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    Video Game Product Placement In Film And TV

    Posted by Stacy Jones on January 20, 2016 at 7:30 AM

    Video Games Don't Show Up In Film And TV On Accident

    If you were a fan of the show The Office, you may remember the sad moment when Jim relocates to the Stamford branch to get his mind off Pam. One of the favorite pasttimes of that branch is playing Call Of Duty as a way to unwind during the work day. Of course Jim is horrible at the game and spends most of his time either stuck in a corner or shooting his own teammate. But what you may not have realized is that was product placement for Activision, the company that makes Call of Duty.

    In this blog, Hollywood Branded looks at instances of video game product placement in film and TV and how those placements boosted both awareness and image for the brands.


    Gaming Is An Emblem Of Modern Culture - Seinfeld and Friends

    Ever since video games became a symbol for youth culture in the 1980s, film and TV have reflected this trend. From movies about living inside of a video game (Tron) to TV episodes that feature a main character who really loves his video game.  

    Our favorites include Chandler bringing the Mrs. Pac Man arcade game up to the apartment in Friends  and Seinfeld's Frogger episode when George Costanza risks his life when he wants to save his winning highest score of the machine, and pushes it across the street - only to have it smashed by a Freightliner semi big rig (our agency's CEO was responsible for that placement!).  


    Both of these TV show product placements lived on past their original episodes - and have aired hundreds of times since, around the world.  Just google "Frogger and George" or "Frogger and Seinfeld' and see what you find!  Geroge and Frogger even have their own Wiki page.  The internet loves "Chandler and Pacman" too!

    Film and TV reflect our culture’s obsession with video games. And they sell them too!


    The House Of Cards Phenomenon

    House Of Cards is a brilliant case study for video games in TV shows. Throughout the first season, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) plays Call Of Duty religiously to take his mind off of things and relax… when he’s not cutting throats as the majority whip.

    This plot point changed the conversation around video games - from a teenage pastime to a thought-provoking and interesting hobby for smart and successful people.

    In fact, Kevin Spacey/Frank Underwood was the inspiration for, and became the voice of, the main antagonist in Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare. The game and the TV show act as promotional materials for each other. 


    House of Cards also skyrocketed a small indie app called “Monument Valley” to number one on the app charts after an episode where Frank plays the game.

    Not only does Frank visibly play the game on his iPad, but he also explains the premise of the game, how he found it, and why he loves it so much.  And he says "Either of you play Monument Valley" sending the app downloads for the game to skyrocketing success.

    On top of this, the company that distributes “Monument Valley” reportedly didn’t pay a dime. They simply cultivated a relationship with the show’s production team and created a version of the game specifically for the show. After appearing in Frank’s hands, the game was downloaded over 660,000 times and generated over $1,665,864 in app sales for the company.


    The "Nerd" Stereotype 

    A common stereotype that finds video games in movies is the nerdy kid who would rather sit at home on his video games than go out with his friends. A perfect example of this is Michael Cera playing The Getaway in Superbad. 

    Other times, nerds show off their skills on video games to impress, like Nick Swardson’s unforgettable scene playing Dance, Dance Revolution in Grandma’s Boy. These nerd stereotypes help the brand by being funny, likable, and above all memorable.



    While we're on the nerd topic, one of the most interesting examples of video game placements is The Big Bang Theory. This TV show features almost every Wii game there is, including Bowling, Archery, Fishing, and Boxing. The gang also plays World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, Zork, and Star Wars Online.

    Adding to the barrage of video games Sheldon and friends play on the show are Rock Band, Halo, and Red Dead Redemption. Most of the video games are mentioned by name on top of being played by the main characters. As far as a TV show goes, TBBT is a gold mine.


    Character Bonding

    Another way video games make their way into film and TV is as a way for characters to bond with friends or colleagues. Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle bond over Shadow of the Colossus in Reign Over Me and the bomb squad in Hurt Locker plays Gears of War together.

    In the holiday-themed Seth Rogen film, The Night Before, Joseph Gorgon Levitt and Anthony Mackie duke it out while playing the vintage GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64. And perhaps one of the most classic comedy man's man, Vince Vaughan, is a video game maven,  playing both NHL Hockey in Swingers and Madden in The Break-Up.

    And we couldn’t possibly forget Steve Carrell playing Tony Hawk and Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen having their famous “You know how I know you’re gay?” conversation while playing Mortal Kombat in their special and intense gaming chairs, both in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.


    Video Game Cameos As Pre-Release Promos

    Another way video games use product placement is by using a sneak peak of a new game in a movie as a pre-release promotional opportunity. For example, Jesse Pinkman was seen playing with a new sensor gun add-on for the video game RAGE in two episodes of Breaking Bad.

    This new version had yet to be released and sparked much conversation and speculation about the game release.

    Another example of this is a moment in John Wick where the main villains are playing a Dust game, called Legion, that hadn’t been released yet.

    The Dust online forums flooded with comments and speculation, no doubt heightening interest in the game.


    Video Game Placement Is Subtle But Effective

    It is often forgotten how valuable one media brand can be in the promotion of another, as you can see in this blog. Video game companies are turning from traditional advertising to entertainment marketing in order to market their brand effectively to the right audience. And your brand can do the same.  

    Check out Complex's 50 Top Video Game Moments In Movies here.

    Have you ever wondered how a comprehensive product placement program works?  Or do you want to know how to create a promotional partnership strategy with a movie partner?  This video will answer all of your questions as it shows the steps and processes taken by Hollywood Branded that lead to your brand increasing both consumer engagement and sales!

    Watch The Video Now!

    How Product Placement Works Video


    Topics: Strategic Partnerships