Celebrity endorsements in video games - Kate Upton in Game of War

Star Power. It’s an intangible concept that both Hollywood and the rest of the film industry seems to have mastered by now. The general rule being that the more star power whoever you cast as the lead in your next summer blockbuster has, the increased likelihood that said film will be more profitable, making it a worthwhile investment. But does the concept of star power and any other kind of celebrity endorsements have an impact within the video game industry?

Just over a year ago it was reported that popular mobile game Game of War: Fire Age was regularly turning over $1 million a day in financial revenue, largely thanks to a series of Television commercials which featured American model and actress Kate Upton. With thousands of games being released every year in the industry this is no small feat, especially for a freemium game released in the mobile space which, as we know continues to be oversaturated.

Kate Upton in a Game of War commercialOther examples of this includes Arnold Schwarzenegger promoting tactical war game Mobile Strike and even Oscar winner Christoph Waltz featuring in ads centered around Clash of Clans. Right off the bat it’s obvious that external celebrity endorsements such as this must have some degree of success in the video game market, after all they wouldn’t be able to hire these celebrities in the first place otherwise.

If anything what these endorsements do achieve, is let those outside of the hardcore gaming audience know just how much of a big deal these brands actually are (if they didn’t already). This not only has the potential to raise that particular game’s worldwide profile but it also expands the player base, a small percentage of which may convert their downloads into in-game purchases and make money. If this process is to be believed, celebrity endorsements do indeed work, at least in the mobile market, just ask Kate Upton.

Where celebrity endorsements have less of an impact however, is unquestionably in the triple-A gaming space. The biggest example of this comes in the form of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, a game which unabashedly plastered Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey all over its marketing, using his role as the game’s main villain to promote the game further.

Kevin Spacey in Call of Duty

Buy Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

The main difference here is that unlike Schwarzenegger, Upton and Waltz, Spacey actively is internally involved with the game during its development stage and who’s to say Sledgehammer Games didn’t hire him on the quality of his acting alone? Statistics tell us that despite having such a big actor appear in a popular game like Call of Duty, the amount of players that even play it’s campaign remains surprisingly low.

And so we return to the theory that celebrity endorsements can sometimes work, but largely only when promoting a game in the mobile space to a mass general audience. Part of the reason that celebrities may not have too much sway elsewhere could possibly be because talented voice over actors in the videogame industry are already assuming their own level of stardom. Actors such as Nolan North, Troy Baker and even publisher figureheads like Shuhei Yoshida have more appeal to us because we know that they are genuine, speak on our level and share in our passion.