We are living in the age of celebrity, where Heat Magazine sells by the bucket-load. Cynical gamer types like us don’t need to worry about trivial things like that because we’re different, right? Sorry, guys and dolls but you may have missed the memo. Gaming is the new rock n’ roll.
With budgets and sales to rival Hollywood blockbusters, I guess it was only a matter of time before the PR Machines began to throw celebrities into the mix. They’re trying to make the big game releases feel more like movie premieres; complete with full red carpet treatment.
With Call of Duty: Black Ops officially being the “best-selling game of all time”, maybe it’s of no surprise that Activision have announced that their Call of Duty XP Event will hit Los Angeles on September 2nd and 3rd and will headlined by Kanye West. There are even rumours that Jay-Z will make an appearance in front of 6,000 people paying $150 for the privilege. The event will be the public’s first chance to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 online and Microsoft are even sponsoring a $1 Million Tournament.
We are talking about big business here, considering how much the average CoD fan will spend on map packs, DLC and the title itself over a year before repeating the process all over again (break the cycle people!). When you strip this down to the bone, you can see that this is no longer about gaming, but simply a huge ad campaign defending a multi-billion dollar first-person shooter brand to ensure Activision’s market share remains intact. This is not something the average gamer will think about when buying Modern Warfare 3, but to the men in suits this is all that it’s about.
Some serious money is being spent on the event. To me it feels like a boxing movie, where the ageing champion has become arrogant and having lost sight of what made him the best in the world has resorted to entering the ring throwing money into the crowd. Despite spending thousands trying to guarantee CoD retaining its title as the best FPS, there is a worthy challenger in the form of EA’s Battlefield 3 waiting for their moment of glory after smelling a weakness in their adversary.
As fiercely loyal as CoD fans are, a look on Twitter, Facebook or the many gaming forums online there is a definite wind of change in the air. It is almost considered very cool to knock Activision and dislike the Call of Duty franchise, where the Battlefield series appears to be gaining much online love since July when the official site for EA’s upcoming blockbuster launched. Although EA are far from being small fry, it seems people will always root for the underdog, especially when they announce that they want to destroy their opponent.
Here at This Is My Joystick we have interviewed several gaming celebrities who genuinely love gaming, but there seems to be a growing trend of using big-name celebrities who have clearly never played a game in their life. Take Helen Mirren and Terry Wogan in Nintendo’sChristmas Campaign last year. You can imagine some hipster standing in a boardroom saying“If we are going to sell this shit to the public we need to add the Hollywood Effect”.
Whatever you are selling, it’s common knowledge that if you want to fool your customers then you need to use celebrities in your ads. It’s the modern way and somehow makes people think the product is must have and glamorous. Hell, it may even make you cool if you buy it.
The reality is that the agent calls the so-called celebrity and says something like “Pretend you like Product X and you’ll get a suitcase full of cash for an afternoon’s work. You in?” I like to think that gamers are a little more switched on than this though and can smell a sell-out when they see one.
Mock my knitwear collection but don’t mention the fish sticks joke…
Despite the idiocy of it all and the ridiculous lengths that Activision are going to simply to protect their turf, I think it is testament to just how successful gaming has become as an entertainment medium. A game release is just as an important as a Hollywood summer blockbuster premiere in the eyes of the world, which is something that I never thought that I would see in my lifetime. With this comes the dreaded celebrity endorsements and the hypocrisy that comes with them, but unfortunately feel that this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
As the two giants, EA and Activision, go toe-to-toe with each other, the only real winners will be the gamers. Tough competition will force the developers to up their game to create the best possible gaming experience, so maybe it’s not that bad after all.
Let us know what you think about the battle of the two FPS giants, celebrity endorsements and gaming getting the Hollywood treatment.