Obama campaigns in Burnout, 17 other games

[UPDATE 3] Burnout players in 10 states will be racing past in-game ads for the presidential candidate from Illinois all month long; AP reports spots also appearing in Madden, NASCAR, NBA, NHL, and Skate; Obama staff tells NPR it has buys in 18 games.

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Change has been a key theme of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. For example, the campaign for the Democratic senator from Illinois is actively courting the votes of gamers for a change.

Game the vote?
Game the vote?

As pointed out by GamePolitics last week, ads for Obama's presidential campaign have been spotted in Electronic Arts' high-octane racer Burnout Paradise. An EA spokesperson today confirmed for GameSpot that the Xbox 360 version of the game has been playing host to Obama billboards since October 6. The advertising campaign will run until Monday, November 3, the eve of the US general election.

The EA representative said that the ads would appear in only 10 different states, most of them contested battleground states. Paradise City residents in Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Colorado, Indiana, Montana, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wisconsin are being targeted by the campaign. In the 2004 presidential election, all of those states except Wisconsin went to Republican incumbent George W. Bush.

The Obama campaign is running only on the Xbox 360 version of the game, given that it was handled by Microsoft-owned in-game ad firm Massive Incorporated. In-game ads for the PlayStation 3 version of Burnout Paradise are operated by IGA Worldwide. As for the absence of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, the EA representative said that Massive had approached the Arizona senator's campaign, which "passed" on a Burnout ad buy.

The EA representative said that the publisher treats its in-game advertising like a TV network or radio station would, noting, "Political advertising does not reflect the opinions or policies of EA or its developers." A representative with IGA Worldwide said the firm "could not comment on the political advertisements."

Though EA is not officially endorsing Obama, its top executive has donated to the Democrat's campaign. In another GamePolitics report, the site pointed to a host of industry figures' political-campaign contributions, with EA CEO John Riccitiello throwing $4,600 into the Obama kitty. Many other game luminaries have also donated thousands this election cycle, with Spore designer Will Wright and Activision CEO Bobby Kotick among those sending thousands to McCain, whereas Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick and ESRB president Patricia Vance contributed substantial sums to Obama. In the primaries, Valve Software head Gabe Newell contributed $2,300 to Democrat Chris Dodd's doomed candidacy.

[UPDATE]: A representative with Massive told GameSpot the Obama campaign approached the company with the idea of the campaign, and went on to state that Massive "does not endorse either candidate." The in-game ad firm does restrict some advertisements, however; it does not accept tobacco or alcohol ads, and other restrictions vary depending on the rating of the game in question.

[UPDATE 2]: The Associated Press is now reporting that Obama is running ads in 8 other EA games, including Madden NFL 09. The other titles include "NASCAR, NBA, NHL, and skateboarding" titles, with the latter presumably meaning Skate.

[UPDATE 3]: The Wednesday installment of National Public Radio's Morning Edition says the Obama campaign has announced it is now running ads on a total of 18 games.

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