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Video Game Advertising: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Updated on June 28, 2015
Are game advertisers that good?
Are game advertisers that good?

I was going to write a Hub on how great video game advertisers were, with their ability to build up our excitement levels to fever pitch over the course of weeks and months. They can start off with a single mysterious screenshot and then gradually throw in some trailers and gameplay videos, all the while making us more and more excited for their new game. But then, as I sat down to actually give examples, I realised that advertisers have also produced some horrific ads. So, without further ado, here’s a rundown of some of the good, the bad and the downright ugly examples of videogame adverts.

The Good:

Let’s prepare ourselves for the shockers below by starting off with some genuinely good video game adverts.

Epic’s Gears of War was released in 2006 and was supported by a fantastic TV advert. Using Gary Jules’ cover of Mad World, we are treated to a bleak and haunting scene featuring a solitary Marus Fenix running through a ruined city. Although the advert doesn’t really tell you much about the game, apart from that it’s a shooter of some kind, it is very moving and immediately grabs your interest. This is what makes the ad brilliant; it grabs you and makes you want to find out more about the game. It is also a great example because its tone is so different from that of the actual game. The Gears of War series are relentless testosterone fuelled romps, but the advert is subtle and full of emotion. It’s something you wouldn’t hesitate to show your mother.

This next example isn’t for a game, but a console, and demonstrates the great experiences you can get from playing videogames. It’s extremely well made and in a strange way, makes you proud to be a gamer. Its appeal is also massively increased if you happen to be called Michael! Forget being the best video game advert, this is one of the best adverts for anything.

The Bad:

It only goes downhill from here. I’ve put the next examples in the bad section because they demonstrate a complete ignorance from the advertisers of people who play video games. If you are paid to promote a game, then you really shouldn’t end up insulting the people you’re meant to be selling to.

The first of these poorly directed ads actually promotes one of the most acclaimed games of all time, The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. This just goes to show that games sell on merit, rather than advertising, which has got to be reassuring. The advert starts off well, with epic music and flashes of cheesy text asking if you if you’ll fight evil or flee from it. The last question the ad asks you is not so good though, in fact it’s terrible and offensive. “Whilst thou get the girl? Or play like one?” That’s pretty cringe worthy, even for 1998 when it aired. Girls have always played video games, and to insult them at all, let alone in such a sexist manner was a very bad call.

Well, that was 1998, you may be saying, things have changed since then. You’re mostly right, but there are still idiots in the advertising world who still don’t understand gamers. Take the latest Ghost Recon Future Soldier game for example. It uses boobs. That’s right, boobs to promote a third person shooter. I feel pretty insulted that companies believe gamers are so immature that boobs would help sell a game. Given that the average gamer these days is in their thirties, how could they possible believe that this campaign would be successful?

Fair enough that she seems to be genuinely interested in the game, but seriously does she need to be dressed like that? And does the camera really need to focus on her vibrating chest while she fires guns? The advert is more focused on the scantily clad woman that the actual game. There’s a time and a place for everything, but that was not the time for shaking boobies!

The Ugly:

In some ways the examples in the Bad section are actually worse than these in the Ugly, but I’ve chosen to put the last adverts down here for good reason.

While the above bad ‘uns make you angry at how gamers have been and are viewed, this next one can make you feel ashamed of being a gamer. Ever seen Nintendo’s film The Wizard? No? Well don’t watch it! If you have, then I’m truly sorry. The whole film is a poorly hidden excuse to advertise Nintendo products. It features one scene in particular that will make you wonder if gaming is really worth your time. Watch this scene and you will suddenly wonder if you’ve ever said something as retarded as that to your friends before. Chances are you haven’t, but it certainly makes you pause and consider if playing games has warped you somehow.

Is this the future of gaming?
Is this the future of gaming?

My final example of ugly advertising in games is the possible plan to introduce in-game ads that interrupt you every so often and actually stop your game to show an advert. Sony have recently submitted a patent for this idea of in game adverts that pop up when you play, but is it really something to worry about? Microsoft bought the in game advertising company Massive back in 2006, and we have yet to see ads that break up your gameplay on the 360. Sony were also reported to have been set to implement in game ads back in 2008, but again nothing came of it. Are we finally seeing their ideas come to fruition, or will we be waiting for another four years before the next development? I really hope that nothing comes of it again because it will destroy gaming experiences and may result in a huge downturn in video game sales which will detrimentally affect the whole industry.

If the idea of adverts invading your gameplay experience has got you down, or if any of the other poor examples that present gamers as immature sexists has got you angry, then go and watch the Michael trailer again! It will remind you that there is still good out there!

These are only a few examples of some of the greats and shockers of video game adverts, so if you have any favourites that weren’t mentioned, please share them in the comments!

What do you think about game advertising in general?

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    • profile image

      Ghostwolfe 5 years ago

      Thanks for the vote up on my hub High Score.

    • High Score profile image

      High Score 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for the comment JohnGreasyGamer, glad you get where I'm coming from. We should go into business you and I, we could put tits on cigarettes so people get so offended by them they stop smoking! We'd save the NHS millions!

    • High Score profile image

      High Score 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Cheers Ghostwolfe, I know what you mean about sex selling, but the many negative youtube comments for the Coco videos only make me think that it backfired here. I've just read your hub on in game ads too, voted up!

    • profile image

      Ghostwolfe 5 years ago

      Good hub, voted up, though the whole thing with CoCo in the Ghost Recon commercial is that sex sells and the one thing that Ubisoft wanted I guess was more tits behind the game.

    • JohnGreasyGamer profile image

      John Roberts 5 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

      Well, I was looking forward to playing my third/fourth favourite franchise until I realized Tom Clancy needed tits to sell a game. I have this personal code where - if there's a single hint of sex appeal - I don't buy the game. And I've waited for this game for two years! I was one of the few who knew about it not long before Splinter Cell: Conviction. But seriously? Breasts in advertising only make video games lose a born and bred gamer. It's appalling.

      Be this in the form of those Anime MMORPGs with their sidebars, having females flaunt their breasts and tight clothing, or on the TV screen, I won't touch it. If I wanted erotica, I'd just watch porn on the internet. I don't need that muck in a video game where I want blood and terrorism.

      Thanks for this article - it's voted up, it's useful, it's awesome, it's funny and it's more than interesting. And because you brought out that inner gamer within me, IT! IS! SHARED!