Burger King Sets High Score With Its Adver-games

Case Study: Looking at the ROI on the Fast-Feeders X-Box Offerings

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- The King has conquered yet another realm: adver-games.
Burger King's 'Sneak King' video game for Xbox may not have won rave reviews, but gamers still bought more than 2 million copies.
Burger King's 'Sneak King' video game for Xbox may not have won rave reviews, but gamers still bought more than 2 million copies.

During their first five weeks in restaurants, Burger King sold 2.5 million copies of three games co-produced with Microsoft's Xbox division that feature its ubiquitous King, the burger chain's agency said. Burger King hyped this major milestone in a rather carefully worded press release that called the series the "best-selling collection of games published for the Xbox/Xbox 360 platforms this holiday season."

In a release, Crispin Porter & Bogusky said the games have sold 2.7 million copies to date, vaulting them into the top-10-selling video games in 2006. Of course, the BK games are priced much lower than most Xbox games.

Could reach 4 million mark
One knowledgeable executive speculated that sales could top 4 million copies before the self-liquidating offer is completed, and said the promotion, along with its kid counterpart "Dance Dance Revolution" and an earlier "Happy Feet" promotions, have driven traffic up double digits compared to a year ago when "Star Wars" was Burger King's big push. "Beating that would be really good," the executive said.

A Burger King spokeswoman wouldn't confirm sales predictions. In April, Burger King said it expected to sell nearly 7 million games, based on its consumer research.

"Most video games are considered a blockbuster when they reach the 1 million mark in sales," Russ Klein, president-global marketing, strategy and innovation for Burger King Corp., said in the statement. "This collection has achieved twice that, thanks in part to the great value for the money and convenient holiday stocking-stuffer appeal."

Sporting titles such as "Pocketbike Racer," "Big Bumpin"' and "Sneak King" and featuring the King, his pal Brooke Burke, the Whopper Jr. and the Subservient Chicken, the games are compatible with the Xbox and Xbox 360 platforms. Each game is available for $3.99 with the purchase of a BK Value Meal. Some stores sold the titles individually, while others sold them as packs.

Two executives close to the situation said the sales varied widely across the country based on the penetration of Xbox consoles-in some stores the games sold out entirely, but in others they did little to spur traffic.

EBay sees boosted traffic
The trio of titles has also boosted traffic for eBay. Nearly 40 auctions for the games are listed on the internet site, and some online sellers have already fetched as much as $25 for the pack. Several sales were to self-professed first-time buyers in markets as far away as the U.K. where the games haven't yet been made available.

With the successful sales, Burger King has "supersized adver-gaming," said Mike Vorhaus, managing director of Frank N. Magid Associates. "They're getting a highly engaged advertising vehicle in the hands of hard-to-reach gamers. Is there going to be a rising bar in adver-gaming? My gut tells me no. I don't think this is necessarily revolutionary, but the sell-through is impressive."

Burger King promoted the games heavily with a strong media calendar, including an oft-run TV spot, a dedicated website at BKgamer.com and a Hollywood-studio-style PR machine to fuel buzz and reviews.

'Weirdly compelling'
GameSpot gave "Sneak King" a mediocre 5.8 review (out of 10) on its site, but noted that the game is "so crazy and so cheap that it still manages to be weirdly compelling."

Meanwhile, blogger Michael McWhertor wrote on gamer site Kotaku.com, "While games like 'Gears of War' may sell based on quality (and hype), branded shovelware, like 'Sneak King,' 'Big Bumpin" and 'Pocketbike Racer' sells on price. And close proximity to Whopper Jr. value meals."

Most franchisees are happy with the self-liquidating promotion.

Alex Salguiero, a franchisee with 12 stores near Savannah, Ga., on Dec. 20 had already sold out his supply of 300 to 400 units. But despite the games' relatively low cost to consumers vs. a full-price video game, he said he could have sold more if they were priced less than $3.99.

"The price point is high, which impacts people," Mr. Salguiero said, noting the most popular premium was Burger King's November 2004 offer of SpongeBob SquarePants watches. "Those flew out the door in light speed. There's resistance to buy over the $1.99 price point. It definitely is a limited group of people compared to a watch."
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