A Warner Bros. VP reckons Stormzy's recent turn in Watch Dogs: Legion, accompanied by an in-game music video for the single Rainfall, has done as much for the artist as writing the latest Bond theme has for Billie Eilish.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, Tim Miles, vice president of synchronisation (wut) at Warner Music UK says "We've seen it before in TV and movies. Out of nowhere you can have this moment where your streams have doubled, and you've got all these new fans. [Stormzy in Watch Dogs] is probably the first time in a gaming sense where we've seen a similar impact as the Bond movie had on Billie Eilish. It's the same impact, if not greater."
I am going to slightly caveat this, inasmuch as the whole interview has serious 'executive thinks these game thingies might be big one day' energy, and elides the decades-long history of not only licensed music in games but projects like Omkiron: The Nomad Soul, 1999's collaboration between David Bowie and Quantic Dream. The larger point perhaps is the technological collaboration now available: the Stormzy video above, shot and directed in-game, is seriously impressive and inarguably makes the artist feel more a part of this world.
"Stormzy was blown away, spending five days with the I, Robot creative director... It was the first time we recorded a music video like this and he was being rendered on the screens around him. But at that point, his appearance was going to be via DLC, and on our side, we were still talking about it just within our team. Then it started to go wider -- they wanted it to be in the main game, and we managed to engage our radio folks, the streaming teams, and our marketers.
"The week the game came out, there were various visuals on Spotify. Normally Ubisoft wouldn't have access to a space like that. That song is now on the Radio 1 playlist, and every time they play that song they can reference the game. Ubisoft got good value out of it, and in return, the amount of games press talking about Stormzy... It really benefited both sides."
Guilty as charged, I guess.
A fun note to end on is Eilish's breakthrough song, Bad Guy, which is currently sitting just north of a billion views, and in which the instrumental chorus is based on Plants vs Zombies. Speaking to Rolling Stone in December 2019, Eilish broke down the song with her producer and brother Finneas, and at around 6:30 says: "You know what it literally is? It's not all the same melodies but it's literally Plants Vs Zombies and Wizards of Waverley Place." No wonder the mashups sync so well. Hey, maybe that's what a vice president of synchronisation does?
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Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."