Product Placement in Homefront Is About Verisimilitude

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Product Placement in Homefront Is About Verisimilitude

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Kaos' lead level designer Rex Dickson dispelled rumors that product-placement in games is about money, and berated Modern Warfare 2 for Burger Town.

Homefront is all about what it'd be like to live in the United States when the western half of the country is occupied by Korean forces. Because the game is set on American soil, accurately portraying what most of America would be familiar with, such as restaurant chains and familiar brands, is extremely important to the designers, especially lead level designer Rex Dickson. He said that product placement is not about making money for the game - in fact, Kaos received no monetary compensation its use of brands. To him, whenever a game uses a fake brand, such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's Burger Town, it rings false and pulls the player out of the world. Dickson wouldn't say what brands would appear in Homefront, but it was an uphill battle just to get the necessary permissions.

"We are not actually getting paid to put these brands into the game. This is us going to [brands]. They ask us what our game is about, and we say, 'Korea invading the US.' They say, 'Not interested,'" Dickson said with a laugh. "We've been rejected by so many companies that we've almost abandoned the idea due to the lack of interest."

Dickson thinks its important because so much of America is inundated with such familiar brands, and that it creates a world that players can believe is real. "It just adds familiarity. You look at Modern Warfare 2 with Burger Town. The fact that it wasn't McDonalds or Burger King takes away from the game. If it had been a real world place, it registers in a different way with the player."

The problem is that the prevalence of real-world brands might actually be worse, something that Dickson freely admits. "My only regret with that whole thing is that we weren't able to convince more companies to get in on it. We have a mix of brands that we came up with, the small Mom and Pop stuff contrasted with bigger names but I kind of wish we could have got enough people interested that we could have done a corporate brand for everything in the game," he said.

A quick survey of the The Escapist offices agrees with Dickson that having one or two real brands pop up in Homefront might do more to crush immersion than if all the brands were fictional. I commend Dickson for trying, but I'm not sure that mixing between the fictional and real will create the desired effect. On the other hand, Homefront's somewhat unfamiliar 2027 setting might help in selling the mix a little better.

Source: CVG

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Yeah, having McDonald's or Burger King in the game would actually break my immersion more than seeing "Burger Town" in the game.

Sounds good, odds are though, a couple of posts, people will say how they're lying and that it is for money.

Greg Tito:

A quick survey of the The Escapist offices agrees with Dickson that having one or two real brands pop up in Homefront might do more to crush immersion than if all the brands were fictional. I commend Dickson for trying, but I'm not sure that mixing between the fictional and real will create the desired effect. On the other hand, Homefront's somewhat unfamiliar 2027 setting might help in selling the mix a little better.

Wait, are you saying real brands mixed in with fake ones would do more to crush immersion, or that having all real(or fake) brands do more to crush immersion.

As for me, real brands would help. I always find fake brand stuff to be rather silly, and disconnecting. It wouldn't feel like the US without a McDonalds on every corner of the street.

I find the fake ads much better, as it shows developer creativity & humor in many cases.

The GTA games are a prime example of this.

From fake radio ads, to fake TVs ads, to fake billboard ads, to fake ads atop a taxi.

Let's face it, if your immersion is so shallow that a fake ad breaks it, you're not a terribly immersive game to begin with.

I'm not saying GTA4 is very immersive, so don't quote me and argue that point. I just like seeing how creative developers can get with fake ads.

(leaving)

Really? I liked Burger Town because they obviously weren't going to allow their game to be a piece of advertising.

THQ are just being idiots for providing advertising without being paid for it.

He has a point, but what he doesn't realize is that we already go into games with a mindset that "this isn't the real world" so when we see real ads in a game (outside of things like NASCAR where the ads are part of the realism of the cars) it actually throws us for a loop more.

Besides, isn't Homefront supposedly in an alternate timeline? Why would there HAVE to be a McD's or Burger King in the alternate?

Onyx Oblivion:
*Snippit

Agreed on all accounts. I didn't enjoy GTA IV much, but the ads I really appreciated because they were funny and thought out. If fake ads can pull the player out of the immersion, then real ads will as well, simply because their application isn't right.

I mean, if we put little KFC stamps on all the guns of Homefront, that doesn't mean that it would work better than MW2's burger town scenario. Actually, it'd be much worse because of poor application.

Onyx Oblivion:
I find the fake ads much better, as it shows developer creativity & humor in many cases.

The GTA games are a prime example of this.

From fake radio ads, to fake TVs ads, to fake billboard ads, to fake ads atop a taxi.

Let's face it, if your immersion is so shallow that a fake ad breaks it, you're not a terribly immersive game to begin with.

I'm not saying GTA4 is very immersive, so don't quote me and argue that point. I just like seeing how creative developers can get with fake ads.

GTA takes place in fictional cities based on real ones though, so it makes sense that that ads would be fake and all that.

If your game takes place in real-world locations, and if you want to drive that point home(which seems to be what Homefront is trying to do) then it just ends up being silly. If you live in an area of where this game takes place, it'll be much more impactful to see all the stuff you see, rather then a bunch of fake stuff which will make it seem alien to you.

Makes sense to me, and I totally understand where they're coming from. Fake adds do pull me out of a game if they're clearly a parody of an existing franchise. You might be wandering around in a game and see an ad for McWendy's Kentucky Fried King Burgers and think "Ha! It's hilarious how many real world fast food franchises they just mocked in one ad", and yeah it's funny, but that's kinda the problem. It wedges the distinction between "real world" and "game world" into your head whilst you're trying to immerse yourself in the game world.

I never understood the problem with product placement in video games, to be honest. I get that people don't want to be shown an ad on a loading screen. That's totally understandable. But placing billboards, radio or TV ads for real products, or real products themselves in a game can really help with the immersion, provided they don't go overboard. Add to that the fact that it gives the developer extra funds to use to further develop their title (although, not in this case) and if you handle it well, you have a win-win situation.

When I was playing Modern Warfare 2, I did kind of get the implied standing of the restaurants. Then again, I was making up names for battle itself. And the nickname that the Rangers would get. So later in the game while heading through the Underground tunnels and passing silent soldiers I just imagined the dumb-ass conversations they would have.

"Oh man, see those guys?"
"Yeah, Heard they're the outfit that held off that whole Russian Regiment at the Burger town"
"No shit? The Burger Town Bastards in the flesh."
"Yeah, Got so heavy they stole a Russian Hunter-Killer Drone to save their skins, ended up getting down to pure bare knuckle brawling before the convoy showed up."
"Man, Imagine their war bond tour."
"What?"
"You know, They'd go back home and tour the US, begging for war bond money."
"No no no. It's modern warfare, You're still stuck in Point Du Hoc."
"...Shit, you're right. I keep getting my mind stuck in the 2 perspective"
"Nothing like trigger based level design along with that infinitely respawning Russians/Germans/Japanese/Islamo-fascists behind doors to no where"
"Speaking of that, did you ever encounter any of those doors to no where in the Berlin Subways?"
"Ah, No. You're thinking Treyarch"
"ah, shit, got me again...Well, let's go storm the White House"
"After you, Captain my captain"

I guess it could be helpful for immersion.

You know, if the plot wasn't already masturbatory neo-con bullshit.

I prefer fake ads since if you use a real product then there seem to be all these unwritten rules about the, you cant destroy the advertising, you cant make fun of the product, you can even say anything bad about it, the new biotic commando was a shining example of how to do real world products horribly, you would see these vending machines all over but you couldnt use them as a weapon or anything, they were just there as an invincible reminder of who paid for the game

if they do this well and dont make them all in your face then it could work, if they dont then it will be annoying and wont endear them to anyone

mireko:
I guess it could be helpful for immersion.

You know, if the plot wasn't already masturbatory neo-con bullshit.

You have summed up my exact thoughts. No amount of grounding will ever let me take this seriously, though I'm sure all the forced patriotism will leave some hilarious moments.

Why not? Blade Runner had quite overt product placement at times, and it still turned out to be a sci-fi masterpiece. As long as the quality is there, whether the ads are real or not doesn't really matter.

As for this game, having real brand names may actually help with the overall effect. It's trying to be a more extreme version of the Virginia suburb scene in Modern Warfare 2. They didn't get the writer of "Red Dawn" for nothing.

This effect they are going for of juxtaposing these outlandish scenarios with the real and the recognizable actually reminds me a lot of Half-Life 2. The Combine and head-crabs and all that seems much more strange when it's set against such a mundane environment so that the game might as well be taking place in a New England countryside (I know it's set in Eastern Europe, that's beside the point).

I enjoy product placement when used correctly like in super monkey ball, crazy taxi, and MGS peace walker.

Onyx Oblivion:
I find the fake ads much better, as it shows developer creativity & humor in many cases.

Very true but I find some fake brands to be unnecessary. When I was playing MW2 I just thought "'Burgertown'? Oh, you mean Burgerking."
Plus at some level, I feel it kinda adds to the poignancy of the game: fighting in my own country and passing the same real franchises I see everyday. I don't really care about product placement, as long as I get to shot some foreigners.joking mods joking

if mcdonalds(they don't deserve my capitalization) were in insted of burger town then i would be really ashamed of infinity ward

It amuses me to see sime of the fake names in video games like Burger town, nova gas and other things like that but if Sgt. foley yelled out "Rameriez get on top of MCDONALDS and use the stinger" that would have ruined the campagin for me i would have shut the game off and not finished it ther and probably wouldnt have the 17 days of playtime that i do now

but in games like Forza the parts are actual world parts and people know which brands are the best and if your making a replica of your car online your gonna want to rep the parts your using

TL:DR optional stickers good, funny fake names great, companys sticking there advertising dicks into my game BAD

Don't talk to me about verisimilitude when you have North Korea invading the US.

Maybe they should've stuck with China, but no, don't want to ruffle any feathers.

Onyx Oblivion:
I find the fake ads much better, as it shows developer creativity & humor in many cases.

I'm with Onyx. Humourous companies and ads may pull away from the game a bit, but the laughs make up for it.

Besides, who doesn't love McBurger Kong?

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I liked Burger Town because I knew what it was supposed to be--even inside looked fairly accurate--but at the same time I wasn't drawn out of the game by suddenly going, "Hey, a Whopper sounds really good right now." Seeing real life brands it games always makes my brain skip a neuron or two. I remember thinking, "Oh hey, they got Energizer. That's cool." when I first got batteries in Alan Wake. Sort of breaks the immersion.

Here's hoping I get to shoot it up in a Dick's Drive-Thru (local burger stand here in washington state). :P

It depends on the overall quality of the ad. If a fake ad is well done, it does no more to break immersion for me then a poorly done real-world ad. I'm hopeful for this, though. Since they aren't getting paid to put the company logos in, THQ might have a lot more control over how it is handled then if they were being paid to put them in.

Honestly, this is a tough call. Take Alan Wake, for example. Having things like real brands of cars, for example, helped add a bit of realism to the world. However, when you've got huge Energizer billboards and Verizon ads on the television, it goes a bit overboard. I think that maybe if you fought inside of a Burger King or something, that would work. It would feel kind of weird knowing that you're fighting in a place that you know and are familiar with. As long as they keep it in moderation it's fine with me.

in a game that's entire premise is "this could be you," fake brands would soften the blow

thus should they be avoided

I like fake product placement when it's used for the purpose of humour (someone already mentioned 'Burger Kong' from Red Alert 2) but I can see what he's getting at. When you're trying to play a fake product absolutely straight-faced I do find it somewhat immersion-breaking. I mean, bland 'give me money' placement is also a problem, but it reminds me of an old picture from the Red Dawn set of a McDonald's with sandbags, machine guns, Russian soldiers and tanks all through the parking lot. The contrast actually worked really well.

mireko:

You know, if the plot wasn't already masturbatory neo-con bullshit.

Yes, because alternative history is always politically motivated. Clearly Harry Turtledove both supports slavery and is a Nazi for writing novels where the Confederacy and the Third Reich won their respective wars. Give Milius some credit, he's very political in his personal life but a lot of his work (Rome, Conan the Barbarian, Apocalypse Now) doesn't reflect that.

It's not like these brands are going to be shoved in your faces, going "BUY GILLET FUSION!" I'd imagine that there would be just a few destroyed billboards, and maybe a broken TV with static giving out an Oreos commercial or something.

Besides, we all know what happened with Burger Town.

My first problem I see with immersion is trying to by that North Korea had both the resources and ability to take over and occupy the US considering it is a nation of a few million starving people run by a complete idiot (and most likely dead) dictator.

mireko:
I guess it could be helpful for immersion.

You know, if the plot wasn't already masturbatory neo-con bullshit.

great job judging a game before its out.

King_Serpent:

mireko:
I guess it could be helpful for immersion.

You know, if the plot wasn't already masturbatory neo-con bullshit.

great job judging a game before its out.

I'm not judging the gameplay or the overall experience of the game. I have no idea what those elements will be like (they could be fantastic), but I do know the plot. And it's ridiculous.

It seems so pointless to put so much work into making the game immersive and realistic when they're still going to have North Korea conquer Asia and invade the US. And it's written by the author of Red Dawn.

You know, having played Modern Warfare 2, seeing "Burger Town" didn't drag me out or ruin the "immersion". You know why? I figured it was probably just some local place, and not some huge chain, which hey actually does exist in the real world.

Sometimes, I find it really hard to listen to what these guys say about this game... I don't know if they are being smart about it, or just complete and utter morons.

Well finally a piece of news about Homefront comes out and doesn't make me RAAAAAAAAAAGE.

I agree that real brands add to the veracity of the world. However, I think Mr. Dickison is overestimating the power of brands in a game/visual narrative. GTA has already been mentioned, in which they must use fake brands because all of their ads are parodies of consumerism; anyone arguing for better immersion by suggesting GTA uses real brands does not understand the franchise at all. But even the case of 'Burger Town' is not as bad he makes it seem; in truth, brands are part of a big sensory overload in modern urban environments, so the fact that the brands exist is more important than they being 'real' brands (since in the case of a ficticious story the brands are as real as the story itself, then you get literary agent hypotheses and all that).

I'm tired of arguing about how Homefront makes no effort whatsoever to appeal to non-Americans so I'll only mention in passing that there's no White Castle in here (hell, both Subway and Burger King only arrived last year) and the only reason I know what White Castle is is because there is a movie that was referrenced in a game I played. If there is a more roundabout way to know what something is it must have an SCP number.

mireko:
I guess it could be helpful for immersion.

You know, if the plot wasn't already masturbatory neo-con bullshit.

This describes my opinion exactly.

Blind Sight:
Yes, because alternative history is always politically motivated. Clearly Harry Turtledove both supports slavery and is a Nazi for writing novels where the Confederacy and the Third Reich won their respective wars.

But this ISN'T alternate history, and even North Korea's nukes wouldn't be enough to allow the country's military to even GET to American soil to invade anyway, and how does the "Greater Korean Republic" even have enough soldiers in the other countries to even keep a heavy enough military presence in nearly every fucking country in Europe and Asia to keep them from fighting back WHILE STILL BEING ABLE TO INVADE AMERICA?!

The creators could have tried a story about another country being invaded for once but instead they went with what everyone else was doing.

Even without the "neo-con" in "masturbatory neo-con bullshit" you still have the "masturbatory" and "bullshit" and the sheer amount of it is enough to make George Lucas blush.

Is it just me, or does it strike anyone that a lot of Real World companies, particularly fast food places might not be to eager to be placed in even mildly realistic looking FPS games? McDonald's in particular has got to be extremely sensitive about this sort of thing given the horrifying assault weapon incident from the 80's.

Worgen:
I prefer fake ads since if you use a real product then there seem to be all these unwritten rules about the, you cant destroy the advertising, you cant make fun of the product, you can even say anything bad about it, the new biotic commando was a shining example of how to do real world products horribly, you would see these vending machines all over but you couldnt use them as a weapon or anything, they were just there as an invincible reminder of who paid for the game

if they do this well and dont make them all in your face then it could work, if they dont then it will be annoying and wont endear them to anyone

Well... Wal mart became a north Korean headquarters, for whatever that's worth.

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