Name recognition is a means of luring in people. Is a star you like attached to a project? Well, then maybe you might be more willing to opt into it, if you like their performances. While this tends to be most common in the realms of movies and TV, a recent move suggests it is becoming even more universal. Previously, when it comes to games, the “big stars” pulled in are notable developers. If Hideo Kojima is making something, you know it’s going to be weird and involve a lot of philosophical interpretations. If Tetsuya Nomura’s involved with something, expect a lot of belts and zippers. Shigeru Miyamoto is probably going to make a good action-RPG or platformer. But lately, it seems like developers and publishers are relying on big name actors for games too.
Think about E3 2019. What was the most memorable moment? Well, Keanu Reeves being revealed as a Cyberpunk 2077 major character was probably among the top three. Especially since it gave the world a new “You’re breathtaking!” meme. We learned he’ll be Johnny Silverhand, a vigilante rockstar who aids V, the player’s avatar, throughout the story. This is someone who is a major actor and recognized worldwide being involved in an entire storyline. Johnny will always be there, and it’s quite a pull to get people in and talking about a game they might not have otherwise. It brings attention from general masses to CD Projekt Red’s game. People who play games already knew this could be something special because of The Witcher pedigree. This lets everyone know.
The Norman Reedus, Guillermo del Toro, Lindsay Wagner, Lea Seydoux, Nicolas Winding Refn and Mads Mikkelsen situation is another one. Hideo Kojima is working on Death Stranding, an action game that will come to the PlayStation 4 on November 8, 2019. It’s essentially a who’s who of all of his famous friends. (I wouldn’t be surprised if someone said, “He just called his buddies up and asked if they wanted to be in a game for a case of very expensive beers.”) While part of this is about him working on a game he wanted to do with people he admires, cares about, and respects, you can’t deny the buzz that comes from having so many actors and directors involved. Ordinary people might not know who Kojima is or what the game is about (join the club), but they will see all these famous faces and pay attention.
It worked for Kojima before. In Metal Gear, various versions of Snake are usually played by David Hayter. Fans of the series love that and support him. With Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, he didn’t. Big Boss, who is known in the prequels as Naked Snake, was voiced by Kiefer Sutherland. There are multiple reasons for this. But, one of them is very likely due to the recognition. Metal Gear is already famous. However, bringing on one of the biggest action stars out there for the lead is going to get people who may not have been interested before paying attention.
This kind of thing is even happening with video game media projects. Netflix’s The Witcher, which is based on the CD Projekt Red games, has a major name attached as the star. It’s Henry Cavill. People who know about the series are going to watch, because it’s a phenomenon. People who don’t are going to see Cavill’s name, know he’s famous for playing Superman and being in Mission Impossible: Fallout, and may have an idea of what’s going on and what they can expect. This is someone who is known for being a hero. He’s famous for saving the day, perhaps with exceptional abilities or powers. That will pull people in.
Then, there's Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. He's been in countless WWE wrestling games, where clearly his presense was there to help move copies and keep it authentic. But, it's also probably only a matter of time until he's in actual games. After all, he was in the 2005 DOOM movie, the movie adaptation of Rampage, and the recent Jumanji movies that involved a video game, rather than a board game. We’ll just overlook that Spy Hunter incident.
Having a big star as a hook could be even more of a thing for games going forward. Especially since gaming isn’t a niche hobby anymore. People of all kinds are being pulled in. What better way to get them interested than with a major star? It’ll help them know what to expect and bring more people to a great activity.