In this chapter from Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketing Kline, Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter take aim at the cultural capital and control fueled by the marketing industry and how it has been applied to the relatively new medium of video games. The authors start by providing a broad overview of the marketing apparatus in question and the potential power it has to shape the development and adoption of new product.
Kline, Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter then move into a discussion of the management of game systems and properties as “branded” commodities, requiring the development and maintenance of brand cachet and loyalty. This loyalty must withstand assault not only from competing games and game systems but also other entertainment options (as we only have so many hours per day).
The discussion of games in relation to other media outlets leads naturally into a discussion of how video game marketers use these opposing media for the promotion of the game products, thereby co-opting some of the threat posed to their properties. In order to distribute the image and message desired to the target audience, namely media-savvy, cynical gamers, these video game advertisements have become less like ads and more like the media they are embedded within, taking cinematic, dramatic or humorous, tongue-in-cheek approaches to promotion.
The barriers between the different mediums are further blurred by the synergistic flow between television, movies, books, music and video games. This flow exists in all directions, with properties being passed between all potential outlets with no restrictions. The flow even allows entertainment products to be incorporated into advertisements, as well as advertisements to be incorporated into entertainment products (i.e. product placements). To illustrate this fluid and all-encompassing approach to the creation and control of culture through marketing, Kline, Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter provide examples of the reach and deliberate cross-genre production marketing effort put forth by the Pokemon franchise.
Leaving aside the fact that Kline, Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter take a somewhat elitist view of media, culture and advertising, there is another aspect of this cultural marketing effort which they neglect to address: counter-arguing. The marketing field is represented as an all powerful juggernaut, able to impose its will on the masses without limit. Despite the view put forth by videogame marketers that “marketing…can turn a mediocre game into a successful one”, the roll of independent reviewers, particularly in this age of wikis, blogs and instant information access, is hard to ignore and should not be discounted.
(As an aside, if anyone has not seen the “ZeroPunctuation” videogame review series, you really need to check it out.)