Reuters recently published an interesting article which offers an interesting look at the fascinating but rarely-discussed business of racing games, which are becoming increasingly important as auto makers look to reach out to consumers.
It also touches on the wildly diverse relationships between game publishers and car companies, some of which demand licensing fees from the publishers to include their cars in games, while others pay extra to have their products put in the spotlight.Audi, for example, is paying Microsoft to “sponsor” Forza Motorsport 5.
Brian Blau, a gaming industry analyst for Gartner, used to work on such licensing deals, and reports that auto companies are willing to pay millions of dollars to get their cars featured in a game or highlighted on its cover.
Such product placement is both cheaper and more effective than product placement in movies, as noted by German psychologist Bert te Wildt.
“The feeling of being behind the wheel of a fast car is far more intense when you drive it yourself in a digital world than when you watch it in a film, for instance,” said te Wildt. “And now that these cyberspace vehicles are nearly photo-realistic, product placement in video games has become that much more attractive for carmakers.”
A focus on this type of product placement has certainly not been lost on Nissan, sponsor of the GT Academy program. “GT Academy is a great way for us to attract the gaming community to the brand. A million people have experienced this year driving an electric vehicle in a game,” said Gareth Dunsmore, general marketing manager for Nissan Europe.
Of course, increasing realism also means opportunities for more realistic crashes and vehicular damage – certainly not something the auto companies want you to see.
“We have very specific understandings of how we would show damage to a car,” said one game developer in the report who asked to not be named.