We compiled a list of about 100 advergames to use as examples to show clients, and from this, we learned quite a lot about hem. I share some of the history, successes, and failures of advergames in my Gamasutra article Four Decades of Advergames.
Here are some quick facts from the article.
1. Advergames are old. The first female programmer, Carol Shaw, worked on an advergame for Polo in 1978. (The campaign was canceled, and the games were only released as a prototype later.)
2. The first advergames appeared in 1983. Among them are Tapper for Budweiser, Pepsi Invaders for Coca-Cola, Kool-Aid Man, Tooth Protectors for Colgate, and Chase the Chuck Wagon for Purina dog food.
3. Tapper is a classic in its own right, featured in Wreck-It Ralph and 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.
4. Not all advergames are free. This is especially true for older games (McDonald’s MC Kids, for example, were sold for 49.99 USD), but even now there are paid advergames, such as the charming Pushover for Quavers and Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 1and 2, all available on Steam.
5. Advergames have been made for almost any platform: there are arcade games (like Tapper), console games (Doritos’ Dash of Destruction), PC games (DQ Tycoon), mobile games (McPlay), and web games (Magnum Pleasure Hunt).
6. Some advergames use newer technologies such as VR (KFC’s dark “training” game The Hard Way), AR (Magnum’s Pleasure Hunt 2), and combined experiences (Nike’s Reactland includes a treadmill, a controller, shoes, graphics projected onto massive walls).
7. The US government use games. For the US Army, there is America’s Army, a reasonably realistic game featuring all aspects of the military. For the Navy, there is Navy Training Exercise: Strike and Retrieve, which features some terrifying sea monsters.
8. One innovative game from KFC, Colonel Sander’s Kentucky Fried Football Challenge, is played on Instagram. The game uses several accounts; the photo grid represents an American football field and shows the current game state. The cell with the KFC bucket (that replaced the ball) has an animation showing the last “move” by the player. In the comments are links to other accounts that represent your next moves.
9. Some advergames are incredibly successful. Chex Quest that was distributed to 42 million players. It spawned two sequels (the last of which was fan-service) and is getting an HD re-release this year — 23 years after its initial release. Barkley Card Water Slide Extremebecame the top iOS game in several countries and reached 55 million downloads. Burger King’s Sneak King sold 2 million copies, making it one of the top ten best selling games of 2006. The game is also responsible for increasing Burger King sales by 40%.
10. Nowadays, some companies use games in their marketing in ways that go beyond just advergames; KFC has KFC Gaming (a community built around games and e-sports), and Arby references games frequently to appeal to gamers.