This is terrible news for video game makers – but they brought it on themselves. Apparently, Electronic Arts and other developers of some of the most violent shooter games employ a form of product placement in which the “real” guns depicted can be found through links to gun manufacturers from within the games themselves.
“Among the video game giant’s marketing partners on the Web site were the McMillan Group, the maker of a high-powered sniper’s rifle, and Magpul, which sells high-capacity magazines and other accessories for assault-style weapons,” reports a front-page story in the Christmas Day edition of the New York Times
“Links on the Medal of Honor site allowed visitors to click through on the Web sites of the game’s partners and peruse their catalogs.
“’It was almost like a virtual showroom for guns,’ said Ryan Smith, who contributes to the Gameological Society, an online gaming magazine. After Mr. Smith and other gaming enthusiasts criticized the site, Electronic Arts disabled the links, saying it had been unaware of them.
“The video game industry was drawn into the national debate about gun violence last week when the National Rifle Association accused producers of violent games and movies of helping to incite the type of mass shooting that recently left 20 children and six adults dead at a school in Newtown, Conn.
“While studies have found no connection between video games and gun violence, the case of Medal of Honor Warfighter illustrates how the firearms and video game industries have quietly forged a mutually beneficial marketing relationship. Many of the same producers of firearms and related equipment are also financial backers of the N.R.A. McMillan, for example, is a corporate donor to the group, and Magpul recently joined forces with it in a product giveaway featured on Facebook. The gun group also lists Glock, Browning and Remington as corporate sponsors.
“Makers of firearms and related gear have come to see video games as a way to promote their brands to millions of potential customers, marketing experts said. Magpul and Electronic Arts made a video posted on YouTube about their partnership. ‘It is going to help brand perceptions,’ said Stacy Jones, the president of Hollywood Branded, a company that specializes in product placement in movies and television shows. Assault-style rifles made by Bushmaster Firearms have a roster of credits that any actor would envy, including appearances in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, a part of the popular Activision series.
“The gunman in the Connecticut killings, Adam Lanza, used a semiautomatic rifle made by Bushmaster, which is a unit of the Freedom Group. The most recent entry in the Call of Duty franchise, Black Ops II, featured models of weapons that are also made by Barrett and Browning. Another popular game sold by Electronic Arts, Battlefield 3, depicts assault rifles and pistols similar to those made by Colt, Heckler & Koch, Glock and Beretta.
“The American military also uses Call of Duty and other video games for recruitment and to train soldiers. An Activision spokeswoman said she was not able to get a response because of the holiday season. Several other companies, including McMillan, Magpul, Browning and Barrett, did not respond to telephone calls or e-mails. The National Rifle Association also did not respond. A Glock spokesman could not be located for comment.
“In a statement, Electronic Arts said video game makers, like film producers, ‘frequently license the images of people, sports franchises, buildings, cars and military equipment.’ The company added that it did not receive payments for using branded images in Medal of Honor.”