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Amusing Product Placement In Video Games


Areala

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If you don't remember the third-person action/survival horror title "Run Like Hell: Hunt or Be Hunted," don't be too disappointed with yourself. It's understandable. After all, the game was in development for five years, went through producers, artists and programmers like wood chippers going through storm-tossed trees, and saw a 100% code rewrite starting 10 months from its shipping date. The fact that it even landed on the market in 2002 is a wonder in itself.

RLH, as it is most commonly abbreviated, was not a successful game by any stretch of the imagination. What started out as a simple concept of "Do Resident Evil, only in space, with nasty aliens!" was later on switched to "Do Aliens, in space, with copious amounts of ammo to blast the nasty aliens with!" It truly is a pity that RLH wasn't better received, because it had some killer voice talent behind the characters: Lance Henriksen, Kate Mulgrew, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown, and Brad Dourif all lent their distinctive vocal stylings to the production. Three Days Grace and Breaking Benjamin contributed music for the soundtrack. The storyline was well-plotted and executed, with a cliffhanger ending that revealed all was not well with the survivors and hinted at a forthcoming sequel or two (needless to say, Interplay canned this project after lackluster sales of the original). But RLH had one other interesting thing going for it: product placement. Specifically, RLH had Bawls.

Now, Bawls alone couldn't have saved (or killed) this project. But it really didn't do the story any favours. Nobody in his or her right mind believes that an energy drink from the 21st century would still be around hundreds of years later, much like nobody really believed that Taco Bell would be the sole survivor of the "fast food wars" or considered "fine dining" as we saw in Demolition Man, and yet vending machines filled with the stuff (which serves as a way to regain a little bit of lost health) abound on the space station where RLH is set, and posters advertising Bawls can be found all over the walls. In another amusing nod to a different Interplay property, you can also find "Pip-Boy"-brand Protein Bars to restore a bit of health as well. Looks like the post-nuclear holocaust isn't completely forgotten after a few centuries either.

Interplay had a pretty large obsession with real-world product placement back in this time, as Bawls also managed to show up in the regularly-maligned Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel. While the presence of the energy drink in RLH didn't cause too much of a fuss (mostly because so few people played the game, I suspect), the inclusion of it in a Fallout product, replacing the standard Nuka Cola, raised the ire of a good number of fans who were irritated at what was clearly an attempt to just grab some cheap cash on what was already viewed as a sub-par entry into a beloved series. To this day, BoS is not considered cannonical to the Fallout universe, and as we all know, Bethesda returned Nuka Cola to its rightful place in Wasteland beverage history with Fallout 3.

With EA and many other companies looking to use in-game advertising to drive in money over the lifetime of a product, it's important to remember that it's been tried in the past, it's almost always been amusingly bad, and the games involved have never been huge hits. And while Interplay isn't the first studio to learn this the hard way, I guarantee you that they won't be the last either. Then again, maybe I'm biased...what would a woman do with Bawls anyway? :)

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Guest Misanthroat

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I remember working E3 in 2002 and trying Bawls for the first time... and of course when someone sees you drinking one, the jokes never end.

Truly a terrible name for a product, kinda like that Nads hair removal stuff.

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It always kind of annoy's me when blatant product placement turn's up in video game's or movie's or wherever. I don't have a problem with product placement as such however, if it's done with a little wit or subtlety.

But, like in the example's you gave, if a product is just thrown into a game and is conspicuously out of place, well that doesn't do anyone any favour's.

Oh yeah, I was going to ask how Bawls taste but realizing that this would be childish and immature I somehow managed to restrain myself. :P

Great Blog Areala. :)

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What a great blog. Being relatively new to gaming I've not witnessed product placement in games. At least real time products and not products made up for the sake of the game. Is this something that has happened much in the past or something that happens few and far between? I'll have to keep my eyes open in any new games I play and see what I spot.

Thanks again for the great blog and I look forward to more. :)

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  • Retromags Curator

Only 3 comments?! Wow! But now there's 4. :lol:

What can I say? :)

I'm not much more than an interpreter, and not very good at telling stories. ;)

*huggles*

Areala

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