Even AAA gaming studios have to keep the lights on somehow. Sometimes pure game sales are enough, but other times companies will take on advertisers to cut costs just like any other brand of media. It's a tried and true practice that has ranged from the subtle to the in-your-face over the course of gaming history, a necessary evil here to remind you that the pit of Dorito's is almost empty.
Product placement is common, but it can get spooky and bizarre when left unchecked. The quest for your money never ends, not even when you're trying to escape real life. Here's some of the most bizarre I've seen.
The remake of the NES classic takes place in a nuclear-drenched post apocalypse littered with debris and crumbling building. It's also littered with tons and tons of Pepsi machines. Nothing breaks up the pace of a Bionic Commando fight better than Kendal Jenner's favorite soda, right?
The only thing worse than seeing Pepsi machines in this game is that you can't even interact with them. In a game where you play as a man with a robot arm that can throw just about anything (cars, other people, etc), not being able to pick up a Pepsi machine is induldging a little too much in corporate loyalty.
All that rail-grinding you did in Sonic Adventure 2 back in your 2001 heyday was made possible by a Japanese shoe company. Sega and Sonic Team had redesigned Sonic for his debut on the Dreamcast a few years prior, but decided to go one step further with his new shoes. Sonic wears a custom pair of red/yellow/white Soaps that officially introduced grinding to his gaming world.
On top of the plastic grinding shoes being real, Soap billboards are all over the place in-game. I was surprised that Knuckles' underwater necklace wasn't branded, on top of it.
You might've been expecting to see Burger King's series of XBOX games on this list, but the titular mascot's appearance in a boxing sim is way more bizarre. On top of the Burger King Invitational Fight that features the company's logo in the middle of the arena, the Burger King himself couldbe tempting you with $1.99 nuggets in your corner as your coach. Kinda counterproductive, don't you think?
What's scarier than being trapped in a small town alone with monsters and only a flashlight and flare gun to stop them? Losing out on that sweet Verizon coverage. There's plenty of product placement for Energizer batteries in this spooky game, but Verizon's presence beats it by a country mile. I guess the blatant billboards and TV ads running in the background fit into the episodic nature of the game's chapters, but adding an achievement for sitting through the whole TV commercial? Not cool.
Driving around a place like Paradise City in Burnout Paradise, you could expect to see some billboards among all the slow-motion crashes. Just in time for the 2008/09 United States presidential election, billboards reminding people to vote for future President Barack Obama. they were only featured in a handful of contested states like North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, and Colorado and were patched out shortly after the election. Jury's out on how much they helped, but his face is the one I make every time I wrecked on my way to the finish line in Burnout: Paradise.
You can drive go-karts, motorcycles, and baby carriages in Mario Kart, but hopping behind the wheel of a regular car. A Mercedes-Benz DLC pack was added to Mario Kart 8 when the game first launched on Wii U. It was the first time name brand vehicles had ever been featured in the franchise and while the sleek bodies and finishes of the cars could be distracting, tossing a red shell from your luxury car is always a blast.
Enter The Matrix offered a playable aspect to the story of The Matrix Reloaded starring rebels Niobe and Ghost. You could stop running and gunning whenever your character was thirsty for a Powerade, though. On top of matching the green and black color palette, you could use Powerade to refill your health in a pinch. I never thought I'd see the day where The Matrix beat Bionic Commando at its own game.
If you're old enough to remember what an Amiga is, then you might've taken a trip to the Nth Dimension with Zool. That Nth Dimension was filled with candy and sweets, but none are as blatant as Chupa Chups lolipops. Signs for the Spanish lollipops are everywhere in the game and stick out in a world made of candy. Even by advertising standards, that's wild.
In Metal Gear Solid: Peace Maker, Big Boss and his strike team manage to unearth a tortilla chip recipe. The nameless chips are powerups in the game; at least, they're unnamed in the English version of the game. They become Fish Taco flavored Doritos in the Japanese version, a blatant choice made my Hideo Kojima himself. He claimed that the chips and shirts featuring Doritos, Axe body spray, and Mountain Dew was "more surprising" than traditional Hollywood advertising. Solid Snake ambushing spies dressed like a middle schooler is certainly surprising.