BMW M3 Challenge is a racing simulation game intended to market the BMW M3 by demonstrating its capabilities on the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit.
Below is a detailed analysis of this game roughly following Brian Winn's1 Design/Play/Experience framework, including:
The intended outcome of the game is that the player believes that the BMW M3 is a powerful high-performance automobile. The player should learn that the car performs well on the racetrack, and is therefore a desirable sports car. The player learns that BMW M3s are fun to drive and have good: Acceleration Handling Breaking The intended future action for the player is to buy a BMW M3.
You play as a generic racecar driver on the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit. The fact that a racecar driver would be driving a BMW M3 supports the message that the car is engineered for racing, which makes it a desirable sports car. Within the environment there are signs with pro-BMW messages along the lines of "BMW sheer driving pleasure" and "BMW power". This provides the associative aspect of the advergame: the player associates BMW with "pleasure" and "power". The intro movie serves as the illustrative advertisement as it shows the car in action but does not demonstrate the specific features.
Because the game is presented as realistic, the player is to believe that driving the car in the game is what it is like to drive the car in reality, and that is – fun. The game serves as associative advertising linking BMW M3s to fun. It is also demonstrative advertising as it demonstrates the driving experience that the car provides. The player has choices about the appearance of the car that do not affect the gameplay in the form of choice of paint and wheel design which serve only to demonstrate different options available on the car. The modes of gameplay are practice, racing, time trials, and multiplayer modes. Like most racing simulations, the game requires the player's attention and concentration most of the time, and this engages the player and creates a sense of excitement. The game is well balanced. On normal AI difficulty, the races were about the right amount of challenge to take first place after the player has tried a couple of times and gotten used to the game. There are plenty of different ways to adjust the balance besides AI difficulty, such as number of opponents, transmission type, and stability management features on the car. The fun and well-balanced gameplay support the learning goal of teaching the players that driving a BMW M3 is a fun experience. The realism of the driving experience establishes the game as a credible simulation of what it is like to drive a BMW M3 and effectively demonstrates the handling of the car. However, there are some aspects of the gameplay that interfered with the goal of selling M3s. Strangely there is one and only one option for equipping a performance part on your car, and it seems to be a set of racing shock absorbers. It is not clear weather this part is an option you can get on your M3 from the factory, or an aftermarket part that BMW sells, or whether it's something you would have to acquire on your own from a different company. These seem to improve the handling, and that implies that the factory M3 suspension is inferior. There is only one racetrack (although it has two routs). This seriously limits the amount of time one can spend playing the game. Also, the track itself is not ideal. It has many turns for demonstrating breaking, cornering, and accelerating, but it lacks a long enough straightaway for the car to approach its top speed, which is something the player would want to know about a sports car. The lack of an adequately long straightaway also seems to teach the player that the M3's sixth gear is entirely unnecessary; the player never needs to shift into sixth on the Nürburgring track. This is a missed opportunity to show off these important aspects of the car.
Also contributing to the ambiguity of the top speed is the metric-only speedometer. American players do not know how fast they are going. Aside from this, the in-cockpit view of the gauges provides a realistic heads up display that is integrated seamlessly with the high-fidelity simulation experience. Players can also use an optional overlaid 2D hud and choose between multiple views. The default controls are counter-intuitive. One hand shifts up and the other shifts down, which seems very strange to someone who drives a manual transmission where all the shifting is always done with the right hand. There is also a clutch key, but it is not necessary to change gears in the game. By default, the steering is done with the right hand, which to an American manual driver, is the hand that shifts while the left hand always remains on the wheel. These controls interfered with the learning, teaching the player that the M3 is a strange and backwards contraption that is almost impossible to drive. It is fortunate that the game allows the user to customize its controls and solve all these problems, but some users might be too frustrated by their initial experience. In addition to the keyboard controls, steering could also be done with the mouse, a controller, or a pc steering wheel.
BMW M3 Challenge was developed by Blimey! Games, which specializes in racing sims. They used their own engine for the game which is the same one they used to make GTR 2. This was definitely the best choice for this project. The realism of the graphics and physics lends credibility to the player's experience with the M3 as being authentic, and makes the game very enjoyable to anyone who likes racing sims.
There was no publicized assessment of the effectiveness of the advergame. If there were to be one, there could be a pre-test and post-test about the player's attitude about BMW and the M3.
I would rate this game very highly among advergames. In terms of quality and production value, it is much better than other advertising games I've seen. It is an enjoyable racing simulation game that successfully shows off the performance of the BMW M3. To its effectiveness I can attest that I would like a BMW M3. On the other hand, it doesn't seem like too much of a challenge to make someone desire a brand new luxury sports car. On a personal level, I can only attest that someone who already likes driving fast and playing Gran Turismo enjoys the game. Besides more tracks and different default controls, the only major suggestion that might improve the game's effectiveness would be to include a competitor's car to allow players to discriminate the differences between them. The problem with this would be getting the manufacturer of the competing car to agree to its use in BMW's game. Alternately, BMW could include other cars in their lineup, such as the BMW 3 or an older model BMW M3 to help convince players they should pay more money for the extra horsepower of the M3 or upgrade their older model for BMW's latest.