In-game advertising existed long before Final Fantasy 15. Some games were even just playable ads, like Pepsi Man and Cool Spot, which were created to market the Pepsi and 7-Up brands of soda. Even McDonalds had its own platformer, and who could forget that Burger King made games like Pocket Bike Racer and Sneak King – where you just ride around as a scary mascot and stealthily hand people burgers.
In NBA 2K, there are ads for real-life companies like Beats Headphones, PlayStation, and other companies that spin on the front of the scorer’s table and the side of the basketball hoops. When you move or create a team, you can actually choose which ads appear during matches in those locations. Seeing an ad for Ruffles pop up on the scorer’s table while running down the field as LeBron James on my way to winning back-to-back titles isn’t awkward because it’s normal to see these types of advertisements during actual games.
However, that cannot be said for Final Fantasy 15 and its lewd use of in-game advertising. folding. No, you are actually using Coleman branded camping gear. If you look at the Japanese cover art below, you’ll see Gladiolus wearing the camping gear as the group walks and drives down the road.
Is it a video game or an advertisement for REI’s summer catalog? If you walk into a store, you will see an advertisement in the window for American Express. The game even had a promotion with the credit card company in Japan where if you signed up and were approved for an American Express Gold or American Express Business Gold card, you would get a free copy of the game. The first 100 people to do so also received a Noctis figurine. You will also receive a ¥10,000 (US$73.71) gift card with in-game characters if you spend ¥150,000 (US$1,105.60) over a three-month period. Isn’t capitalism great?
But probably the worst in-game ad in Final Fantasy 15 was Nissin’s Cup Noodles. Not only can you buy the nutritionally questionable snacks to feed your in-game characters, there are also several advertisements dotted around, including a giant Cup Noodles-branded truck, not to mention an in-game mission triggered by talking with Gladiolus where you search for ingredients to make your own Cup Noodles. There are even parts of the game, Gladiolus, Noctis and the rest of the gang spend a lot of time walking around and talking about the product.
There’s even a Cup Noodles helmet you can get for free that greatly increases your HP recovery.
All of this leads you to wonder, “Is this really necessary? This is about Final Fantasy, not about a game or a studio struggling with sales and money. It’s understandable that companies want to make money from in-game advertising, but Square Enix should have shown some principles here!
It’s especially egregious because Final Fantasy 15 is supposed to take place in a fictional world. It’s one thing to have ads for real sports game companies and games that take place in the real world because, for better or worse, that’s the world we live in. It’s okay to walk around town in NBA 2K’s My Career and see Nike stores and performance centers sponsored by Gatorade because those are real things, but putting those things in fantasy worlds and other worlds that don’t Don’t Really Exist takes you out of a game and back into mundane reality.
And after? Will Final Fantasy 16 summons drink a can of Coke, stare at the camera, and say “Ahhh refreshing” before performing a special move? Admittedly, this takes place in medieval times, but the cans could have the shape of goblets or those bladders that were used to drink wine while traveling. In-game ads, when used properly, can make a game world feel more real, but let’s leave them out of fantasy games. If developers and publishers are going to have in-game products, why not follow the GTA model and just invent product names that riff on the real ones? It makes things a bit more fun and creative rather than dystopian and dark.
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