Monday, October 02, 2006

His royal flame-broiled highness requests your flamage

Yes yes, I know about the BK thing. Yes, marketers are evil, I thought we've established that. So please, go ahead and rant, I certainly won't get in your way. Let's just get it all out of our system.

[Plays his Lego Star Wars 2, occasionally glancing back as you rage on. Notices you running out of breath.]

Ok, we good?

Now before I get to my points, I want to just say that I'm personally torn between thinking this is a horrible step for games or a brilliant marketing idea. I read this story a few hours ago and I've been letting it marinate in my noodle till now. The end result: I'm still torn but there is something that I don't think anyone's talked about yet and so here goes.

Let me tell you why this is going to work like gangbusters and why the industry should pay attention. There are two key things going for this: Distribution and Price. (No, I didn't need to capitalize those words but I thought it'd look good for emphasis.)

There are approximately 7,400 BK restaurants in the US. Just as a point of reference, there are 2,280 EB Games (yes, I know I'm not counting the Walmarts and Best Buys where you can get games, like I said, point of reference). The sheer number of restaurants out there with these games will mean that your everyday consumer is going to have easy access to the products. Other than an online distribution, this is about as good as it gets.

Why is this important? Because game distribution is one of the biggest headaches for a major publisher. Simple fact; if Walmart does carry your game, you're screwed. The effect this has on game content is that it trickles up through marketing to production. Games that are not considered mainstream or marketable just don't make it. Sure, you can go the indie route but good luck with that.

So the fact is, as much as you'd hate to admit it, BK has unlocked a distribution channel for the industry. Sure, there's been branded games packaged in cereal boxes before but you could probably have more fun throwing those CDs against a wall. Here we have a next-gen console game that looks to have decent production values. Yes, it may be selling your soul to the flame-broiled devil but that indie dev house that just got a big check ain't complaining. Maybe they'll use that money for something else but at the very least they have money that isn't from trying to compete to make Demonslayer 5; The Slaying.

At $4 a pop, these games are hardly a high consideration product. If you're a parent, you can hit up BK and kill two birds with one stone, feeding junk to your kid's guts and brain. If you're older and curious, it's not going to hurt to try it. The end result is the same, more games sold. With the average price of next-gen games reaching close to $60 and even crappy games at least $20, this is (dare I say it) revolutionary. This is Dell with the under $2k computer breaking the barriers. If this game only delivers 10% of the entertainment value, it's already exceeded the cost to value ratio. Sure, BK no doubt subsidized most of the cost but there are less evil ways to get support for games like copartnership or event sponsorships (Superbowl football game?).

No, I'm not advocating making cheap branded $4 games. However, what this could potentially do is show that games at the low range can be fun and worth playing/making. Now all we have to do is wait for the reviews.

So what lessons can the industry learn from this? Basically, let's look beyond the normal distribution model for games and let's experiment with very low-cost games in those distribution channels. Sure, this BK thing leaves a bad taste in your mouth but let's not pass up a learning opportunity. I, myself, won't pass judgment on this thing until January.

Two articles of many
[update: got off my lazy butt and added images]


Amber said...

Your Evilness, I think you're forgetting point 3. :) And that is Reputation with a capital "R." The screenshot that I've seen on about 4 different blogs now (and that was without even looking for it) is the one that looks like the creepy King is about to jump out of a trashcan onto his female victim. Of course we know that the King has no intention of raping anything except her arteries (okay, ick), but I have to wonder if it's something they really want their product associated with, even indirectly. Is it really a good idea to risk the icon you've built your entire company on as a sexual predation joke? Curious to know your thoughts on this. I'm trying to think of some examples of brand icons being destroyed in such a misguided manner, but have to admit I'm at a loss. There was that Starbucks "I Like My Coffee Like I Like My Plantation Workers" campaign a few years back, but most people seem to have forgotten it...

Ken said...

There was that one time when the Jolly Green Giant got jolly in the middle of a movie theater. Then there was the Pillsbury Doughboy sending lurid emails to Sara Lee. My favorite is Mr. Clean coming clean on steroids but who didn't see that one from a mile away?

Brand self-destruction is nothing new even if not as prurient as the examples above. Quaker Oats is mimicking the King's creepiness in some new ad campaigns. I know another brand icon that's going to be "reimaged" soon but can't reveal which one, I'll tell you in email if you wanna know. =)

But regarding the King, this icon was created to be creepy. Quite frankly, it's doing its job fantastically. Reputation nowadays doesn't necessarily have to be positive. The adage of any PR is good PR applies to marketing more and more often. Any marketing buzz is good marketing buzz.

These games will and have ticked off gamers but gamers are not their target. Reputation with gamers is hardly even on their radar. This is about making the King a "brand experience" and making buzz.

The company serves mediocre food, they need the brand experience to get customers. (Coke is sugar water, they're nothing without the brand experience.) BK has decided that the clean cut brand is so old school. A little creepiness and playing in new spaces makes it all better.

I don't necessarily agree with it but I understand it. They are cashing out on brand equity they've built up and using it to build some new equity. It's a big gamble but what else are going to do, just let your reputation sit and get old?

You're right though, Reputation is the third point. Customers are going to try this game just to see what BK can do with a game. There's a bit of Being John Malkovich and making the King do things you wouldn't expect. The whole, "I can't believe I'm doing this with this brand icon".