Death Stranding is a stark, post-apocalypse of muted tones rigorously organized round a naturally understated palette. In the midst of all this mournful loveliness, there sits an anomaly: garishly designed cans of a 21st century drink referred to as Monster Energy.

This is a caffeine-spiked power drink manufactured since 2002 by Monster Beverage, a marketing-led firm with a considerably unsavory historical past of trademark bullying and worker sexual harassment. The firm’s principal audience is younger males.

In Death Stranding, tins of neon-green Monster Energy are at all times accessible on the middle of protagonist Sam’s restroom, the place he spends time recovering from missions, checking messages and listening to prolonged exposition speeches from different characters.

He can seize a can at any time and have a very good slurp. In an early mission, he’s really required to gulp down a can and does slightly vitality dance when he’s accomplished. While he’s on the street, his water canister is stuffed with the drink, which serves as a helpful stamina increase. When the can is replenished with water, it in some way turns itself into Monster Energy.

Kojima Productions/Sony Interactive Entertainment

This is product placement at its most sensational and incoherent. Although different manufacturers seem within the sport, corresponding to J.F. Rey sun shades and Acronym clothes, they sit on the margins. Their colours and kinds are acceptable to the world. By distinction, the drinks appear outrageously inappropriate, nearly to the purpose of parody.

Death Stranding is a sparsely populated world the place branded merchandise are nearly non-existent. It is a spot of shortage and want. But if you wish to guzzle a branded power drink, it’s as free as air. So far as I can inform, the sport’s story affords no rationalization for the presence of one model of pre-apocalypse, completely preserved client merchandise.

I contacted Sony and Monster Beverage to ask in regards to the phrases of the deal, however solely acquired replies that they’d look into into it. Nothing got here again. As greatest I can inform, this was an association undertaken in Japan. At Tokyo Game Show in September, Monster Energy hosted a big, garish sales space the place Death Stranding was showcased. Co-branded goodies like t-shirts got away as contest prizes. In the previous, Monster Energy has allied itself at TGS with large sport manufacturers like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty.

Kojima Productions/Sony Interactive Entertainment

With its ever-present triple-claw branding, Monster Energy, is is not some culturally area of interest product. Monster Beverage has a market capitalization worth of round $30 billion. In 2018, the corporate reported annual revenues of $3.eight billion.

The firm is additionally no stranger to controversy. In 2018, Huffington Post posted a narrative about how 5 ladies have been suing Monster Beverage for sexual harassment by senior executives. In the face of requires a boycott, one of the accused execs, John Kenneally resigned quickly after the report. Another, Brent Hamilton, was fired by the corporate earlier this yr. He is nonetheless awaiting trial for allegedly strangling a former girlfriend, who labored as a contractor for Monster Beverages. Another supervisor named within the lawsuit, Phillip Deitrich, is nonetheless on the firm, in response to his LinkedIn profile.

Monster Beverage is notoriously litigious relating to its logos. In the final decade, it has filed a number of cease-and-desist orders and lawsuits in opposition to small corporations that use the phrase “monster” in their very own branding. These embody corporations that promote books, desserts, vans, and even aquariums.

In 2017, the corporate sued a small soda firm referred to as Thunder Beast, which makes root beer. Its lawsuit argued that the phrase “beast” infringed by itself slogan. (As seen on the cans in Death Stranding, Monster makes use of the slogan “Unleash the Beast.”). Thunder Beast founder Stephen Norberg instructed The Washingtonian: “I did some research and found out [Monster] is a corporate bully when it comes to small businesses and trademarks, so I hired an attorney who had dealt with them before. For a long time we did this dance where they would suggest fairly ridiculous terms. For example, they wanted me to agree that we would never use the color green again in any capacity.” The authorized battle stays unresolved.

Monster Beverage has additionally confronted adverse publicity surrounding lawsuits in regards to the well being dangers related to closely caffeinated drinks. Litigants claimed the drinks have been liable for “heart attacks, stroke, and renal failure.” Many of the fits have been dropped or crushed in court docket, however media scrutiny on power drinks has intensified.

Polygon contacted Sony Interactive Entertainment to ask about its selection of sponsorship associate, however had not acquired a reply at press time.

Kojima Productions/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Monster is a prolific promoter, a la Red Bull. In 2018, the corporate spent $354 million on promoting and promotions, in response to its most up-to-date monetary report. It is a number one model within the sponsorship of esports groups, NASCAR, music occasions, and excessive sports activities. World Formula One racing champion Lewis Hamilton is sponsored by Monster. So are some of the world’s main blended martial arts fighters {and professional} bullriders.

For Monster Beverage, the Death Stranding sponsorship deal appears to be like like a very good match. This is a model that oozes motion machismo, an indicator of the sport’s creator Hideo Kojima, whose earlier creations embody the Metal Gear Solid collection. Death Stranding protagonist Sam is a gruff, no-nonsense fighter who scorns authority however suffers deprivation as he helps others and tries to rescue the love of his life.

Despite Kojima’s heavy reliance on macho archetypes, he has earned a status as a manipulator of public opinion and as a artful purveyor of hidden messages. Kojima is well-known as a cultural magpie, stuffing his video games with artifacts that obsess him. Such is his enigma, that some will see this sponsorship deal as a fan tribute or cultural meta-joke.

There’s little question that Kojima is a fan of power drinks and product placement. On a number of events, he’s tweeted bottles of a Japanese drink called Yunker and Metal Gear Solid character Snake has additionally appeared in Japanese commercials for an power drink referred to as Regain. The Metal Gear Solid collection employed revered real-world merchandise like Apple’s iPod, Sony’s Walkman, and Triumph bikes. But there’s additionally junk meals like Calorie Mate, Mountain Dew, and Doritos, and magazines aimed toward males and boys (Playboy, Hooters, Sabra, Weekly Shonen) peppered all through Kojima’s inventive works.

Even so, the partnership with Monster Energy appears to be like like a grotesque commercial imposition on an in any other case superbly crafted sport, seemingly motivated extra by revenue than by aesthetic issues.

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