Innovation & Design

Live Free or Die Hard: The Advergame


John McClane gets a boost on the Wii, courtesy of Arkadium

Well, the future is now, thanks to Arkadium, which created a web advergame designed for the Wii promoting... Live Free or Die Hard. Yep, you read that right, the first Wii advergame is for an over-the-top violent action movie. That may sound odd on paper, but playing really is believing with this PC/Wii advergame at livefreeordiehard.com/brawlgame.

We chatted with Kenny Rosenblatt, CEO of Arkadium, and discussed the significance of the Die Hard effort from both a game and marketing point of view.

The nascence of bare knuckle brawl

Web games that accompany movie websites are typically short and cheap affairs. They're designed to attract attention to the site, with the hopes that consumers will pass along the link and hopefully bring the movie to the attention of their friends. Arkadium's brawling game for Live Free or Die Hard, however, consciously targets the Wii players on the Internet, potentially a wide demographic of people that Nintendo's new console appeals to.

"When the Opera browsers were announced as compatible with Wii, we knew it meant that the Flash plug-in was compatible as well," explained Rosenblatt. "This allowed us to expand our audience to the Wii. With some minor adjustments, we have games for a whole new platform, so as soon as it was announced, we were excited. [The brawl game] was specifically developed for the Wii platform from the beginning; we just made sure it was compatible with the PC. It's a pretty unique platform for us to work on, and we were able to do it without taking Nintendo's SDK fee."

"We worked with Moxie, the advertising partner with Fox for the movie, about the concept," he continued. "We always match our games with the demographic and we see this as a great opportunity to appeal to a whole new audience by making the game not only for PC but also Wii. The Wii doesn't have the base of a PC, but most advertisers are trying to reach an audience that, quite often, they don't know exactly where they are. Consumers nowadays are engaged in numerous activities, like YouTube or My Space, with Wii getting a piece of that as well. We knew this game would work well on [the Wii]; it's a new space for consumers to be found."

You should see the other guy

If you checked out the brawl game and noticed similarities between it and the boxing game on Wii Sports, you wouldn't be mistaken. Rosenblatt explained that Arkadium deliberately wanted that Nintendo Mii likeness. "When we originally conceived it, we wanted Wii-type characters; you'll notice there's no arms on the characters. We also wanted to give it fun gameplay, of course, but we didn't want to copy the Wii characters directly; we were trying to create something new," he said.

Some people might see a stylized fighting game like this one and think it's not exactly a match for an "R" rated action movie. However, we would point out that the game shows facial damage along with an energy bar, thus holding to the Die Hard series tradition of showing John McClane seriously beat up.

"John McClane is a very popular character for his spectacular action movie feats, but sometimes he has to drop gloves and kick butt," enthused Rosenblatt. "Swinging around your Wii Remote connects you with that. All of these moves are something that happen in the movie and the environments are actual areas from the movie and the enemies in the game resemble the enemies in the movie. This makes portions of the game match up with the movie nicely. We also catered the design to the style of the Wii and made the look of the levels match that as well."

Although the gameplay might match up well with the Wii, the console also presents unique problems of its own compared to a PC. "One of the challenges with Wii games on Opera is: how do the Wii users find out and get to the game? It's a problem, because the messaging functions of the Wii are in their infancy. It's not like there's an Inbox for the system or a banner ad they can click on. They can upgrade this, provide more direct ways of talking to the Wii users, but right now that's one of the challenges," explained Rosenblatt.

Yippee-ki-yay

Arkadium's original take on a movie advergame seems to be paying off. According to Rosenblatt, the response in advance of the theatrical debut has been quite good. "The feedback has been remarkable," he said. "Some sites have called it the best free Wii game available. Wii users like it because they don't have to pay for it and that they don't have to be bombarded with ads to get to the game. The concept is very easy to pick up as well. As for PC users, they have simply said it's just a good game to play. We always strive to give the user something that's great. This wasn't just an advergame that we slapped the license on; it really works with the nature of the Wii. It's great content that stands out even without the movie."

"While this is the first step Arkadium is taking into the realm of the Wii, it certainly will not be the last. The web experience on consoles is constantly expanding, and with it, the possibilities for Arkadium and companies like them for more advergame titles designed specifically for the console market. The possibilities are vast, between straight browser-based games and titles downloadable over Xbox Live, PlayStation Network or even Wi-Fi connection.

"We have 125 games in our library, and we're going to convert 30% or our archives to be Wii compatible," confirmed Rosenblatt. "Most games work on it already, but we're pushing to have more Wii games because it expands our audience. We also have 3 Wii projects in development in addition to making our old titles Wii compliant. Two of them are advergames specifically using the Wii platform to customize gameplay; the Wii Remote really opens things up. The other is just a custom Wii game that's a self published title that will release in the next-quarter."

Although Arkadium would like to leverage the potential of the Wii, they're certainly interested in pursuing Xbox Live Arcade as well, Rosenblatt said. "We'd love to expand what we do with downloadable games," he concluded.

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