Tore myself away from the PlayStation and ventured downtown for dinner. This was what I ate.
Why did I choose ramen for dinner? Was it because it’s Chinese New Year and thus auspicious to eat noodles, a symbol of longevity? Of course not! I headed straight for the ramen shops because I did nothing but played Yakuza 6 since my last post. In fact, I was so determined to have Japanese food, I didn’t even look at any other eateries.
For those who are unfamiliar, Yakuza, or the Ryu ga Gotuku game series, is famous for partnerships with real-life eateries and businesses. Supposedly, such product placement defrays the high cost of production. For gamers, seeing famous shops and restaurant chains like Don Quixote and Yoronotaki massively heightens realism during gameplay. This, by the way, is also the main reason why I love the series so much.
(There doesn’t seem to be a real 九州一番星 restaurant in Japan. But an instant ramen bowl with the same name was sold during the run of Yakuza 3.)
I don’t know about other gamers, but such product placements work phenomenally well on me. Last year, when I was playing Yakuza 0 and Ishin, I ate nothing but Japanese food for four consecutive weekends. In 2010, when I was obsessed with Atlus’ Persona 4, I ate Omu Rice every other Saturdays for near half a year. (Those of you who played P4 would understand why) And in 2013, when I discovered the fantastic Sleeping Dogs, I actually scoured the net for the best pork buns in Singapore. This is incredible because I tend to dislike the smell of porky fillings.
Which brings me to the “point” of this post.
Product Placement in Games
Also known as In-game advertising (IGA). An industry estimated to be worth $7.2 billion in 2016.
Despite this astonishing estimate, I feel this marketing channel is still very much under-utilised. For the life of me, I can’t remember any specific placement other than in the Yakuza series. This could be because I don’t play enough. Or that I tend to play games that are awkward for product placement, such as periodic RPGs. Or that I tend to avoid racing games, which are where such placements are most often found. Whatever the reason, the impression I get is that IGA is terribly under-tapped. With gaming growing from strength to strength, with even grannies obsessed with Candy Crushes nowadays, isn’t this the new golden channel all marketers should look at?
And it works unbelievably well, at least in my case. Far better than placements in movies and on TV. Games offer a level of emotional interactivity that movies and television shows can never hope to achieve. There is that intricate mental connection, so to speak. While I was slurping on ramen earlier, I was imagining myself as Kiryu Kazuma the invincible Yakuza. And oh wow, did I get a shiver down my spine! Of course, the ramen, while great, was but just ramen. But that earlier connection spiced it with so much more. Actually, as I write this, I’m already dreaming of a big bowl of steaming beef donburi for lunch. That’s another Japanese dish found all over Yakuza 6. If Matsuya has branches in Singapore, I know that’s where I’d be heading for a bowl.