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There are probably no better video games for brands to collaborate with than sports simulations. Since advertisement is a big part of sport in real life, the presence of actual brands isn’t just non-intrusive, in many cases it even helps authenticity. Just think of all the attention to detail that goes into recreating the iconic shoes of soccer players in EA Sports’ FIFA series.

However, a title’s graphics and reach don’t necessarily need to be as good as FIFA’s to make them interesting to brands, as the recent example of World Championship Boxing Manager 2, WCBM 2 for short, shows. This charming little management game with a retro look and feel to it has collaborated with fight apparel brands Superare and Onward, two well-known names in the space, incorporating their products and branding into the game.

With graphics, especially in the sports game genre, gravitating ever more towards realism, was it not a tough sell for the companies to partner up with a game using a pixel art style?

“WCBM 2’s art style was part of the reason we were drawn to the project,” says Arjun David, the co-owner of Onward. “The team producing WCBM 2 approached us with a genuine love for boxing and it was clear from the start that we both had the same inherent love for the retro boxing art style. The application screamed boxing heritage, which we felt provided a point of intersection for our brand association.”

The sentiment is shared by Superare’s president, Zachary Lipari: “We actually prefer the retro vibe and the nostalgia it provides. We grew up with pixelated art visuals and they are near and dear to us and our youthful sensibilities.”

As a result of these attitudes, WCBM 2 developer Mega Cat Studios had no issues with securing the two brands’ cooperation after approaching them while looking for recognizable names to put into the game. Onward’s Arjun David elaborates that the process of getting the brand incorporated into WCBM 2 was pretty straightforward: “Our logo design was well developed for a broad range of applications. The WCBM 2 pixel art is not ‘Minecraft-blocky’ and has the right balance.”

For Onward, the focus was very much on where the brand would be visible in the game. “We have a carefully selected mixture of branded products like gloves as well as branding on the ring and signage around various scenes,” David explains. “This offers us an element of brand recognition to a wider audience of customers that love boxing through their love of gaming.”

Zachary Lipari is equally excited about Superare’s appearances in the game: “Superare is a classic boxing brand and we loved partnering with a classic boxing game. The ring canvas, the heavy bags – we are thrilled to have Superare on them!” For him, the biggest goal for this partnership is to achieve “the immortality of being in a game such as this.”

For Lipari, good brand representation in video games “can’t be forced down the consumer’s throat too much. Subtlety is key and so is making sure that the brand goes where it belongs in the context of the game.” This feeds into his belief that everyone can greatly benefit from such partnerships: “It lends a sense of reality to the game,” Superare’s president says. “For someone who is really into fighting and sees a brand of our size in a game like this, they get a sense of pride, because it’s less obvious than some longer-standing brands and they feel like the game is more in touch with real fighting.”

For Arjun David, “the key to good brand representation on any platform including a video game is the storyline and your reason for being there.” Games allow “the player to live the whole experience and the components of that experience, including the brand identity, physically manifest to the player. It makes the game experience for players more immersive and enjoyable.” A key point for him is that games can convey to their players the “knowledge that brands like Onward share their passion.”

World Championship Boxing Manager 2 launched on PC earlier this year and was released on PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch in May 2023. Continuing the legacy of an original that came out 33 years ago, Ziggurat's and Megacat's WCBM 2 allows players to open their own boxing studio and enlist talented athletes, training them up from amateurs to become the next world champion.