According to The New York Times, the average cost of a 30-second ad during Sunday's Super Bowl LI was $5 million, a record high. But four game publishers footed the bill, just in case you still wondered whether there's money to be made in video games. One of the commercial spots was owned by an online action game, another was a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, and two are mobile real-time strategy games. Notice the through line? It's online. Connect people's credit cards to game accounts, and you've got (at least the start of) a recipe for success.
Game: World of Tanks
Commercial: World of Tanks 2017 Super Bowl Commercial - "Real Awful Moms"
World of Tanks put four 15-second commercials into rotation, actually, nearly all of them riffing on popular TV genres or commercials. There's the "Real Awful Moms" (posted below) playing with reality TV. "Stiffedra" which, like it sounds, would be a Viagra knockoff. "Teensy House Buyers" is all about the so-called tiny house movement. And then there's "Fantasy Sports Bros" for the fantasy football crowd. All are intentionally lowbrow humor. Regardless, World of Tanks is still a good time [Gaming Nexus score: 8.8 out of 10]
Game: The Elder Scrolls Online
Publisher: Bethesda Sofworks
Commercial: The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind - Official TV Spot
With the biggest announcement since The Elder Scrolls Online was first announced, the upcoming TESO: Morrowind expansion is set to take nostalgic Vvardenfell explorers on a reconstructed, uprezzed trip down memory lane. The commercial's only misstep was somehow not featuring the fabled Mudcrab Merchant. [GN score: 8 out of 10]
Publisher: Evony, LLC
Commercial: The Battle of Evony - BIG GAME Commercial
Some years ago, Evony was in the first wave of mobile real-time strategy games, and flooded browsers with ads featuring scantily clad women. These ads, of course, didn't feature any gameplay screens, but encouraged people susceptible to the promise of softcore porn to "Start your journey now, my Lord." They further had big buttons embedded in the ads that said, "Play - Unnoticeable Now!" The TV spot below thankfully removes itself from that embarrassing legacy, and features American, Asian, and European armies storming a castle together.
Game: Mobile Strike
Publisher: Machine Zone
Commercial: Official Mobile Strike Super Bowl 51 TV Commercial - "Arnold's One Liners"
Mobile Strike is the latest mobile real-time strategy game to rope in celebrity talent to add celebrity punch to their commercials. Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the biggest action movies stars of all time, not to mention Governor of California from 2003-2011, lends his still-thick accent and still-iconic one liners here. With cheeky gravitas, he gives us his gems from Predator, Terminator 2, and the "I'll be back" line that followed him through several of his biggest action films.
These are by no means the most beloved commercials to come out of Super Bowl 51, a sporting event nearly as revered for its commercials as for its actual sport. But let's not kid ourselves, no one would invite their bros over for chips and dip just to watch a string of promos. But it's encouraging, either way, to see video games maintain their relevancy in popular culture, even if they're not all games that'd make our end-of-the-year top ten lists.