Branding in video games doesn’t always have to be brilliant

There are probably no better video games for brands to collaborate on than sports simulations. Since advertising is a big part of sport in real life, the presence of real brands is not only non-intrusive, in many cases it even helps authenticity. Just think of all the attention to detail that goes into recreating the iconic shoes of soccer players in EA Sports’ FIFA series.

However, a title’s graphics and scope don’t necessarily have to be as good as FIFA’s to make it interesting for brands, as the recent example of World Championship Boxing Manager 2, WCBM 2 for short, shows. This lovely little management game with a retro look has collaborated with wrestling clothing brands Superare and Onward, two very well-known names in the space, incorporating their products and brands into the game.

With graphics, especially in the sports game genre, gravitating more and more towards realism, wasn’t it a hard sell for companies to be associated with a game that uses a pixel art style?

“WCBM 2’s art style was part of the reason we were drawn to the project,” says Arjun David, co-owner of Onward. “The team that produced WCBM 2 approached us with a genuine love of boxing and it was clear from the start that we both had the same inherent love for the retro style of boxing art. The app screamed boxing heritage, which we felt provided an intersection point for our brand partnership.”

The sentiment is echoed by Superare President Zachary Lipari: “We actually prefer the retro vibe and the nostalgia it brings. We grew up with pixel art images and they are near and dear to us and our youthful sensibilities.”

As a result of these attitudes, WCBM 2 developer Mega Cat Studios had no problem securing the two brands’ cooperation after approaching them while looking for recognizable names to put in the game. Onward’s Arjun David explains that the branding process in WCBM 2 was fairly straightforward: “Our logo design performed well for a wide range of applications. WCBM 2’s pixel art is not ‘Minecraft-blocky’ and has the right balance.”

For Onward, the focus was largely on where the brand would be visible in-game. “We have a carefully curated mix of branded merchandise, such as gloves, as well as ring markings and signage around various scenes,” David explains. “This offers us an element of brand recognition for a broader audience of customers who love boxing through their love of gaming.”

Zachary Lipari is equally excited about Superare’s appearances in the game: “Superare is a classic boxing brand and we loved partnering with a classic boxing game. The ring mat, the heavy bags – we are delighted to have Superare in them!” For him, the main objective of this association is to achieve “the immortality of being in a game like this.”

For Lipari, the good representation of the brand in video games “cannot force the consumer too much. Subtlety is key and so is making sure the branding goes where it belongs in the context of the game.” This fuels his belief that everyone can greatly benefit from such partnerships: “It gives a sense of reality to the game,” says the Superare president. “For someone who really likes to fight and sees a brand of our size in a game like this, it takes pride, because it’s less obvious than some older brands and feels like the game is more in touch with reality. struggle.”

For Arjun David, “the key to good brand representation on any platform, including a video game, is the story and the reason you’re there.” Games allow “the full experience for the player and the components of that experience, including the brand identity, are physically manifested to the player. It makes the gaming experience for gamers more immersive and enjoyable.” A key point for him is that games can convey to their players the “knowledge that brands like Onward share their passion.”

World Championship Boxing Manager 2 launched for PC earlier this year and released for PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch in May 2023. Continuing the legacy of an original that came out 33 years ago, WCBM 2 allows players to open his own boxing studio. and recruit talented athletes, training them from amateurs to become the next world champion.