40 years of advergaming - a retrospective of advertising video games

Original author: Herman Tulleken
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Projects that were developed exclusively for the promotion and advertising of a brand, especially earlier, often could be found in the store. Usually these are projects “for once”, but there are exceptions. All this is generally called in one word - advergame. Under the cut is a translation of a small retrospective of advertising games: where they started and where they are now. List of the coolest bonus.

Unlike expensive entertaining games, advergames are more “strange”, so finding good and relevant examples can be difficult. My team has compiled a list of nearly 100 advergames - in this article I will share some of them.

The full list can be found here . It has a brief description and facts for each game, as well as a search by genre, brand, industry, and so on.

Early days

Ad games are very old. The first woman developer, Carol Shaw, worked on the underworld back in 1978 - the Polo game was developed for the Polo brand and was, in fact, a sports polo. Project promotion was canceled, and it was never completed. But it popped up twice as a prototype (in 1996 and 2002).

The first completed advergames appeared, it seems, in 1983. One of them is Tapper.- An arcade game designed for Budweiser. The player must serve clients with beer (before they get angry) and collect empty glasses (before they fall to the floor). The game was intended for sale only to bars, but was so popular that ordinary halls with arcade machines bought it too. To avoid advertising alcohol among children, the developers changed the Budweiser logo to Root Beer (Rutbir is a type of soft drink in North America).

Tapper also appears in the cartoon Wreck-It Ralph and the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die , which clearly indicates the cult of the project.

Can advergames be fun and popular?

Sometimes yes.

Chex Quest is a 1996 Chex breakfast cereal game. It was developed on the DOOM engine and inherited most of the classic FPS gameplay (but less aggressive). The game was distributed free of charge with boxes of breakfast cereals, which led to a large increase in sales - a total of 42 million copies were distributed. The action lasted six weeks, but during this time loyal fans managed to appear at the game. As a result, this led to two more sequels. Chex Quest 2 was launched in 1997. Chex Quest 3 was developed by the former creators of the original game in 2008 as a fan service, but later the game was officially reissued. And in 2019, a video was released with the history of the series, where they erased a new game.

Burger King made some games, but Sneak King was the strangest and most successful. 2 million copies sold (at $ 3.99 apiece) made it one of the best-selling games of 2006. Critics considered the Sneak King average, but a kind of mechanics - you sneak up on hungry people to feed them burgers - made the game popular.

Sneak King

Barclaycard Water Slide Extreme was released in 2009 and has taken the top free iPhone apps in 57 countries. Five years after the release, she still attracted 85,000 active players daily. By 2019, the game was downloaded 55 million times on the Play Store, making it probably the most popular underworld of all time.

Barclaycard Water Slide Extreme

Creative advertising games

Advergames often become clones of successful games. For example, Pepsi Invaders and Chex Quest. There is also Brisksaber (clone Fruit Ninja), Tony and Friends in Kellogg's Land (clone Super Mario Brothers), Mad Mix Game (clone Pac-Man), Toyota Run (based on the classic Out Run 1986) - the list goes on. Ruskins are also commonplace - in one of the McDonald's games, the character was simply replaced with another to make the game 7 Up.

But many games have a creative approach that can be appreciated for their design or style.

In the game for the Dutch company Pritt - Knutselwereld, the world is made of cardboard, rope, cotton wool and looks like the crafts they make in the lower grades. She reminds a little Samorost of Amanita Design studio.


Adidas ZX Runneruses only two colors on a black background. The only color fragments are marks on shoes and bracelets. The silhouette of the player is visible when he moves through the colored elements of the background.

Adidas ZX Runner Crabs & Penguins , created by Coca-Cola in collaboration with McDonald's,

will be the most beautiful underworld on this list . You play as a crab and try to return a soccer ball to penguins in the Arctic. Crabs & Penguins America’s Army is a fairly well-known game used to recruit soldiers into the US Army. Less well known is Navy Training Exercise: Strike and Retrieve , a game designed to promote the US Navy. I could not find much information about her, but the screenshots are intriguing.

Navy Training Exercise: Strike and Retrieve

Pushover was created for Quavers and was launched in 1992. This is a charming puzzle game that is still on Steam. In it you need to push dominoes, while the blocks have different properties - some fly, some jump. It is necessary to arrange them so that everyone falls - then the level will be passed.


M.C. Kids (McDonald's game released in 1992) is another example of great game design. Although it was very similar to Super Mario Bros 3 and StarTropics, critics appreciated the new mechanics of changing gravity. McDonald's sold the game for $ 49.99 - which is expensive for this type of game.

Magnum Pleasure Hunt (released in 2011) is a unique platformer. Purpose of the game: search for treasures all over the Internet. The game world consists of real and made-up sites, on the blocks of which the player runs and collects chocolates. There are also rocking, flying and driving. Magnum has collaborated with many brands whose websites have become part of the “Internet” of the game - it’s easy to guess that the game was not very beautiful. But the players appreciated the innovativeness - about 7 million people played in Magnum Pleasure Hunt.

KFC's Colonel Sander's Kentucky Fried Football Challenge is an unusual Instagram-based text quest game. At each stage, you need to choose a football player who will allow you to gain or lose a few yards. The choice takes you to another Instagram account, where the grid represents the football field in its new state. A cell with a KFC bucket contains a video and description with the transition to the next steps (to the following accounts).


Failures come in many forms. The most common is failure due to poor game design. That is why many advergames are so boring. Another common point is when projects are canceled or stopped in the late stages of development. There are many reasons for this.

Perhaps the brand’s marketing manager has been changed, and he is killing all the projects of his predecessor. Or the developer underestimated the development time and does not have time to finish it on time. For Fido Dido , it seems that the reason is that the brand (7 Up, in this case) changed the mascot, and the original mascot has ceased to be relevant. The game was finished around 1993 - it was not officially released, but the ROM leaked to the network. The situation was so confusing that many considered the game officially released, and even did reviews.

Some games are really dubious: from the creepy Mojo Master for Ax (you need to use special movements to seduce women) to the disastrous Hire Hitman game on Facebook, created to promote the console game Hitman Absolution. In Hire Hitman, you could leave an “order” for a friend, point to “her terrible makeup” or worse (the game was removed a few hours after the release).

Mojo master

There are also studies that show that adverheims have a particularly strong effect on children. Children do not know that they consume ads, and games make them more like a brand, and subconsciously influence their buying decisions. Which becomes a problem in combination, for example, with unhealthy diets. This has led to prohibitions of advergames in some countries (for example, in the UK) along with other media that advertise specific products for young children.

The proliferation of the first flash games, and then mobile, has changed ad games in several ways. When there are so many free-to-play projects, advergames are most often also free. Monster Energy Supercross and its sequel are examples of the opposite.

Monster Energy Supercross

But at the same time, they often become games "at once." Many companies do not try to maintain their adverges, even if they achieve the necessary metrics. Although you can play Tapper and other old games today, many new games are lost - only screenshots or reviews are left. And the modern types of advergames - banner games - are even more disposable.

Modern trends

As VR and AR gain popularity, they offer companies additional opportunities to create new sales experiences for their products.

Following the success of the Magnum Pleasure Hunt, which I mentioned earlier, the company made several sequels. I found five, but videos from two different Magnum games claim they were both second in a row. One of these was the Pac-Man AR clone, installed on the central streets of Amsterdam. The players hunted for chocolate bones, and if their pursuing mouths did not eat them, then they received real ice cream as a reward.

An example of VR is the rather gloomy KFC game for Oculus Rift called The Hard Way (2017). A player can escape forever with General Sanders if he successfully cooks fried chicken.

The hard way

Nike used the impressive Reactland VR / AR platformer to launch the new running shoes in Shanghai . Players take a pair of sneakers, a controller, stand on a treadmill and run in a simulated environment projected onto the walls around them.

Now, when the gaming industry is one of the largest, some brands integrate games into their marketing so that they go beyond the boundaries of adverhing. KFC, for example, has launched KFC Gaming, a community development unit around games and KFC-sponsored eSports events. Similarly, Arby's is trying to attract gamers by referring to games.


Almost 40 years have passed since the advent of adveraming. And there are no signs and reasons that he will disappear in the next 40.

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