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00011829The introduction of new versions of the hottest video games often rely on a companion website. Perhaps that site provides background information. Maybe it tells a little bit about the game producer. When it released a recent version of its popular first-person shooter game “Medal of Honor” though, Electronic Arts instead decided to use the companion website to link users to the makers of the products featured in its game. Considering the focal goal of the game, that meant links to handgun and automatic rifle manufacturers, in a “virtual showroom for guns.”

For both gun makers and video game producers, the marketing links are evident. By encouraging game designers to include their makes and models in popular games, gun manufacturers gain exposure and name recognition. The game designers add in elements and specific features that match actual guns available for sale, making the game more realistic.

On both sides, spokespeople quickly deny any payments or remuneration for the product placement—especially in the wake of gun-related tragedies. For example, the perpetrator of the Sandy Hook massacre used a Bushmaster rifle and reportedly played “Call of Duty” for hours. The Bushmaster features prominently in that popular game.

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association asserts that such violent acts are effects of violent games, and game designers protest that the games instead offer an outlet that is preferable to real-world gun ownership. The relationship between these potential marketing partners thus is a shaky one. Even as both sides seek to use the reputation and access to consumers that the other offers, they also work to distance themselves and their reputations from the negative aspects of their partners.

For consumers, the marketing connection creates both interesting potential and serious concerns. Parents might worry that their children, seemingly playing a fantasy game, have ready access to actual weaponry. Handgun activists who regard games as harmless outlets might be forced to disagree if they can easily purchase items through the games. Gun aficionados instead might find it helpful to have such a convenient link to the items they enjoy using in the virtual world.

Soure: Barry Meier and Andrew Martin, “Real and Virtual Firearms Nurture a Marketing Link,” The New York Times, December 24, 2012