Brands and Video Games: Three Steps for Finding a Perfect Match: Step 2: Balancing Interests in User Interaction

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In the first part of this article series, we looked at choosing a video game for product placement based on game attributes. Now we begin addressing the details of the branding deal—specifically, deciding how users can interact with the brands within a game. For brand owners, the concern is how in-game treatment of the brand will affect the brand's image. For game developers, the focus is more on how inclusion of the brand will affect overall game play. Balancing these sometimes-competing interests is the key to reaching an agreement that will benefit everyone involved.

To illustrate the examples in this article, we turn once again to the same hypothetical brands used in Part 1: 1) Cupquake brand cake-flavored soft drinks ("The soda that rocks your world!"); 2) Captain Victory brand sporting goods ("For the heroes on your team"); and 3) Kraken Financial Services ("Release the investor in you!").

User interactions with branded products inside of video games can be broken down into four basic levels. At the most basic level, there is no user interaction at all—users can merely view the item as part of the game's environment (for example, billboards alongside a race track). One step up from that is non-destructive user interaction with indestructible branded products (such as kicking a branded soccer ball as part of a sports game). Moving higher, the next level is destructive user interaction with indestructible branded products (racecars that receive no damage after hitting a wall). The final and most interactive level involves branded products that users can damage or alter through their in-game actions (a soda bottle that the player can throw and break against a wall).

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP | Attorney Advertising

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