What's Your Game?
So Blizzard has added two more celebrity WoW commercials to their lineup for World of Warcraft, one featuring Ozzy Osbourne (the Prince of Darkness) and one featuring Steve Van Zandt (of
, and of Bruce Springstreen's
E Street Band
Now I love these commercials as much as the next guy. But to me, the genius of this whole thing is much bigger than just some good commercials. What gets ME is the bizarre
that has sprung up around them.
Now with some thought it's easy to see why these commercials are as popular as they are. For one thing, they tap into a huge reserve of pop culture icons (so far the list includes
Jean-Claude Van Damme
). For another, they're
YouTube fodder. They're a single person, on a white background, talking to a camera with those fancy cuts in the middle of sentences that our generation loves so much, and interspersed with game footage. That's
could make a WoW commercial with that as a starting point--it's
, it's like they're
us to parody it. And this isn't the first time that a simple commercial featuring guys on a white background talking to a camera has spawned a whole series of imitators--look at
's marketing campaign. My particular favorite of that generation of parodies is
(beware, language warning), and it's a three-minute rant about how much the guy HATES MACS. But I'm willing to bet that overall, Apple profited from the extra publicity.
The clincher, I think, is in Blizzard's choice of spokespeople. What Blizzard has done here is that they have very skillfully tapped into two entirely separate aspects of the human consciousness. First: all of the pop culture icons they've chosen for their ads are ripe for parody. It's
to come up with a joke about Ozzy Osbourne, or Mr. T, or William Shatner. Each of them have a lot of experience making fun of themselves, and the WoW commercials are no exception. It's almost like Blizzard is subtly nodding to the community, "It's okay. We know you want to make fun of these. Go ahead, we don't mind." But on a deeper level, what they've really tapped into is the gamer geek's desire for validation.
No matter how many players World of Warcraft manages to get, we gamers--especially MMO gamers--still feel like outsiders. We're nerds at heart. All of us, I think, have a deep-seated desire to fit in and be accepted by mainstream society, and a secret fear that it will never happen. Never mind that Warcraft is possibly the biggest entertainment franchise in history--it's the most "mainstream" video game franchise since Pac-Man. People all over the world are coming together over WoW, it's an
, the likes of which the world has never seen before. And yet we still get excited when we see the
South Park WoW Episode
episode on TV, because for once
in the spotlight, and the world is listening to
the world--but because we still feel like outsiders, these subcultures continue to grow. So when we see a WoW commercial on TV, we find validation in the celebrities who play. We think to ourselves "Hey look!
plays this game!" and for a moment we don't feel quite so isolated.
So Blizzard has put together a hell of a marketing campaign here. After all, when celebrities are making your commercials for you,
at their own expense
, you've got to be doing
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