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Free-to-play ads are catching up to terrible '90s game marketing

What's the difference between a crappy mid-'90s video game ad, and a crappy 2014 mobile game ad? A supermodel and about $40 million.

This short film is the new commercial for mobile game Game of War: Fire Age. It features model-and-actress Kate Upton as Athena, striding a fantasy battlefield, winking knowingly at the audience, and delivering a hoary old double entendre.

The ad is due to run during Thursday Night Football, a marketing device for delivering lots of male consumers to the hawkers of thin lager and shiny man-trucks.

According to Adweek, Game of War's owner Machine Zone is spending $40 million on marketing the free-to-play MMO. It's a fast-growing and highly profitable sector that's attracting a lot of really bad advertising, most often via online banner ads sold through networks. Older gamers will recall a rash of sexually suggestive ads running in gaming magazines back in the 1990s. The Fire Age ad has the advantage, at least, of an expensive production budget.

Upton said she enjoyed working on the commercial. "It is fantastic to be instrumental in the start of a new era in gaming and communications," she told Adweek. "I love playing the part of Athena. She's such a badass character, commanding armies, slaying hydra, charging into battle. The work shows how much fun it is, and I am proud to be part of it."

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