The favourite car in my garage at the moment is a Mercedes 300SL, though I don’t take it out onto the road very often. Most days, I drive my Nissan GT-R, Lamborghini Aventador or Ferrari 458.
When it comes to pure speed and performance, it’s tough to beat these three, but the 300SL is a piece of automotive history. I love taking it out for a leisurely drive, just to appreciate its exquisite design.
Spending vast sums of money on sports cars and entering them into races have become a bit of a preoccupation lately. I especially enjoy pitting my cars against others on open roads late at night.
Now, before you condemn me for recklessly racing on open roads, I should mention that the sort of racing I indulge in is strictly of the virtual variety. I am obsessed with an Xbox racing game called Forza Horizon.
For the vast majority of us, a video game is about as close as we’ll ever get to driving a Ferrari Enzo, McLaren F1 or Lamborghini Aventador, so these games have a definite appeal for hardcore petrolheads. And there is no doubt that these racing games are big business nowadays.
Both Microsoft and Sony are in the process of launching their next-generation gaming consoles – the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 respectively – and both are attempting to entice buyers by launching long-awaited racing titles alongside the new consoles. The Xbox One will have Forza Motorsport 5, and the PS4 will have Gran Turismo 6. Racing game fans have been eagerly awaiting these titles for years, so the games will certainly bolster sales of both consoles.
Vehicle manufacturers, in turn, have noticed that video games are a great way to market their vehicles. Product placement in video games is becoming very popular. In fact, it is estimated that game manufacturers will earn around $3-billion through product placement revenue this year. Vehicle manufacturers will pay as much as $1-million to have their vehicles prominently used in games, including being used on the cover of the box.
Paying $1-million to have a vehicle placed in a game might sound pricey, but it is nothing compared to what a manufacturer would have to fork out to have James Bond, or some other action star, behind the wheel of its car in their latest film. Moreover, you can actually reach more people through games than films and TV nowadays.
A lot was made of the fact that films such as The Hobbit and The Avengers made more than $1-billion at the box office, but a mega-popular game such as Grand Theft Auto 5 made $800-million in the first weekend it was released.
And don’t think that gamers are acne-covered teens who don’t have the money (or license) to purchase a car. It was recently reported that around 78 million video games were sold in Germany in 2012, and about 26 million of the Germans who said they regularly played video games earned more than 3000 euros a month.
So making sure that your car is in the latest popular racing game, and allowing potential car buyers to form an emotional connection with that car in the game, is very valuable from a marketing perspective.
Games are increasingly becoming one of the most useful platforms for showcasing new vehicles. Sure, you can place an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine, and you can flight an ad on television, but they will never be as engaging as allowing someone to experience a car for themselves, albeit in a virtual world.
Modern racing games are so advanced that they can offer a surprisingly realistic experience of a vehicle. Handling, performance and sound are expertly recreated, giving a tantalising glimpse of what it would really be like to sit behind the wheel of a particular car.
As gaming technology improves, racing games appear set to become the most profitable showrooms for manufacturers, and virtual laps around Monza or the Nurburgring the most convincing test drives for potential buyers.