A just-released study from the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University highlights the ever-expanding efforts of fast-food companies to reach young eyeballs. Video game product placement is a hot method of targeting game-obsessed young people, and companies like Pizza Hut, Carl's Jr., and Pepsi are keen to have images of their wares inserted into the game universe. If a character has to eat or drive by a billboard, why not use that opportunity for a marketing message? Why not indeed? It's certainly a slightly more subtle approach than "advergames," video games made to advertise a particular product, which have a way of making your company look real stupid when some snotty writer pulls a clip of them and mocks it years later.
Chase the Chuck Wagon: If you sent enough proofs from Purina dog food, you too could have played this dreadful 1983 maze game for the Atari 2600 with a pixelated dog hunting for food. If you could turn back time ...
Yo! Noid: The 1990 Nintendo game features Domino's then-mascot the Noid, who leaps through New York City in search of a treasure trove of (horrible) Domino's pizza.
Sneak King: Sold at Burger King in 2006 for $3.99 (provided you bought one of its value meals), the Xbox game allows players to be THE Burger King and sneak around delivering meals to hungry customers. Is that fun? Really? Reportedly the game is actually pretty decent, but it just seems so wrong.
McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure: This vintage 1993 Sega Genesis game was a Sonic the Hedgehog ripoff that featured Ronald jumping through a magical world in search of treasure. Shockingly, the treasure was not a Happy Meal!
Pepsi Invaders: One of the rarest games of all times, this Space Invaders hack was created as a sales tool and handed out, along with an Atari 2600 game console, at a 1983 Coca-Cola convention. It's so deadly boring as to be almost comical, but hey, here I am writing about it 27 years later so, um, pretty good sales tool.