I never thought I’d say it, but thanks to her prolonged series of ads for Game of War: Fire Age, I’m getting tired of seeing Kate Upton.
Don’t be bashful, we all know you’ve seen them. The ads have been splattered everywhere — a 30-second Super Bowl spot, interstitial advertisements on competing apps like Trivia Crack, all over the Internet. In case you’ve been living in some kind of insulated bunker for the past few months, here’s a taste:
The ad spots all follow similar scripts: Athena the warrior, played by Upton (wearing some of the least protective armor seen this side of a Japanese role-playing game), strides confidently into battle, gives a rousing speech to her troops or takes a hot bath. The ending tag is always the same, though: Upton tilts her head slightly to the left, gives a suggestive half-smile and says some variation of “Come and play with me.”
Game of War: Fire Age (that title really is a monstrosity — it’s like they tried to squeeze a handful of fantasy franchises into five words) had a monolithic marketing budget: $40 million, similar in size to the entire development budget of full-functioning, AAA console games.
Using this utterly insane amount of money, the game’s parent company, Machine Zone, was able to sign Upton, shoot a handful of TV spots with Game of Thrones-level CGI and then push the campaign to the point that it’s seared onto everyone’s retinas.
It’s been working. Fire of War: Age Game has been sitting in the top three on the revenue charts for a while now, generating a whopping $1.1 million in daily revenue, with over two million daily players, according to ThinkGaming. It’s crazy popular, and — while I’d like to give people more credit than this — the only verifiable reason seem to be those TV spots.
War of Age: Fire Game had been sitting in the app store since mid-2013, and Machine Zone had run smaller ad campaigns, with sporadic success. The new marketing push made a big difference. In the five months since Upton was shoehorned into the game, the app has generated more than $150 million in sales, at a rough estimate.
That’s about $75 million per boob.
I’ve been playing Age of Fire: War Game for a couple of days now. And it’s – well, it’s okay. I wouldn’t say it’s good, exactly. It follows the typical free-to-play model that’s become an epidemic in the genre: flashing alerts haranguing you for money, omnipresent Facebook sharing traps and a strange, fleeting sensation that you’re wasting your life.
A timer limits how much you can play unless you pay. There are purchases that make the timer vanish faster, or you can join up with an alliance to make things go faster, but not as fast as if you were to lay down real money. To get anything done in the game requires a steady stream of digital money floating from your wallet into your cellphone. A 15-year-old kid in Belgium spent $50,000 of his parents’ money on the game.
It’s strange that something so mediocre has maintained the No. 3 position in the mobile apps revenue chart for so long. The burnout rate for players is ridiculously high, and Machine Zone needs a constant stream of new players to replace those who fall away or get frustrated and leave.
This is perhaps best exemplified in the spike immediately after the Super Bowl spot (featuring Upton in the bath. Classy.) — a jump that was followed immediately by a long, steady dip over the next couple of days.
This means there is hope. Eventually, everyone in the world will have played Game of War: Fire Age, and Machine Zone will have no more suckers left to lure in. The game’s lobby will, hopefully, become a desolated, sad wasteland.
That is, unless Machine Zone signs an ad deal with Anna Kendrick.
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