HOLLYWOOD, Calif.--Saint's Row: The Third, the new crime- and mayhem-based video game from THQ, was the centerpiece of a big premiere party and media event last week at Supperclub here, drawing a few B-list celebrities and serving up all the rail drinks the L.A. professional party crowd could stomach.
I came to the shindig hoping to give you more information than that, but the party had about as much to do with the criminal syndicate/gang violence-themed video game as it did the lingerie shop across The Walk of Fame. There were pole dancers. There were contortionists. There were pole-dancing contortionists. But there was little chance to play Saint's Row: The Third.
I do know the game, which arrives November 15, is eagerly awaited by fans of the genre it shares with Grand Theft Auto and other violent, mature-themed titles. As the leader of the Third Street Saints gang, players will take on rival syndicates for control of the virtual streets. But I knew all of that going into the event.
Video games are a multibillion-dollar business, so the marketing and publicity engine driving the industry is relied upon greatly to get folks like you to buy titles on the market.
Game companies have to ask why players buy a video game in hopes of encouraging buyers with the right inducements. To what extent do they make purchases based on reputation or reviews? What about genre? Do they look at whether a game is connected to a TV show or movie? Do gamers eye celebrity culture to see whether notable people play a certain title?
Of all those options, the latter seems the least likely to prove successful, as a celeb photographed with a controller in hand doesn't exactly guarantee gaming entertainment. But I continue to find game companies inexplicably looking to this star-culture strategy with many major titles being released.
Nothing against Carmen Electra, but...
In this case, a few celebrities who walked the red carpet had a chance to futz with the multiplatform game while being filmed for promotional reasons. I presume the idea there is that you're more likely to buy a game because Carmen Electra played it for five minutes on camera than because media outlets got their hands on it for an in-depth early look.
THQ is not alone in throwing such a generic bash. If anything, these gatherings are standard Hollywood fare. Take down the Saint's Row banner, and you could transform the event into a promo exercise for just about any other product. You'd hear the same music, drink the same booze, and eat the same appetizers. You'd see the same hordes of twentysomething models dressed in the same thigh-top cocktail dresses shipped in to fill the room out with eye candy.
The bottom line? I headed out to cover a Saint's Row: The Third event, and the game barely showed up. I sent in requests for THQ's take on the event, hoping to discover there might be a hidden marketing strategy at work. Unfortunately, I heard nothing back thus far. If that changes, I'll gladly post an update.
For now, I just don't see how the celeb culture helps to sell games to veteran players who know what kind of experience they want to buy. What's your take, gamers?