Famous People Sell Games Better Than Game Reviewers

Publishers should recognize that the televised appearance of celebrities in their underwear hyping Guitar Hero is helping that series beat its better-reviewed competition, according to a gaming analyst.

There are many ways that star game reviewer and Giant Bomb honcho Jeff Gerstmann and star model Heidi Klum are unalike. One of those, may be their ability to impact the sales of games.

Klum may have the edge there.

Celebrities, EEDAR games research analyst Jesse Divnich wrote in a report issued this morning, are trumping reviewers.

"Using celebrities in a mass-market media campaign is certainly one of the most effective ways to create the perception of being a must-own title," he said. "In fact, the Guitar Hero/Rock Band war is a perfect example of how Guitar Hero was ultimately able to gain mass-market acceptance through celebrity endorsements and advertisement even though editorial reviews indicated that Rock Band was a better product."

Rock Band has had the better reviews. But it is Guitar Hero that has had Heidi Klum, Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriguez and other celebrities dancing in their underwear on TV in order to convince the world how good Activision's rhythm game is. They mattered more, in EEDAR's analysis, than did the game's reviews.

Take that, Jeff Gerstman, Kotaku and every other person or institution reviewing games.

"In this new gaming market," Divnich wrote, "when targeting a mass-audience, it is not always the best products that succeed, but often what the consumers believe is the best product. "

Divnich's analysis was part of his preview for this Thursday's release of NPD game sales for the month of April. That month saw the release of Rhythm Heaven for the Nintendo DS, a game that was promoted with a commercial featuring Beyonce Knowles. The EEDAR analyst believes that the game's sales will be shown later this week to be "nothing short of amazing" due to Nintendo's use of a celebrity to support it, moreso than because the game is exceptionally good.

For as long as video games have been around, celebrities have been enlisted infrequently to hawk them. Games have been treated like movies, allowing the content to hype itself.

But the prospect that Divnich raises is that maybe games should be hyped as products, like soda or cars. Instead of the occasional celebrity endorsement based on the celebrity's inclusion in the game — see Mike Tyson's commercial for Mike Tyson's Punch-Out — perhaps gaming is entering an era of celebrity pitch-people telling the masses what to play. If so, Nintendo and Activision, which have enlisted stars from Nicole Kidman and Mr. T to Ozzy Osbourne and Liv Tyler, appear to be leading that revolution.

OK. So which celebrities should have been pushing Prince of Persia and Chinatown Wars to help those games out?