Aside from standard TV commercials and the advertisements you’re inclined to skip on Youtube, products still manage to sneak their way into various forms of media. Product placement is commonplace in some films and series you see, pervasively in music videos, but the marketing strategy has also invaded gaming.
Certain games are more subtle than others in how they stage a product in their environment. Some can perhaps mention it in dialogue or on an item of clothing, while others are more blatant and weave it into the level design or make in-game assets out of it. Below are some of the latter examples.
10 Kit Kat – Theme Hospital
Before Mark Webley co-founded Two Point Studios to make Two Point Hospital and Two Point Campus, there was the original predecessor in 1997 called Theme Hospital. It’s likewise a business simulation game where you expand and staff a private hospital to help cure patients that exhibit comical diseases, like Hairyitis and The Squits.
But the humor of these illnesses is not all that’s in store for you in this game. The developers decided to use real Kit Kat chocolate as the design of their hospital vending machines, with each one having the exact red color and lettering of the logo. It fails to dispense the actual chocolate bars, though, only drinks.
9 Burger King – Fight Night Round 3
For its sports game centered around the field of boxing, Fight Night Round 3, EA hits you with a direct swing in promoting the sponsorship of the popular burger chain. The iconic Burger King himself is a trainer in the game that you can have in your corner, and he’ll even boost your boxer’s heart rating stat, which all sounds pretty unconventional for him.
The Burger King character is exactly like you’d see in the various Burger King commercials he’s a part of, with the crimson and gold embroidered robe and Burger King crown and beard. There’s also a trophy you earn attached to Burger King.
8 Powerade – Enter The Matrix
The Matrix films have seen plenty of video game adaptations long before Unreal 5’s The Matrix Awakens tech demo. And Atari’s Enter the Matrix from 2003, actually written and directed by the Wachowskis, similarly saw a vending machine product placement.
It appears that the sports drink Powerade has indeed entered the Matrix. You can find one in the mission where you infiltrate a power plant. The fancy P logo amid a classic green-black striped background is easily recognizable, and you can even grab a bottle from the machine to restore some health. There was also a commercial for The Matrix Reloaded promoting Powerade that same year.
7 Mercedes-Benz – Mario Kart 8
Nothing smells more like product placement than a free DLC vehicle pack for Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U courtesy of Mercedes-Benz. It comes with three karts whose models correspond to the 2014 GLA class SUV, the classic W25 race car, and the 300 SL Roadster that made its debut in the 1950s.
This is an obvious partnership between Nintendo and the European car manufacturer to promote its current line of vehicles at the time and raise a few eyebrows among car enthusiasts. But how cool is it to see Mario and company riding around their themed tracks in a Mercedes?
6 Cup Noodles – Final Fantasy 15
It seems as though Final Fantasy 15 omits some of the fantasy elements with their inclusion of Cup Noodles. The popular microwavable noodle soup goes beyond a simple advertisement and plays a considerable part in its gameplay. Gladiolus seeks the “ultimate flavor experience,” and you’re sent on a quest to find ingredients for the perfect Cup Noodles.
You start the mission interaction in front of a giant Cup Noodles truck with a decal of the Nissin brand logo in a corner and an enormous cup of the beef and shrimp flavor recipe. The quest ends with you and your fellow squad enjoying the Cup Noodles around a campfire, and eating it will increase your attack.
5 Axe & Airwaves Gum – Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
For its third Splinter Cell installment, Ubisoft found creative ways of incorporating ads for two products, the men’s body care brand Axe and the now-discontinued Airwaves gum. Airwaves appears in the fourth mission’s initial cutscene on an air blimp before the massive blackout occurs, and you can also see characters enjoying it in other cutscenes.
Within that same level, there’s a zipline section on a building with a bright neon sign that displays Axe in giant lettering, along with a canister of body spray accompanying it. Other various Axe items can be seen in bathroom sections. And you won’t need Sam’s night vision to spot these because they’re far from the stealthiest aspect you’ll encounter in Chaos Theory.
4 Energizer & Verizon – Alan Wake
When you have a horror game reliant on a flashlight mechanic to help weaken its nightmarish enemies, it does warrant some product placement. Alan Wake is a third-person shooter survival horror where the titular character navigates a world of deadly supernatural phenomena while dealing with writer’s block.
Alan’s flashlight and his batteries of choice that constantly need to be replaced are the Energizer brand. They appear scattered throughout areas as packs of batteries with the Energizer logo plainly visible. The cellphone company Verizon is also featured in the game, an actual ad can appear on a TV, and the logo is plastered on a billboard in-game.
3 Chupa Chups – Zool: Ninja Of The Nth Dimension
Another form of candy that has an even more pronounced appearance in gaming is the Chupa Chups. Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension was a platforming game created in 1992 for the older Amiga computer system and later the SNES and Game Boy. It’s designed similarly to Super Mario and Sonic, but with a gremlin ninja as the protagonist.
At the time, the development team behind Zool, Gremlin Graphics, had a sponsorship with the Spanish lollipop company Chupa Chups. Therefore, the company logo is displayed quite a lot in the game, including the main menu, candy-themed levels, and wrappers for the lollipop assets.
2 Monster Energy & AMC’s Ride With Norman Reedus – Death Stranding
Even Hideo Kojima found a way to feature some product placement in the apocalyptic sci-fi narrative of Death Stranding. First up is the Monster energy drink, which has since been removed in the Director’s cut of the game. And then there’s also a poster promoting Norman Reedus’ travel show on AMC called Ride with Norman Reedus.
These won’t be shoved in your face in the open-world environment, just in Sam’s private room where he gets some well-earned rest from his porter duties. Like the Powerade in Enter the Matrix, you can consume the Monster to receive a stamina boost. And the show’s poster pops up on the bathroom wall as it’s in use.
1 Red Bull – Judge Dredd: Dredd Vs. Death
In Rebellion’s 2005 first-person shooter Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death, the product placement couldn’t be more in your face. In the opening cutscene of the game’s third chapter, Dredd runs over a can of Red Bull with his bike on his way to the docks. And the can lands right in front of the camera as a giant close-up.
And throughout the level design of the docks, you’ll come across crates of Red Bull. There have been quite a few adaptations of the futuristic dystopia comic, where the police force act as the judge, jury, and executioner. However, the Sniper Elite developer decided Dredd needed some wings in this one.