The future, as you may have heard at my recent seminar, is all about niche marketing. There is no longer a single product that can reach every demographic—the chance of a new Coca-Cola coming along and gaining a market share of 40 percent or better is basically nil. We are Americans, and we want choice, even if that means choosing between two vitamins manufactured in the same facility and sold under different names at vastly different prices. “The illusion of choice,” wrote George Orwell, “eventually becomes actual choice.” (I actually just made that up.)
So the smart money is on making an ultra-specific product and selling it to everyone in a certain demo. (We shorten the word “demographic” at my seminars to “demo,” saving approximately 16 minutes per day. Laymen might think that people would get confused and think the word being abbreviated is “demonstration,” but my seminars are mostly attended by industry people, for which the opposite problem is occasionally true.) The people at MOB Gaming and PepsiCo, two companies vastly different in size, both apparently realized something at the same time: Ultra hardcore gamers love to be marketed to, and there was nothing that directly said, “Hey, bug-eyes. Here’s some sustenance to help you play World Of Warcraft better, faster, and longer.”
I’m guessing that both companies were inspired, at least somewhat, by the release of one World Of Warcraft expansion or the other. Somehow, these games each sell more copies than there are humans on Earth, and the money they generate could power the sun. So why not tap into an audience that lines up at midnight to buy a new computer game, then purposely ingests dangerous amounts of caffeine in order to play said game for days at a time without stopping? (Ultimate payoff: You get to be a level-80 something-or-other. I dunno, I just watched a documentary called Second Skin all about this phenomenon, and I still don’t exactly get it.)
Anyway, the products: PepsiCo went straight to the source and released a pair of World Of Warcraft-branded Mountain Dews, which are inexplicably abbreviated “Mtn Dew,” ‘cuz man, who the fuck has time to say “mountain” when you could just say “em-tee-en” or even “men-ten”? They also aren’t just regular Mtn Dew—they’re “game fuel.” The reddish one—”DEW with a Blast of Citrus Cherry Flavor”—has a mean-looking orc on it. The blue one—”DEW with a Punch of Wild Fruit Flavor”—has a hot babe with giant elf ears and glowing white eyes, in a scene taken from Hustler’s new “every marketing guy’s idea of a nerd’s fantasy” series.
MOB Gaming went both the attempted-tasty and practical routes: Gamer Grub boasts four key elements. They are: “Great tasting flavors,” “handheld packaging,” “no keyboard crumbs,” and “no greasy fingers.” You’ll notice that three of those four things are focused not on the taste of the product, but on their ability to not interfere with your gaming. Gamer Grub also claims to be “packed with select vitamins and neurotransmitters supporting fast cognitive performance.” Gamer Grub comes in four flavors: PB&J, Pizza, Chocolate, and Wasabi. We were only able to get our hands on the first two.
In the interest of testing these products in their natural environment, we started a game of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on the ol’ Xbox 360, because it looked the most geeky and WOW-like. (And because none of us knows how to get on those MMORPGs for real.) I played the game while simultaneously eating my “meal” out of the bags. I’ll give them this much: Gamer Grub and Mtn Dew game fuels were certainly easy to consume. (And in the future, that’ll be all that matters.)
The taste: Nothing special, to be honest. The Pizza Gamer Grub most assuredly does not taste like pizza, unless your favorite pizza is a snack mix that has vague hints of tomato and sesame flavor. The mix is “a zesty blend of cheese curls, tomato almonds, sesame sticks, pita chips, fried onions, and pizza cashews.” (What, you’ve never had a pizza cashew?) The list of actual ingredients—you know, the one that the pesky government burdens every corporation with—is about 80 kajillion items long, ranging from “pizza seasoning” and its sub-ingredients to “choline bitartrate.” It’s like a spicy-ish snack mix, but nothing special.
On the sweeter side, the PB&J “performance snack” is just too damn weird. Chewing a handful of the stuff doesn’t magically create a paste that tastes like a peanut-butter sandwich. The items in this one include “peanut butter chips, peanuts, strawberries, strawberry jelly chips and sweet bread.” Now, my definition of “sweet bread” is apparently different than Gamer Grub’s. Mine involves fancy restaurants and parts of animals that you don’t usually eat—namely the thymus gland. Theirs is apparently more like shortbread. This flavor was fairly tasty, though confusing. Just press pause and make yourself a sandwich, guy! That said, my hands are free of grease and my brain is full of sugar, so I’m ready to fucking game! Now do I want to be an Orc or a Nord or a Wood Elf or what?
As for the Mtn Dew flavors… Man, they kinda just taste like Mountain Dew, but with a little more “blue” or “red” involved. I’m honestly a little tired of all of these Dew variations. Stick with what you know, PepsiCo! The only amazing thing about these two Dews is that when you mix them together, they turn a ghastly shade of green—which makes no sense in nature. One’s blue, one’s red. They should turn purple! I wonder what they’re doing to my stomach!
- “It tastes like Gamer Kibble.”
- “Pizza is spicy and gross. Never have I had a worse almond.”
- “The PB&J is a really unappealing mix of crunchiness and unexpected goopiness. Normally I like foods with a blend of textures, but there’s so much going on there that it’s like a handful of gravel with squishy bits in it.”
- “I’ll give it this, it really does taste like peanut butter and jelly, though the PB element is way too sweet, like Jif with extra sugar added.”
- “Tastes like those things where they used to serve PB and J in the same jar. It’s cheap, but hard to do PB and J wrong.”
- “It’s like cereal with peanut butter in it.”
- “That’s one of the best artificially-pizza-flavored treats I’ve had, which isn’t saying much. But it’s a pretty good mix of savory tomato and salty/spicy. I’d eat this on purpose.”
- “It tastes a lot like mildly spicy tomato soup, in crunchy-nugget form. Fairly weird, but not too bad.”
- “You know, this is kinda good. I like the peanut-butter chips, though it’s overwhelmingly peanut-buttery—not so much with the jelly. As a result, it’s pretty dry. And I’ll be damned if I’m washing it down with one of these M-t-n Dew abominations. Where’s that guy with the cart that sells Crab Juice?”
- “This isn’t bad, but that’s not good. It tastes like every snack item that’s ‘pizza’ flavored, only with a Chex Mix kinda texture. I bet this leaves a really awful taste in your mouth.” [A few minutes later.] “Yup!”
- “It’s like ghetto trail mix crossed with shitty, generic cereal. I think I would have to have played a lot of videogames to get pumped about this.”
- “The PB&J stuff tasted like bland cereal with peanuts in it.”
- “These jelly niblets are hard! Like a dried fruit roll-up.”
- “I’ve never had a pizza with nuts.”
- “It’s trail mix by a different name, just more extreme!”
- “I’m more partial to Taco Bell’s new feed bag. Keeps both hands free.”
- “I’m just confused by this concept: How is this different from an individual-sized bag of Chex Mix, or any other random snackable? The delivery device is supposedly the hook, but it’s just a small bag. I thought it was gonna be some sci-fi, no-crumbs, über-snack shit. Instead it’s just regular snack shit.”
- “I could see a n00b eating this, but in general, it’s just a big pile of fail. Pwned.”
Mtn Dew “Game Fuel”
- “Highly reminiscent of a melted cherry Slurpee with a little bit of the carbonation still intact. Makes me think of Nordic blood spilling over icecaps.”
- “I don’t know what this tastes like, besides terrible. Seriously, only 11-year-old junk-food fiends would drink this shit.”
- “I really can’t describe the flavor, because it’s just a big sugary mush of awfulness.”
- “I literally could not take a second sip of the blue. Blue never really tastes good, but this blue was especially evil.”
- “Ugh. Melted Jolly Ranchers.”
- “Worse then Code Red. I thought it couldn’t be done.”
- “This blue stuff is like Ty-D-Bowl and sugar.”
- “Do gamers lose their sense of taste when they play? Even by junk-food standards, this drink is nasty.”
- “I think the reason the two colors made green doesn’t actually have anything to do with the color wheel; the combination of the two actually just created nuclear waste.”
Where to buy them: Mtn Dew is available at most places you’d regularly find it. We got it at Walgreens. Gamer Grub can be found online and at game stores.