Updated 4:00 PM ET: Confirmation of official status as a KFC promotion, and other details!
Since internet culture became one giant conglomerate and mess, there have been extremely, visibly thirsty depictions of pretty much everything you can imagine in mass culture. And obviously, fast food chain mascots are no exception. Now, one company has decided to lean entirely into 2019’s thirst culture by embracing the thirst. Or hunger. So, yep, you read the headline right.
A Steam page has appeared for a game called I Love You, Colonel Sanders! A Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a KFC dating sim staring Colonel Sanders, the beloved mascot of the fried chicken chain. The game is, of course, drawn in “anime” style, almost reminiscent of Studio Trigger. And yes, this is very real, as confirmed by a KFC rep to Fanbyte. And they confirmed that the game will be free, among other details!
And it actually looks… kind of intensive and decent? That’s to say, there’s a lot of legitimate content already being shown for the game. For one, the trailer on the page is extremely good. Like, it’s so genuinely well-animated and cute that it’s sort of mind-blowing. (According to a KFC press asset, it was animated by studio Shotopop.)
KFC tells Fanbyte the game will be a three-act story in which you’re a student at the University of Cooking School: Academy for Learning. There you must navigate the relationships and “social challenges that the fast-paced life in the kitchen can bring.” The “suave” Colonel Harland Sanders is there as well to perfect his recipe—so yes, you have a chance with him.
Meanwhile, it looks like Sanders the man-ders isn’t the the only one you can chat with. The page states that you can meet “9 lovable characters,” and several pop up in the pictures. These characters actually do seem pretty interesting: there’s a hunky fighting-game-like man rival, a cute “evil” arch-rival, a perky childhood friend who looks ready cry forever, an… oven… and a corgi!? (Can we date the corgi?) The video also shows a ghost briefly — and we’re left wondering who the ninth is.
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Aside from it being a real dating simulator, maybe I Love You, Colonel Sanders! will have some non-dating gameplay. The game has listed “cooking battles” and “battle battles” as two of its features. However, the gameplay for neither of these shows up in the trailer nor the photos, so we’re still wondering what this could entail.
I don’t know whether this is the worst or best part, but I really have to say: Colonel Sanders here is hot. Like, in this game, he looks like the old, late-fifties/early-sixties man who runs seven miles every day, goes on trips to the tropics, and talks about that time he backpacked across the country in the 80’s with a guitar and met a stoned then-celebrity on the Venice Beach boardwalk. And we’ve had Hot Sanders before, but not like this.
Dating simulator games are often announced on April Fool’s Day as jokes, which is seen as condescending towards visual novel fans. After all, visual novels are a legitimate genre on its own. They’ve been hard to ignore for decades in Japan (where KFC is a Christmas phenomenon). Meanwhile, as games become more accessible, their popularity has risen in America. Technically, a large chunk of popular “choose your own story” mobile games, like Kim Kardashian Hollywood, are visual novels.
Honestly, though, I Love You, Colonel Sanders! seems like the real deal. The game has emphasized that there are “multiple hours of play-through,” so they’re definitely fleshing this out in to a real, full game. In all fairness, they’ve done some stunts like this before. Specifically for the gaming realm, there was KFC The Hard Way, a virtual reality, training-themed, comedy, escape room-style game.
Psyop, the studio behind the game also looks legitimate as well. They have a few game projects of their own on Steam, but more importantly, they look like they’re turned to for both gaming and general pop-culture promotional work. In the games industry, they pitched in for the Beyond Good & Evil 2 E3 launch trailer, Assassin’s Creed Origins’s “Tales from the Tomb” promotional series, and a ton of Clash Royale and Clash of Clans promos. In general pop culture, you may recognize their viral Ghibli-like Oregon tourist video and their animation in the Coca-Cola “Happiness Factory” video. Per the official credits page, marketing agency Wieden+Kennedy will lead the creative charge on the project. This agency’s most notable campaign is absolutely the Nike “Dream Crazy,” which involved Colin Kaepernick, and they collabed with Psyop on the Oregon campaign.
Of course, I don’t know if KFC realizes how incredibly thirsty — or, uh, hungry? — fans get over visual novels. They tend to create a lot of possibly-not-safe-for-work fanart and fanfiction in its wake. But, well, I suppose that’s the entire point of using a dating sim as promotion.
I Love You, Colonel Sanders! will be free on Steam starting Tuesday, September 24th, at 8 AM ET.