Electronic Arts has announced the completion of a multi-year deal with Renault that will make a new download pack available to players of The Sims 3, featuring the forthcoming Twizy zero-emissions vehicle, as well as a host of other sustainable energy items.
Using the Electric Vehicle Pack will enable players to reduce their household bills in the game, and the download will be made available to players across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia this Spring.
"We're incredibly excited - it's very important for EA," Elizabeth Harz, senior VP of global media sales for EA, told GamesIndustry.biz. "Obviously our retail revenue is core to our business, but as I'm sure you're aware, diversified revenue streams, including micro-transactions, advertising and subscription... they're all incredibly important to the future of this space, and EA's future as well."
She went on to explain how videogames are an increasingly attractive proposition for brands that are struggling to connect with consumers in traditional media, and are looking for added engagement.
"You identify the main challenge for marketers today, whether it's trying to break through in social media, or have consumers not multi-task while they're watching their TV commercial," she explained.
"What interactive entertainment offers is top entertainment, fantastic content, relevant reach - being able to deliver the right audiences, many of which are elusive, whether that's the working mother with a couple of kids, men from 18-34, or tweens and teens - very hard audiences to reach in other media.
"Plus there's an engagement that's unparalleled. People are not PVRing the brand integrations they see and interact with in a game. Really what we do is so crucial to the game experience - imagine a racing game without brands in it. The opportunity for Sims 3 players to have an incredibly cool zero-emissions electric vehicle concept car as their mode of transportation - and what that says about their personality and the impact it has on gameplay (reducing their household bills) - it's a way that consumers can interact with household brands that's impossible in other media."
Stephen Norman, SVP of global marketing for the Renault Group, added his thoughts on why games were increasingly front of mind for non-endemic brands: "Videogames offer an unparalleled level of engagement and consumer interaction," he told GamesIndustry.biz.
"Both Renault and EA are leaders in our respective fields and we have already partnered successfully with EA with the Renault Megane featured in EA's racing franchise, Need for Speed. This deal with the Sims 3 allows us to create a dialogue with the incredibly loyal and passionate Sims community, providing an opportunity to educate users on the Electric Vehicles range in a fun and engaging way."
The move is further evidence of the increasing potential for developers and publishers to integrate new revenue streams into games, and builds on studies recently conducted by Nielsen indicating that the advertising is effective - even where it's not a direct call to action, as is the case with the Renault deal, given that the Twizy won't be available for purchase until 2011.
"We just announced a study in the US, conducted by Nielsen, looking at the impact of in-game advertising and the increase of purchase behaviour," said Harz.
"While the ads in the console experience were much more brand ads - they didn't say: 'Go out and buy this energy drink' - when tracking household purchases, the folks who saw the ads came back from the grocery store with over a 30 per cent lift as a result of that exposure. So it wasn't a call to action, but as we all know, advertising works."
The Sims 3 was released in June 2009 and has sold 4.5 million units worldwide since then, making it the best-selling PC game in Europe and North America.