While salivating over the most recent installment to the Tiger Woods Video Game Franchise, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10, my mind began to wander towards product placement. I suppose it is a natural extension that a game which allows players to play “real” courses would logically allow players to purchase “real” apparel and equipment with tournament winnings.
Now, product placement, generally, and product placement in video games, specifically, are not new concepts. However, the way in which companies are able to target and control their message through placement is becoming increasingly sophisticated. For example, we have already evolved from movie placement and early video game placement, where the interaction between the consumer and the brand was largely just a passive viewing, to highly interactive placement, such as an the Tiger Woods’ series, where the player is able to interact with the brand by playing with the branded equipment.
This type of product placement represents yet another example of how virtual worlds can affect real world brands. (I blogged earlier on virtual infringement here.) The case with Tiger Woods Golf is particularly compelling because not only are the products “placed” in the game, they also have distinct performance characteristics which could color the players perception of the actual brand. Players could be developing opinions about the effectiveness of gloves, shafts, grips, irons, wedges, drivers, putters, balls, shoes, etc. without ever having seen the real world item. This could be affecting their opinions of major brands such as Nike, Callaway, Taylor Made, Titleist, Cleveland, and Odyssey (among others). Moreover, the stakes are rising with the fact that there is likely significant overlap between Tiger Woods golfers and real golfers.
I guess the moral, simply stated, is that virtual space = opportunity.