For example, there are a few QR codes scattered around the game. If you scan them, you will be taken to a Verizon site, where you'll get access to all sorts of exclusive Alan Wake content, but not an answer to the most important question of all: "Did gamers fuck Remedy Entertainment's mom for them to be pulling this kind of weak shit?"
"It wasn't that. It was that they never called afterwards."
During another part of the game, you can even turn on a TV and sit through an entire Verizon commercial. It has no bearing on the plot whatsoever, but watching it to the end does reward you with the "Boob Tube" achievement, and I so wish I was making that up. Like, I even asked my genie to erase this travesty from existence, but he said he couldn't, because he created it in the first place when the lamp's previous owner wished for the second-worst thing ever.
At least I no longer feel guilty for killing him and stealing his lamp.
And in case you were wondering, the worst thing ever is probably Alan Wake's first downloadable content, The Signal. In it, the protagonist Alan must find his way out of a surreal world of dark energy while following a signal on his phone. A Verizon phone. A Verizon phone that appears in an exploding sea of light as if it was the second coming of Christ.
Actually, its official name is now "Verizon Presents Jesus 2: Ecclesial Boogaloo."
And when Alan answers the phone, one of the first things he hears is the old Verizon slogan: "Can you hear me? Can you hear me now?" The demographics of people that would like that joke are those who have shouted "Nationwide is on your side!" at the funerals of car crash victims, and no one else.
But you might be thinking: If the game is still atmospheric despite the product placement, then does it really hurt anyone? This actually goes back to the Stephen King comparison I made earlier. As a lifelong fan of King, I'll be the first to admit that some of his ideas are just, well, dumb. But he always makes them work because he treats his creations seriously and with respect, and until he creates a Cujo sequel in which the dog is saved by the healing powers of Purina Puppy Chow, this trend will probably continue. Alan Wake lacks that, because with The Signal, it essentially created an extended mobile carrier commercial and then made gamers pay good money for it. Money that should've gone to something gamers could actually enjoy. Like Rhino Hide toilet paper.
Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist, interviewer, and editor. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter.
For more check out The 5 Most Absurd Uses of Product Placement Ever and 7 Times Movie Product Placement Backfired Hilariously.
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