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16/09/02 . n/a . Reuters . USA
Happy Meals, Pentiums coming to video game world
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 16 — Welcome to McDonald’s. Would you like virtual fries with that digital Big Mac? No. 1 video game publisher Electronic Arts Inc. said Monday it has struck multimillion-dollar product placement deals with fast-food giant McDonald’s Corp. and chip heavyweight Intel Corp. for its heavily anticipated computer game "The Sims Online."
"SIMS ONLINE," set to debut this holiday season, is the Internet-based continuation of "The Sims," a franchise that has sold more than 19 million units worldwide, making it the best-selling PC game of all time.
"I think this deal ... reflects a growing recognition by Madison Avenue that video games have become mainstream entertainment with a large and desirable demographic target," EA spokesman Jeff Brown told Reuters.
The deal is the latest step in the game industry’s trend of moving its business models closer to the Hollywood model. While product placement is relatively new to games, movies such as Steven Spielberg’s "Minority Report" have generated tens of millions of dollars in revenue from product deals.
Detailed terms of EA’s multimillion-dollar deal were not available but it will allow Intel’s familiar jingle, its product logo, and computers using its Pentium 4 processor to appear in the game.
Players in the game also will be able to buy a McDonald’s kiosk and sell the company’s branded food products, earning "simoleans," the game’s currency. Eating that food will also improve their standing within the game.
While video game companies traditionally have had major brand names in their games, usually those brands have been licensed for a fee by the publishers, rather than the brands paying to be placed in the game.
Brown said the game was appealing to Intel and McDonald’s because almost all of its players are young people, with nearly 50 percent of them young women, a demographic group unrepresented by other video games.
He also said more product placement deals were likely to be announced before the game’s launch, and that its online nature makes it easy for further products to be inserted later.
While McDonald’s has not had much of a presence in video gaming to date, the deal is just the latest push into the industry for Intel, which has recognized the potential of the $30 billion international game market.
Besides the "Sims Online" deal, Intel also is the primary sponsor of the Cyberathlete Professional League, which puts on worldwide computer video gaming tournaments.