Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Product (pre)Placement

Mazda's RX-8 in Sony’s Gran Turismo 3 (left); the real car (right)

From the new issue of Newsweek comes this story exploring a new media/commerce shift. Seems an interesting reverse causality relationship is currently being enacted between automakers and videogames. To wit:

Far from being a child's plaything, videogames are becoming the new virtual showroom and design studio for automakers. ... Automative art is imitating virtual life.

Mazda launched the sporty RX-8 on Gran Turismo 3 two years before the real deal hit the dealer's lot. Mitsubishi is launching their originally Euro-only 29k Lancer Evolution in the states after being swamped with interested emailers demanding the "Evo" they saw in GT3. Porsche debuted its new SUV in VR and RL simultaneously last fall, in Need for Speed and at the Paris Auto Show.

Notably, the idea that enacted worlds allow us to explore possibilities for the near future is an easily accepted tenet. From a commercial standpoint, participatory and collaborative-feeling cyberspace, especially the playspace of the modern videogame, is a logical, even ideal arena for branding, and for nurturing product loyalty. The combination of these ideas should be understood as mildly ominous -- it reminds us to mistrust the effects of others we don't know and can't really see in the constructed enviroments in which we virtually romp, as they may be trying to sell us something. Not All Who Wander Are Trustworthy. Some are even corporations.

On the bright side, the design evolution of the car moves correspondingly forward -- fins and spoilers become the norm in a culture expecting the same ride at the lot that they can envision from their couch. From those environments will spring, I suggest, an acceleration in the degin of the space-age car; we should begin seeing an increase in design elements which clearly don't spring from pragmatists.

As a total aside, when did videogames become one word?

posted by boyhowdy | 3:20 PM |

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