Advertising as a consumable product? Typically, the idea has been confined to places like the doll shelf, with stuffed M&Ms or Pillsbury Doughboys?until last year's arrival of King Games, a series of three Xbox games starring characters from the Burger King multiverse, retailing at the fast food chain's restaurants and selling for a mere $3.99 with the purchase of a Value Meal for a limited time before the holidays. Demand for the games went through the roof?early 2007 estimates put sales at 3.2 million units, and it wasn't long before gamers spotted titles for sale used at twice the price in specialty shop GameStop. Partnering with English developer Blitz Games, Crispin, Porter + Bogusky was involved in every step of the games' creation, crafting a place where players could form deeper connections with BK characters and even foes online with the Xbox 360 Live feature. This wasn't the agency's first foray into the video game sphere?Fight Night: Round 3, which debuted in early 2006, featured a character managed by the King (in addition to BK product placement many gamers regarded as an eyesore) but the King Games were widely heralded around the videogame community for their price-to-playability ratio. Pocketbike Racer offers vehicle customization (appropriately dubbed "Have It Your Way"), a choice of challenging tracks (five in total, including a BK parking lot and the whimsical environs of the Fantasy Ranch), and multiplayer support (both split-screen four-player and eight-player melee via Xbox Live). Those who crave a little more contact in their competitive gaming can try their hand at Big Bumpin', which pits the various BK cast members in a no-holds-barred bumper car battle, theme park style?with a few burger-themed hazards thrown in for good measure. And for fans of the stealth action genre, Sneak King replaces the silent back-stabbing in all those Tom Clancy espionage games with a much less violent M.O.
Q&A with Crispin Porter + Bogusky CCO Alex Bogusky What did you think of the games' success?
Alex Bogusky: I was really surprised how well they sold through, because when we looked at the numbers there were only three million Xbox consoles. Not everyone has to buy one, but, man, that's a big chunk of all the gamers who have that console having to buy that game. And then you think, well, Burger King is retailing the game. It doesn't come free with your food, or you buy some food you have to pay extra to get the game. How much could they trust us to provide a really great game?
A number of different characters appear in the game. Can you tell us a little about their development?
Bogusky: It was great because we have been building this stable of icons for a while. It takes a long time to build a game, so during that process we're introducing [in the advertising] other icons knowing we're going to put them in the game in a year. Whopper Boy, we're creating him, and at the same time we're creating commercials we're sending him over to get scanned to become a 3D character in the game. At the same time we're doing stuff with Brooke Burke and the King, we're sending her and getting her into the game. I love all these icons, and I love all these assets. To be able to bring them all together was one of my favorite projects of all time.
Looking back on the project, are there any things you'd change if you could?
Bogusky: The only thing I regret is I should have put myself in there in some way. It feels like something permanent in advertising, which is so not permanent. That was the other thing that was cool about running the numbers on it, I think it was something like 13 Super Bowls worth of impressions when you look at how much time someone spent with the game. Personally, it was really interesting to watch my son play the game and see how his relationship with the King changed as he was playing the game. You get more involved. You could feel him referring to him differently? "that crazy King" and it was more of a relationship. It was pretty obvious, but it was wild to watch. It's really sinister to use advertising on your own children like that.