In yet another sign that social games are emerging as a promotional platform of potential significance, Dr. Dre  has partnered with game developer Zynga to develop a variety of branded experiences within the popular game Mafia Wars. The partnership includes streaming the music video for "Kush," the first single from Dre's long-anticipated new album "Detox."
This is the first in-game music partnership for Zynga, which is one of the leading social game developers in the market today, responsible for such other hit games as FarmVille, FrontierVille and the newly released CityVille.
The video will appear as part of a "Hustlin' Wit Dre" portion of the game, which allows players to collect Dre-inspired virtual goods -- like headphones, weapons and a car -- as well as watch both the music video and an exclusive video message from Dre himself. Players can also enter to win a pair of Beats By Dre headphones and a signed copy of his new CD, which is expected to come out early next year. Finally, there will be a link in the game to buy the single "Kush" on iTunes.
Zynga's first music-related partnership was with Snoop Dogg  earlier in the year, with a stunt that involved blowing up a four-ton armored truck in Nevada to celebrate the Mafia Wars garnering 10 million visitors in two weeks. Mafia Wars now claims 19 million active players a month on Facebook and on the iPhone.
Collectively, Zynga games attract some 200 million users. The new CityVille, which launched Dec. 2, already has 26 million users. Meteoric growth rates like that have label and manager executives paying attention and looking for more ways to integrate their acts and music into these environments.
In November, Bon Jovi  made a bundle of greatest hits available for sale in a number of Facebook games developed by CrowdStar, including Happy Island, Happy Aquarium and It Girl. And earlier in the year, Kiss  teamed up with developer Booyah to stream a live concert and make virtual goods available within NightClub City. Discussions with both label execs and managers suggest we'll be seeing a whole lot more of these kinds of initiatives in the year to come.
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