The Lord of the Rings game that was given away with cereals and the time when CD-Rom and sugar were mixed

Surely more than one reader remembers when at the end of the nineties, and already entering the 2000s, video game CD-ROMs were given away in practically everything. It is true that many of those games were promotional titles of very low quality. But also EA and Infogrames came to strain, free and sweet, some other good game in your house.

In a supermarket, in the breakfast sectionwith some product a game of The Hobbit came as a gift. I think it was a brand of breakfast cereals, I’m not sure, but the game was the one developed in 2003 by Inevitable Entertainment and the mythical Sierra Online. I haven’t been able to find anyone who remembers seeing this promo for The Hobbit. Not even on the internet, forums and social networks have I found mentions or direct references. But the game was given away with some food product. Maybe my memory failed me and it wasn’t breakfast cereal, but cookies. Anyway, that part is not important. What is interesting is that this promotion gives a lot to think about the video game market of the timeof the overexploitation of the CD-Rom at that time as a support, and of the use of franchises related to Tolkien’s work at a time when the film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson was saying goodbye to cinemas.

I’m not going to lie to you, I played The Hobbit. I also have to admit that I practically play everything at least once. That’s why I gave that CD a chance, and the truth is that I didn’t like the game too much. Already with the initial cinematic and the drawings that illustrated the prologue, it was perfectly understandable that he found that game as a gift accompanying 250 grams of toasted and sugared wheat pasta. Perhaps, and to be fair, the game was not so bad for the time. Maybe. The thing is, I don’t remember them fondly and I didn’t finish playing it. It would be for something. But the game has returned to my memory now that the issue of the exploitation rights of the work of Tolkien and the series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power of Prime Video are in the news. And it is that Vivendi, which in those already remote times had the rights to adapt Tolkien’s literary work, did not achieve the expected success with its games. This was due, among other problems, to the fact that their games did not look too much like the movies, which was what was fashionable among fans.

Vivendi turned to Sierra Entertainment, a publisher as legendary as the Maia, to develop a game that aimed to gain ground on the movies by adapting the Lord of the Rings prelude novel, The Hobbit. How this game came to be a promotional item in a breakfast cereal is beyond me. The point is that, interestingly, other promotion He also gave away The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King from Electronic Arts. What things are.

How this game got to be a promotional item in a breakfast cereal is beyond meThe curiosity about the issue of rights and the fact of giving away games with such low-cost products does not end there. At that time, a well-known cereal brand (yes, the one you are thinking of), gave away different games inside the boxes of its products. AND not all were bad gameseye. There was the first Age of Empires, V-Rally Expert Edition 2 or Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. Then there were others… “Ramplones”, like El Lucky Luke Western Fever, which I can’t say was good either, but I did play until the end. I am a fan of Luckey Luke, and I have already told you that I try practically all the games that fall into my hands. don’t judge me

Original photo of the game: Mobygames.com

It is curious to see how titles like Infogrames or Activision found an alternative distribution channel in cereals. Breakfast continues to be “the most important meal of the day” and there is practically no kid who is not seduced by the colors and sugar of these products. What better commercial strategy than reinforcing its attractiveness than giving away video games? But those games where do they come from? Because giving away games that, although already amortized, are still for sale on the shelves, seems counterproductive for developers. And it is not a maneuver to get rid of a stock, but a promotion that requires both the generation of new physical copies of the game and the serigraphy of the copies, the redesign of the cereal box, the packaging… It is not an astronomical figure, but it is an expense. Was the cereal brand assuming that extra expense to offer a purchase incentive to its consumers? Did EA and Infogrames pocket the profit from one copy sold per box distributed, or did they sell them in bulk? I live with those doubts.

Original photo of the game: Mobygames.comOriginal photo of the game: Mobygames.com

Were those games a good example of the “first time is free” maxim?At first, it seems that the first beneficiary is the cereal brand, which attract and retain buyers offering, in addition to your product, a good gift. But the truth is that now it is strange to see this type of promotions. Think about it. We see giving away “gamer” helmets, or white-label wireless controllers, but not video games. At most, downloadable content for games in the form of printed code. But not the games themselves. Their love was broken. There are relationships that are not made to last… Of course there will be many fans who remember, among their first video games, titles that were part of this collection of gifts. Has the video game industry grown so much that it no longer needs use the colorful cardboard cereal boxes as a Trojan horse to enter homes? Were those games a good example of the maxim “the first one is free”, to hook the kids as if it were some unhealthy vice? What I do have clear is that, back then, times were simpler.