|'DinoHunters' is a game about a group of time-traveling hunters who go on prehistoric safaris and also shave with Schick Quattro razors.
So the company, like a lot of marketers these days, has turned to video games.
Schick is the exclusive sponsor of the first installment of "DinoHunters," a shooting game produced by Kuma Reality Games that revolves around a group of time-traveling hunters who go on prehistoric safaris and have their comedic situations filmed by a TV show on the fictional Total Hunting Channel. The channel has the show's celebrities film commercials for real-world sponsors during their expeditions. In this case, hunters shave with Schick's Quattro razor in the first level of the game.
The game is free and available for download at www.thedinohunters.com, with advertisers like Schick picking up the costs to produce future installments and help market the game as well. New installments will become available each month. Each episode of "DinoHunters" is designed to provide about three hours of game play across seven action sequences.
Financial details of Schick's involvement were not disclosed, but the production of an installment of a Kuma game can range from $40,000 to $150,000, the company said.
The association with "DinoHunters" is Schick's first foray into the video-game space. And, ironically, the company has chosen a property that mimics TV shows -- the very thing that young males 18 to 34 are said to be increasingly fleeing from.
Kuma Reality Games, based in New York, is developing "DinoHunters" -- as it does with all its games -- like an episodic TV show, with new installments serving to forward of the game's plot, which was written by former Maxim editor in chief Keith Blanchard.
The company launched the concept two years ago with the combat game "Kuma/War," for which 72 playable "episodes" have been produced, with new ones released twice a month. Online subscription service eMusic was one of the game's backers. Among the other ad-supported shows it is developing are "Club Club," an "American Idol"-like competition in which players can compete with other contestants at a slew of online venues.
Kuma is also developing games based on existing TV shows, with advertisers in those shows given the opportunity to back the advergames, thus extending their involvement with the on-air property and network.
"When you hear of 18- to 34-year-old males not watching TV, they're not going on nature walks," said Keith Halper, CEO of Kuma Reality Games. "They're playing video games."
A number of advertisers have been devoting more of their marketing dollars to video games in an effort to put themselves in front of young consumers. But unfamiliar with how that business operates, many marketers have been left scratching their heads on how to enter the video-game arena.
Mr. Halper said that adopting the TV model not only helps differentiate Kuma's serialized games from the rest of the advergames being produced by other companies, but also serves as a way to attract marketers.
Media buyers understand TV, Mr. Halper said.
"We're looking at television to provide a model for everything we do," he said. "Television has been an excellent way to reach consumers and we want to give people a form they're familiar with. We needed a way to explain to them what we’re doing in a way that they'd understand."
As part of its sponsorship of "DinoHunters," Schick will appear in several two- to three-minute spots, featuring characters from the game in comedic situations. The spots appear on several Web sites, including one for Game Live, an organizer of college-based video-game tournaments, and Xfire, devoted to hardcore gamers. They've also become popular on YouTube.com and Google. Nearly 15 minutes of content was created for the spots.
Kuma believes that its format also encourages gamers to keep coming back to a property as new installments are released, providing marketers with ongoing opportunities to target consumers.
While "DinoHunters" has just been launched, "Kuma/War" has attracted more than 1 million players since its launch, with episodes played more than 10 million times, Mr. Halper said.
"The great thing for us is that our marketing builds upon itself," Mr. Halper said. "I don't have to reacquire all my customers. They're already there. Our games enable marketers to associate themselves with a franchise rather than starting fresh with a new game."
Kuma is also hoping to expand the audience for its games by making them available on next-generation gaming consoles like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, which feature hard drives and Internet connections. The company also hopes to target new online entertainment sites from the likes of MTV and CBS, as well as MSN and Yahoo, among others -- all of which are looking for unique content to offer consumers.
"The pipe is there," Mr. Halper said.
So far, Schick has only agreed to sponsor the first episode of "DinoHunters," but is considering further installments of the game, which is powered by the gaming engine Valve created for the popular game "Half-Life 2."
"This is not a Quattro advergame," Mr. Halper stressed. "It's still 'DinoHunters' presented by Schick," leaving the doors open for other advertisers to adopt the game.
Schick declined to comment on the record for competitive reasons, but the company's deal with "DinoHunters" was brokered by specialty marketing firm Navigame, which worked together with Carat Fusion, New York. Navigame, which focuses on connecting brands with games, is handling Schick's year-long effort to use video games as a marketing platform for its products.