World of Cokecraft

by on Sep.08, 2006, under games industry, geek culture, mmorpg, new media, WoW

TerraNova highlighted it, I watched it, and ‘iCoke’ blazes a trail for World of Warcraft into China. The ad is actually somewhat old, but combine it with this :

With 7 million subscribers, WoW is now in the list of the world’s top 100 most populous countries.1 2

It easily exceeds the population of Lebanon or Israel. It will likely surpass them both put together. Think of how all those Wow players could represent a significant force for massive social change, if only the damned Horde would stop getting in the way!

Priorities, priorities. 🙂

(Keep reading!)

The venerable New York Times saw fit to acknowledge the game as a justified social enterprise, but even well-written words don’t compare to redefining the game as a capitalistic conduit for more, unrelated products. As the Warcraft characters leapt out of the television of a Taiwanese pop group, they cemented themselves into the popular mainstream. WoW is the MMORPG genre’s official ambassador to the world.

This co-branding effort on behalf of iCoke, and the China extension of Blizzard, The9, is hardly new. Even the infamous Grand Theft Auto has been mockingly iconified by Coca Cola. Check out this rather clever ad. On seeing it, Wired writer Clive Thompson mused, “The ad parodies violence in a game that parodies itself.” I have to admit, it’s a pretty decent effort (agency Wieden+Kennedy).

Coke has traditionally made every effort imaginable to create unique advertising or to stretch it’s tendrils into the space of new media. One cannot blame them, considering their product is almost indistinguishable from their main competitor. Sort of like the Xbox360 and Sony PS3. 🙂

So they are generally forced to stretch their branding to the limits. “Coke Studio“, is one example. A pseudo-MMORPG for people to win free Coke. Or something. You can guess how that turned out.

Sorry, the theme park is closed. Forever.

In their wisdom, Coke has now turned its attentions to established players in the MMORPG market. WoW, of course.

It’s not the ads that surprise me most. It’s the fact that the entire enterprise was locked, loaded, and fired into the waiting markets of mainland China. The rest of the world (e.g. me), played catchup over YouTube. To me, and you can disagree, this might actually represent a transition point. Where the western world doesn’t drive the culture anymore, as creations are seized upon outside of the places they were created in. WoW may have been made by a French-owned studio in the U.S., but that’s immaterial. It could have been made anywhere. Now, it might be driven forward by the massive forces of greater population, ingenuity and enthusiasm.

Whether that statement is true or not, MMORPGs are primarily an asian phenomenon anyway. The genre’s popularity clearly outstrips that of anything made or played in western countries. Period. WoW is an admitted aberration in this trend, and kudos to them. But despite my insatiable lust for monitoring this industry, I have only a dim idea on what could unseat this juggernaught.

Maybe 7 million people can’t be wrong? 😉

Technorati tags : , , ChinaJoy, World of Warcraft, advertising.


1. U.S. Census Bureau,
2. Wikipedia, “Countries sorted by population”,

4 Comments for this entry

  • UNO

    Whats Western Civilization done for me lately?
  • digi

    Do you think there's enough oil for China to fully materialize there goal of complete indistrialization? Looks to me like some attention is starting to make the switch...
  • covert.c.

    Blizzard's pricing model is different in Asia. They don't sell the game, they sell subscriptions in blocks of gametime. This amounts to a lower price per seat.


    Since it's a cheaper game (with many competitors in the space), I think the driving motivator is more wallets, not deeper ones.
  • melmel

    I don't think it has much to do with the Western world not driving culture as much as the Western world having less influence on driving markets. As the wealth and fat wallets shift on the planet it will be markets driving marketing, branding and new products. As organizations realize the potential of the deep pockets in Asia, who can blame them?

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