought we'd seen the last of this with GameStop's insipid God of War 3 tripe. But NOOOOOOOOOO..

    Why can't movie characters, and TV characters, and game characters just be who they are, without their creators ceaselessly whoring them out to also be spokespersons!? As Bill Hicks said: "You do a commercial, you're off the artistic roll call forever, every word you say is like a turd in my drink."

  3. As much as I think these kinds of ad campaigns are annoying and do water down the experience, it really isn't that strange for a company to desire a familiar face on their brand. Also, being that Nathan Drake is a character based on the archetype of an action movie hero, it wouldn't be too far of a stretch for viewers who are unfamiliar with Drake to at least have a vague idea of who he is. He is sort of a perfect game spokesperson.
    To this end though, I think this kind of an ad is going to be rare; there just aren't a lot of applicable game characters to do an ad for anything else than the video game they are in. "Come on in to Burger King now to try the Shadow of the Colossus Colossal Burger!" Fans would be mad, and non-fans would be confused, it's just a lose-lose.

  4. I posit two perspectives on this advertising match-up.

    The first is Subway's. They are (I think) the fastest growing fast food chain now. But what is their demographic distribution? When I think of the 'type' of person that I expect to see in Subway based on the previous ad campaigns (and my own personal preferences) it isn't the image of a 'typical' gamer. Perhaps McD's still holds sway in that important demo and Subway is trying to hone in. And offering exclusive access to high profile content is a sure way to get that business.

    The second perspective is obviously Sony's. In the podcast you mentioned wanting to see some transparency in how the money was moving from this venture. I'm really curious as to who is paying whom. Is Subway licensing Drake to endorse their product, or is Sony paying for the opportunity to promote their game? Maybe they just shook on it after a round of golf and called it even. Offering exclusive early access for free to a competitive multiplayer game is the gamer equivalent of 'the first one's free'. The offer brings in a wide variety of players - the hardcore wanting an edge, the not-so-good fans of the series who want a chance to not be obliterated the second they spawn, and the frugal sightseer not wanting to pass up free content - and they become invested in the game. And when the retail version hits the street, and the free trial expires (that is how the promotion works, right?) the hope is that the players aren't willing to give up their progress and they spend their money, which otherwise might have been set aside for one of the other major titles releasing this fall, on the new game. Sony is creating a need for their product by getting the player hooked, innocuously enough.

    I guess we'll have to wait and see how the experiment works out. By the way, what did you get on your foot-long?

  5. It's an interesting take they've chosen - where Nathan himself acknowledges Uncharted 3 being a game. If it wasn't for that I'd say that it cements the character as being real and that would have been a more acceptable variant.

    As for other possible video game characters as spokesmen for products, I'd say Mass Effects' Shepard - the ultimate shill,with his/her "I'm Commander Shepard and this is my favorite stoe..." line

  6. Thanks for all the great comments everyone!

    It's true that very few video game characters could be employed in the same way Drake is in the subway ads, so this probably won't be too common in the near future. However, I could definitely see a "tail wagging the dog" phenomenon in which certain game characters are created specifically to cater towards cross-marketing opportunities.

    As Loberto points out, I think it's pretty likely that Sony is the more interested party here. Despite Uncharted's popularity, there are still way more Subway customers than Uncharted players. Trying to tap into the vast Subway market is probably pretty attractive...

    Oh, and I'd line up on day one for a Burger King Colossus Burger. I imagine this music would be playing while I struggled to devour it in hopes of reviving my lost love. ;-)

  7. You should do a podcast on how awesome the SotC soundtrack is.

  8. Sorry this is a super late comment, but I just got around to catching up on my podcasts. This Subway ad totally reminds me of a Lucozade commercial (Lucozade is kind of a British version of Gatorade) that aired in the UK a number of years ago, which featured Lara Croft. Check it out here:

  9. Those commercials are terrible in the most awesome way. So many jump cuts and janky cgi!

    It's easy to forget just how popular Tomb Raider was back in the day.