For some social games, the connection to real life is so obvious it just begs for a commercial tie-in. For example: FarmVille branding on real bananas at 7-Eleven, or virtual goods from McDonald’s in the game. What we haven’t seen so far, though, is the ability to directly order a real version of an in-game virtual item.
PlayFirst is stepping up as the first with Chocolatier: Sweet Society, a Facebook game about making artisanal chocolates in San Francisco. For the holiday season, PlayFirst is partnering with Charles Chocolates, an artisanal chocolate maker based in, where else, San Francisco.
In Chocolatier, players will have access to five special chocolates the work much like the other chocolates in the games: after making the chocolate in their factory, the player puts it out in their store for purchase, getting a bit of virtual currency and experience for each sale.
But each of the new chocolates will also have Charles Chocolates branding, with a prominent button urging them to “Get The Real Deal!”:
If they click the button, the player will be sent off to the Charles Chocolates website to buy a box of all five chocolates, which Charles created specifically for the game.
The founder of Charles Chocolates, Chuck Siegel, says that he has no idea what the result of the brand integration will be. But he’s in love with the idea, no matter what happens. “The attractiveness of it to me is just the idea itself. Conceptually, it’s just brilliant,” he says.
Chocolatier has about 800,000 monthly active users, so there is the potential that the small company could face an overwhelming flow of orders, especially with the holidays coming up. But Siegel says he’s able to staff up dynamically, so demand shouldn’t be a problem. “Although we’re artisanal, we have phenomenal capacity,” he tells us.
It’s likely that this deal is just the leading edge of something we’ll see more often in the future — smarter, tighter brand integrations into games. Chocolatier’s advantage is its laser focus on just one thing, chocolate. But others are working on similar ideas, and startups like Mertado are homing in on merchandising through games.