There are all kinds of concerns when it comes to marketing and games. Things that are natural, like billboards, signs, and the sorts of product placement that you see in movies are fine. It would be a little weird if a game set in a modern environment didn’t have people using Android or iPhone smartphones or if a sports game didn’t have ads on the stands displaying various, common products. But sometimes, companies and games too far. WWE 2K18 is one of those games.
In case you missed what I’m talking about, let’s go over two egregious things this wrestling game is doing. I’m not talking about ads in the arena in the background. We know the WWE shows are peppered with commercials and products. That kind of thing is fine. I’m talking about the sponsored trophies and inclusion of KFC’s Colonel Sanders. Yes, you read that right. Certain achievements are tied to real world products and a restaurant mascot is kind-of, sort-of in the game.
Let’s go over the Colonel Sanders end of this, because this is the part that is so stupid, it is actually funny. WWE 2K18’s Create-a-Wrestler editor will allow people to make the Colonel a playable wrestler. All the parts, bits, and pieces are there. Now, given how robust the editor is, this was probably possible in past games. People may have even done it for fun. But this time around, KFC and the WWE are talking about this like it is a bonus feature and maybe even thing to buy the game to do. It is shameless self promotion. But, at least it is the kind you can avoid.
People who consider themselves trophy hunters won’t be so lucky. As revealed earlier this week, WWE 2K18 has sponsored trophies and achievements. This means when you perform certain actions in-game, your ensuing “award” will have a product name and icon tied to it. Play and win 50 matches in WWE Universe? You’ll get the “Snickers: Hunger to Win > Hunger” commendation with Snickers logo icon. Perform three major reversals in a PLAY mode A.I. Single Match? You earned yourself KFC’s “Made the Hard Way.” Take on a PLAY mode A.I. One on One Normal match and win it in under a minute? That Truth anti-smoking campaign’s “#FinishIT with truth” appears.
And you know what each of these inclusions means. They equal a payout for 2K and intrusion into our game. 2K already makes plenty of money off of the yearly iterations of the WWE series, not to mention the DLC adding more characters or immediately unlocking everything. Now it needs to get even more money by selling achievements/trophies to make ads pop up in our face as we accomplish certain actions while we play. It tries to encourage certain Create-a-Wrestlers in the name of even more profits. As a result, the game itself feels cheap.
We are paying $60 for WWE 2K18. Is it so unrealistic to expect to not have additional ads popping up as we play? Having the ability to create KFC’s mascot in-game isn’t too bad. Yes, the ads are annoying and seem like it is perhaps pushing the character on it, but its optional. Making the achievements/trophies sponsored isn’t optional. We are going to see these in game. When they pop up, we are going to see a very clear advertisement. It’s essentially a pop up ad. Does 2K really need that extra money so much that it is willing to damage its reputation and annoy its customers? It certainly seems so.