New Lens On An American Branding Rite Of Passage

Writing for Ad Age, Brian Steinberg says talk is swirling around PepsiCo s hesitance in using its Super Bowl ad buy to push its namesake brand, Pepsi.  The company is among brands that have been mainstay Super Bowl advertisers, where average rates this year are up to $3 million for a 30-second spot.

Sources have told Steinberg that PepsiCo is considering a small if any presence for its flagship product, instead opting to push secondary brands such as Gatorade and Doritos.  While pushing those products seems a good fit for the audience, Steinberg says PepsiCo’s decision could have its roots in corporate image concerns and the extravagance associated with Super Bowl ads.  He explores whether the company has joined others such as General Motors and FedEx who phased out their longtime Super Bowl buys on concerns about coming across as socially and financially irresponsible companies.

Read Brian Steinberg s article at Ad Age {link no longer active}.

Social Viruses Of A Different Kind

Writing for NY Times, Brad Stone says viruses popping up on social nets are distinct from regular computer viruses in that they can attack people’s dignity.  Viruses and malicious links are popping up on social sites Facebook and Twitter, and often to take a hold of a user s network to spread their message.  Internet security firm Kaspersky Labs says as many as 500 links on Twitter on a given day are malicious, and another firm Sophos estimates that more than a fifth of social net users have been the targets of viruses.

Stone’s article looks at anecdotal evidence, citing a few cases to highlight how getting infected on a social net has more to do with public embarrassment than the private pain of a corrupted computer.  One example: the poor guy who clicked on a scandalous photo, discovered the image posted on his Facebook page, and then found out it was sent to his entire friends list.

Read Brad Stone s article at NY Times.

NPD Lists The Year’s Bestselling Games

NPD Group has compiled sales figures for games up to November 2009 to highlight the year s bestsellers to-date.  The list of units sold, including bundles and collector s editions, was provided to Industry Gamers.

Activision took top slot with the Xbox 360 version of Modern Warfare 2 selling 4.2 million units.  The game s PS3 version made eighth on the list with 1.9 million units sold.  The year s second bestselling title belongs to Nintendo, with Wii Fit selling 3.5 million units.  In-fact Nintendo titles dominated overall, selling more than 58 percent of units sold in the top ten according to Industry Gamers.  The company filled the third through fifth bestseller spots with Wii Sports Resort with 2.4 million, Wii Mario Kart with 2.2 million, and Wii Play with 2.1 million units sold.  The publisher’s DS game Pokemon Platinum Version is the seventh bestseller with 1.9 million units.  The New Super Mario Brothers is tenth with 1.4 million units.

Rounding out the top ten are Microsoft s Halo 3: ODST at sixth with 2 million units, and EA’s Madden NFL 10 for Xbox 360 at ninth with 1.5 million units.  As pointed out by Industry Gamers, NPD’s Anita Frazier has also Tweeted the year s top moneymaking franchises.  They are Call of Duty, Wii Fit, Mario Brothers, Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

Read more at Industry Gamers {link no longer active}.

Sega Viral, Burger King On Xbox Get Nods As Decade’s Best

Ad Age has a list of what they ve chosen as the ten best non-television campaigns of the decade.  In essence, the list is reaching back to when viral was known as community to most, and marketers would execute a street campaign without necessarily videotaping it for YouTube.  For games, nods got to Sega’s pioneering community building campaign for its then NFL-licensed 2K football franchise.  The publisher launched a blog for a fictitious game tester called Beta-7 overcome by the First Person Football feature in its title ESPN NFL 2K4.   The campaign generated massive viewer traffic and impressive engagement for its time.

Ad Age also includes Burger King s innovative decision to create branded games for Xbox packaged like titles boxed for retail and sold for cheap at its restaurants.  The effort benefited from being more than a gimmick, with engaging mini-games using The King character and with up-to-spec Xbox graphics, courtesy of UK game developer Blitz.  Burger King gets a second, well-deserved spot on the list for its seemingly space-time bending Subservient Chicken campaign.

Check out the full list of ten at Ad Age {link no longer active}.

‘Habbo Hotel’ Becomes A Marketing Tool

Teen-skewed virtual world Habbo Hotel is launching a marketing measurement tool aimed at tracking brand conversations among its users, reports Edge-Online.  Habbo Hotel is a persistent world game operated by Finland-based Sulake Corp.  The company says the community, where users create avatars to communicate and interact, has more than 155 million registered accounts with the majority of users under 19 years old.  Sulake says the measurement tool, called Habble, was recently demonstrated during a campaign for the MTV European Music Awards.  MTV and Sulake say they were able to measure the effectiveness of a campaign promoting the show.  Using Habble, they monitored spikes in conversations regarding the MTV program among “Habbo Hotel” users and also pinpointed where in Europe the mentions originated.

Read more at Edge-Online {link no longer active}.

Sony Hints To Monthly Fees For PSN

In an interview with Nikkei, Sony Computer Entertainment EVP and CTO Masayuki Chatani has suggested that Sony is looking at subscriber fee models to offset the cost of running PlayStation Network.  He said servers have costs and that Sony couldn t rely on a sell-and-forget model where it sold the hardware without selling content and services.  Chatani suggested that such paid content not only included digital downloads such as games and items for PS3 but also schemes like monthly fees.

Talking about PS3, Chatani suggested a console s lifecycle is about a decade and pointed to the PS2.  He said introducing the PS3 slim follows what Sony did with PS2, getting a slimmed down version to market to give the system a boost and attract more customers at about the halfway mark.   He also touched on how the new PS3 is as slim as it s going to get without major modifications.  He said Sony was able to significantly trim down the PS2 form factor by doing away with the internal HDD, which wouldn t make sense for PS3.  He said another option would be gutting the PS3 power supply to make it an external brick, but he added that would make the system harder to use.

Read more from Nikkei {link no longer active}.

Spike VGA Spotlight Was On Current And Future Games

If Spike s 2009 Video Game Awards show managed to prove one thing this year it is that what s on shelves is as important to game consumers as what they can anticipate to play one, two, maybe even three years from now.  The program, which aired on Saturday night, wasn’t just about honoring the year s best games.  While titles such as Sony’s Uncharted 2, Take-Two’s Left 4 Dead 2, and Nintendo’s The New Super Mario Brothers took top honors, the spotlight may have been shining more brightly on what s coming down the pike from the likes of Halo, Batman, Star Wars and Rock Band.  Exclusive first-look trailers have always been a part of the VGA, and a coveted placement for game marketing and PR folks.

This year it became central to the show, with the network dedicating considerably more air time for the game announcements, as well as making it a central part of its promotions for the show.  Spike may have made it easy for marketing heads to circle the calendar on when to pull the veil off of their games.  Now the onus is on their PR teams to keep some semblance of that buzz alive for the months and years to come until the products see the light of day.

Check out the list of winners and games announced at the 2009 Spike VGA at Joystiq.

Shack News Video Game Release List 12/13-12/19

Shack News lists this week’s releases for PC, Xbox 360, Sony’s PS2, PS3 and PSP, and Nintendo’s Wii and DS except during these barest of weeks in the year.  The only games of significance are Konami Classics Vol. 1 and 2, with arcade and NES throwbacks from the likes of Contra and Castlevania, coming to Xbox 360.

Check out the full list at Shack News {link no longer active}.

Atari Gets A New Head

Atari has appointed chief operating officer Jeff Lapin as CEO taking over for David Gardner, reports Edge-Online.  Lapin joined Atari in December 2007 and became COO in May of this year.  He s previously worked at RazorGator Interactive, Take-Two and THQ.  Lapin said in a statement that Atari has a new publishing strategy and has shifted its operations to the U.S. resulting from a challenging time.

Read more at Edge-Online {link no longer active}.

Online Event Planning Tools

Writing for Mashable, Jason Keath has put together a list of fourteen free online tools that facilitate event planning.  Keath’s is a soup to nuts list that covers the steps from getting the word out and inviting guests to pulling it all together and following up.  Whether to discover new tools or find ways to customize well-known ones from Google to Twitter and Facebook, it seems a worthy rundown.  Some of the more nifty tools stand out as possible ways to inject novelty into otherwise daunting or dreary tasks for organizers and attendees alike, and as a result possibly boost buy in for the event.

Check it out at Mashable.