Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Over-Marketing?: EA's Dante's Inferno
The fact that we can actually say, with a straight face, that there is a Dante's Inferno videogame coming out is something that seems a lot more silly and bizarre than it actually is. At first glance, it's as ridiculous as the idea of a Paradise Lost or A Christmas Carol videogame. It just feels strange to digest the idea that this antique pillar of literary history has branched out to such an unlikely medium of entertainment. When you look more closely at the situation though, you're quick to discover that its connection to the literature is essentially in name only. Aside from the references to each circle of Hell and the fact the main character's name is Dante (no other connection to the literary Dante at all), this is, for Christianity, what God of War was for Greek mythology. The gameplay also looks identical to God of War (which was very similar to Devil May Cry, which starred a character named, oddly enough, Dante), if that helps drive the connection home.
All that aside, Electronic Arts, the company producing the game, has come up with a fairly ingenious (though controversial, at times) marketing campaign to count down to the release of the game. Watch below to see what they sent to CHUD.com writer, Alex Riviello, to commemorate this specific circle of Hell:
I love how they forced this guy to actually engage in an act of wrath as part of their marketing campaign. It's a brilliant way to choreograph an engaging, interactive situation. It's definitely very memorable, too.
However, what does this actually say about their product? We know the artistry involved has to be top notch. Especially if their disturbing mini-books are any indication. But this kind of thing can backfire because it reeks so strongly of over-compensation. I'm sure the crew truly believe they have a top-notch product on their hands, but it just seems like an awful lot of hype before any substance. I predict it'll end up being a pretty solid action game with not much else to set it apart, except the visuals - something that every new videogame of this generation seems to emphasize over inventiveness and ingenuity in gameplay.
Nowadays, with so many avenues for companies to compete for our attention, big budget projects are pulling out all the stops to keep our eyes on them. Hence the viral marketing trend. Remember the Dark Knight's campaign, before Heath Ledger died? There were all these interactive web sites and Joker-themed scavenger hunts that kept people excited for the movie. Then, of course, Heath Ledger died and the marketing team didn't have to do much else. The hype was at its peak. But for a while there, they had the most potent viral marketing campaign I've ever seen. So how was the actual film? Passable. Enjoyable enough. Ledger's performance was legendary, but the movie itself? Merely decent, in my eyes.
That was a bit of a digression, but the point is that marketing campaigns for big budget projects have seemed to have more inventiveness behind them than some of the products/projects they're advertising. I guess the longer you're exposed to it, the more wary you get of this fact, because I know this can't be something that's cropped up in the last decade or so, it just seems like it has, because it's finally losing its effect on me.