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The Almighty Buck Entertainment Games

The Industry On In-Game Advertising 63

Posted by Zonk
from the less-marketing-in-my-fps-please dept.
Gamasutra's weekly 'Ask The Industry' feature deals, this week, with the ever-increasingly relevant issue of the importance of in-game advertising. From the article: "I believe that advergaming will continue to be a growing significant segment of video games. As with movie and TV product placement, games that do a good job of it won't be considered an affront, those that don't will be panned by gamers and critics. It will be interesting to see how the current clash between the Writers Guild of America (and SAG) and product placement interests works out, and whether similar issues will arise between game designers and financial stakeholders in the future. -Kim Pallister, Microsoft Corp"
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The Industry On In-Game Advertising

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  • by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @02:31PM (#14159687)
    Just say it. "We can get more money by putting advertisements in games, and it'll generate more revenue than we'll lose by alienating gamers."

    • They could, but remember, we live in a society where verbal obfuscation is the name of the game. Words and phrases no longer give the connotation that they should anymore. Everyone is now some sort of "engineer" or "manager." It's not a "bug," it's a "feature." Uttering anything preceded by the phrase "synergistic paradigm shift" gets you promoted to a "manager."
    • It certainly seemed pretty honest to me.

      What I got from it:
      We are going to do it. Some will be good and tactful but attractive and make money (for everyone). Others will be poorly done and be hated and not make money (for anyone).

      That was the gist of it, yes? The natural extension of the 'wait and see' aspect seemed to say that if going forward it becomes clear that game developers are incapable of successfully placing an ad without angering consumers then they shall taper off trying to do so. But m
  • by Seumas (6865) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @02:33PM (#14159708)
    Now, let's wait for the next batch of articles where coders and designers and industry mavens try to justify how their hack and slash videogames are "art", while defending the blatant Mountain Dew or US Navy recruitment or Mentos commercials in-game.

    You hosers from the previous game/art article want to know the definition of art? I can give you *one* of them:

    Picaso never embedded a Wendy's ad in a painting.
    • by BigDork1001 (683341) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @02:38PM (#14159760) Homepage
      You hosers from the previous game/art article want to know the definition of art? I can give you *one* of them:

      Picaso never embedded a Wendy's ad in a painting.

      Oh yeah, well this [jssgallery.org] is considered art.

      • Yeah, but Andy Warhol wasn't an artist. There is a clear observable difference between "artist" and "attention whore".
        • And that my friend is an opinion, not a fact.
          • Okay - so it's not such a clear and observable difference between artist and attention whore. Andy Worhol being an attention whore, however, is an indisputible fact of which he himself would most feverishly agree.
            • Oh yes I would agree. However, the two are not mutually exclusive. You can be an attention whore and an artist. Many artists have been. In fact it's probably a good thing for an artist to be as it motivates them to promote themselves.
              I'm not a big fan of Warhol myself but it's hard to argue that he didn't make a huge impression on the art world. Indeed the his images of soup cans and coke bottles were put out there to ask viewers that question of "is this art?" Given his commercial design background it was
    • Yeah but you could make that claim with ANY form of entertainment that SHOULD be considered art. Because Brittney Spears and Nsync weren't branded together with PEPSI or anything right? Oh wait, they were... Along with pretty much ALL popular entertainers, artists, and media out there these days. What about TV commercials or product placement in TV shows and Movies? It's all the same.

      A reference to Picaso using Wendy's ads is a retarded statement. Times are different obviously and ads are here to sta
      • So you wouldn't have a problem going to an arthouse and seeing a giant "this painting brought to you by Lowes Home Improvement" advertisement stamped on the corner of the painting?

        And your assertion that my comment must not be correct based on "if you're right, then Brittney Spears and Nsync can't be commercialized and still be called art" pretty much supports my point. NO - Brittney Spears and Nsync are not art! They're entertainment! Again, not all entertainment (or even most) is art. And not all art is e
    • Yes but lots of classical artists (and probably modern ones too) put images of their patrons in their (now priceless) works, either in thanks or as a condition of continued patronage. We mostly think they were subtle about it, but those to those who could recognize the patrons it was probably glaringly obvious. Those who didn't like the patrons probably thought it was tasteless.
    • But Norman Rockwell did paint Campbell's Soup ads.
    • While there was not necesarilly advertising for a company, you can bet artists were required to spread the good word of their patrons and benefactors in order to continue getting paid. Since there were no corporations per se, this is about as close to advertising as you can get (and many patrons were wealthy businessmen.) Maybe a Picaso (sic) wouldn't have a picture of someone eating a Wendy's burger, but you can bet that some had a placard which read "Commissioned by Gertrude Stein."
    • You hosers from the previous game/art article want to know the definition of art? I can give you *one* of them:

      Picaso never embedded a Wendy's ad in a painting."

      If you think that advertising can't appear in art, here's three words for you: "Mr. Sixteen Minutes".

      If you don't get that reference, here's another three words for you: "Andy Freaking Warthog" (who once said that that everyone would be famous for sixteen minutes, even Martin Short (or was it Pauly Shore? I don't remember, but it was some guy whos

  • Why not? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @02:41PM (#14159783) Journal
    I can't see that anyone would be surprised by this. Advertising and cross-promotion already permeates almost every part of our entertainment media. Music is perhaps the only place where product placement is not widespread within the content, since the industry looks down upon those who do not consider themselves 'artists.'

    Of course there are differences, but there are also a lot of parallels between this and the commercialization of the 'pop art' movement. If you consider games to be art, look to Warhol for where the industry is going.
    • There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold
      And she's buying it all from Amazon.
      When she gets there she knows, that the store's never closed
      With a click she can get what she came for.


      (with apologies to Page and Plant)

      Eric
      Speaking of product promotion [ericgiguere.com] (features my dogs)
    • I like girls who wear Abercrombie and Fitch...
    • I would argue otherwise. Cadillac Escalade, Courvasier, and a host of other high-end luxury items are name-dropped left and right in hip hop/rap.
    • It's a very odd thing to bring up Warhol at a time like this.

      Warhol was *not* trying to sell Campbells Soup when he made that famous painting. Quite the opposite, where once artists painted women and men and scenes of the land - all things that reflect their own surroundings, Warhol did just the same thing. Only, by painting a branded can of soup, he really said, "Hey, look how things have changed now. If I were born 100 years ago this would be a person or a landscape. Now it is a brand or a product."

      Fr
      • That's why I referred to the commercialization of pop art, not the foundations of pop art -- Warhol made plenty of money by doing commissioned brand pieces, as well as portraits.

        Warhol saw obsession with money as an American cultural value, but was not immune to its power.

        "Frankly I think we're meant to hate the soup."

        I'm not so sure about that. I thought I remembered his commentary on it, but turns out I was thinking about Coke. Shamelessly pulled from wikipedia: Warhol said, "a Coke is always a C
    • Music is perhaps the only place where product placement is not widespread within the content, since the industry looks down upon those who do not consider themselves 'artists.'

      Not a hip-hop fan, are you?

  • I'm all for it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by meta-monkey (321000) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @02:42PM (#14159789) Journal
    I'm all for advertising in video games...up to a point. I don't mind billboards or posters on walls, although I'd rather not have to sit through a "Drink Coke" loading screen.

    Have you seen the price of games for the Xbox 360? They're going for $60 a pop. It only makes sense, though...next gen games cost a fortune to make. More complex engines, more detailed graphics, motion capture, voice actors, sound tracks with popular music, etc etc. It's a far cry from blocky 8-bit graphics with bleeps and bloops. If game makers can tap another revenue stream and thereby reduce the cost to the gamer, I'm all for it.

    Oh, and to cut off the "they won't cut prices! they'll just make more money!" responses, of course prices will come down. That's the way the free market works. If company A can sell their game for $50 instead of $60, and thereby grab market share from company B, who has to charge $60, then of course company A will lower their prices.
    • The thing is, there is ONLY a company "A" and a company "B". No need to drop prices when you can fix them instead.

      Second, videogames haven't reached the "movie" production cost level yet. I could be wrong, but I don't think any videogame has cost over one hundred million dollars to make. Maybe Duke Nukem Forever will be the first.

      If a movie costs $100m to make and you can see it for $6 or own it for $20 -- why should a game that costs $4m to make cost $60 to play/own? Maybe more people see a movie than buy
      • Re:I'm all for it (Score:3, Interesting)

        by hal2814 (725639)
        "Do you seriously think more people have seen Princess Diaries or GI Jane than own GTA or Madden?"

        Maybe not, but that's an apples to oranges comparison. Games cost $60 to own when they first come out, but they drop in price rather quickly. Madden 2005 is as cheap as $7 now but last year at this time, it was fetching $40. It started at $50 - $55. I've seen Madden 2004 being sold for what it would cost to ship the thing. EA Sports has to throw another $X million into a new game every to keep the Madden f
    • Re:I'm all for it (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Digital Vomit (891734) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:32PM (#14160298) Homepage Journal
      Oh, and to cut off the "they won't cut prices! they'll just make more money!" responses, of course prices will come down. That's the way the free market works.

      I don't know what country you just stepped off the boat from, but you'll soon learn that's not the way things work here.

      If company A can sell their game for $50 instead of $60, and thereby grab market share from company B, who has to charge $60, then of course company A will lower their prices.

      Here's a more likely scenario: Company A realizes they can sell their game for $60, the same as company B, while making extra money selling ad space in the game. End of story.

      If you think the inclusion of ads is going to reduce the cost of games, I've got a cable channel package to sell you.

    • Thankfully, the cost of producing video games is likely to come back down. It has been rising persistently as 3d has been evolving, but it looks to be reaching a zenith. The tools for 3d design are getting better (read as artist produces what he wants faster), but not more expensive. The import/export formats are getting standardized, so you don't have to invest programmer time there. The APIs for 3D are stabilizing. Gameplay data formats are settling into excel/xml. There are lots of reasons to belie
  • How long... (Score:3, Funny)

    by AdamWeeden (678591) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @02:42PM (#14159791) Homepage
    ...before someone invents something like AdBlock for this stuff?
    • It will be very difficult, because much like adblock for firefox, you won't easily be able to move the code to another platform (try running adblock on IE).

      Anything that blocks ads in one game will be completely useless for the next game. And worse, unlike firefox, you won't have the platform's cooperation.

      All in all, a very challenging problem.
  • The middle ground? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NanoGator (522640) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @02:51PM (#14159878) Homepage Journal
    On the surface, I don't mind in-game advertising. If Carl Johnson drank Sprite instead of (whatever the made up name of a soda was), I'd actually prefer that. Vice City would have been more interesting if they could have used billboards from the 80's etc in it. (Although I must say, their parodies were pretty darned funny.)

    Just like anything else in this world, it can be taken to a silly degree. One of the reasons I don't like going to IGN.com is because they INSIST on occasionally loading a full-page commercial instead of taking me straight to the news. I can understand that they need to make money, but when it makes me think twice about heading on over, it's not working right.

    Truth be told, I don't think advertising in video games is an issue at all. The issue is whether or not the game is entertaining. Being forced to watch a 30 second ad during a game is hardly any different than a game with a 30 second load time or irritating control. Why aren't they that different? Games are measured by 'fun'. Advertising can be a good element or a bad element. Imagine running around Liberty City, passing a TV show, and running across that ad of the Jack in the Box ball with his hole xeroxed.
    • >>One of the reasons I don't like going to IGN.com is because they INSIST on occasionally loading a full-page commercial instead of taking me straight to the news.

      Use Adblock and block atax.ign.com; no "click to continue" pages and everything loads faster. It is the sweet life.
    • If Carl Johnson drank Sprite instead of (whatever the made up name of a soda was), I'd actually prefer that.
      That would just cheapen the whole experience for me. Think about all of the in-game radio ads that, instead of trying make you laugh, will be trying to separate you from your money.
      • by NanoGator (522640)
        " Think about all of the in-game radio ads that, instead of trying make you laugh, will be trying to separate you from your money."

        Um, those ads in the game do that, too. Don't believe me? Go read any review of the last 3 GTA games and notice the comments made about the sound track in that game. It's also worth noting that the Serenity trailer had the exact goal that you're mentioning. Why not the picthforks over that? For the simple reason that entertainment was achieved. Even TV ads can be entertain
  • This is actually pretty fair. Movies do the same thing. I mean, all Apple users are "good" and all PC users are "bad". Do you want your children growing up with that brainwashing? Its all a plot for you to buy Metallica and rot your brain out on a new svelte Apple laptop.
  • So let me get this straight: you want to stick ads in something I pay a hefty amount of money for already just so you can "offset development costs"? Here's a hint: focus on the gameplay itself and then worry about the other crap. Your latest whizbang game can have HDR and astronomical polycounts and a score written by Hans Zimmer himself, but if it's as much fun as slamming your junk in the fridge door then it was a waste of both our time and money..

    I'm sorry, but there is absolutely nothing saying that
  • There is going to be advertising in every possible medium. It's exploded all over tv, movies, radio, sports and concerts. It's either going to be multiple companies placing their ads, or eventually someone will sponsor an entire game or series.
  • The worst is when you buy a game which doesnt have ads and then you are more or less forced to upgrade to a patch which has them. If you are computer saavy yhey are very easy to turn off, which is great, but I wish I never gave my money to the developers in the first place.
  • True, it might be weird seeing COKE in an INNKEEPERS inventory of goods during WOW, but think. Advertized goods will probably be uber kewl.

    COKE
    "allways refreshing"
    3 min cooldown
    must remain seated to drink
    USE:
    Restores 100 mana / second
    If you continue drinking for 15 seconds get a "sugar rush"
    that gives you +15 AGI but -10 STA.
    Also causes you to "BURP" in chat!
  • I can just see it now though..
    Political campaign adds in your favorite FPS. 8')

    One add could go like this....
    "Vote for me or else I'll kill you." Then later in the game you through non linear scripted action... could be "FORCED" to vote against him, or accidentally pull on a voter mashine handle and he could come out as a BOSS to beat.

    Mmaybe some Special Sprays in CS (oops we got those allready)

    How about a dell computers you have to access with certain keys in SYSTEM SHOCK 3000?

    Better yet...
    A Liandri sig
  • It CAN be ok (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Apreche (239272) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @04:00PM (#14160589) Homepage Journal
    Advertising is ok as long as I don't notice it. Or even better when it makes sense and has no effect. For a good example look at the Ninja Turtles game and Pizza Hut. Makes perfect sense. If you're playing a game and the burger joint is named Merv's Burgers (smiles are free) it's cool, but McDonald's makese sense.

    Despite my dislike of McDs I really wouldn't mind this sort of advertising. I don't notice it, it doesn't feel like advertising and it has no effect. It has the added bonus of giving the game developers more money. I am in favor of random companies paying game developers to make their games more genuine by including real world items and getting nothing in return for it other than the illusion that it is somehow helping their sales.
    • I am in favor of random companies paying game developers to make their games more genuine by including real world items and getting nothing in return for it other than the illusion that it is somehow helping their sales.

      I wholeheartedly agree. I enjoy that PGR3 for the XBox 360 has real advertisements on the walls of the racetrack. This isn't just trying to plaster advertising wherever you can place it -- it mimicks real life, where the ads are plastered everywhere on the racetrack. The same is true fo

    • To take your idea further, how about flashing an advertisement for a brief period of time, during the loading of the levels, etc. They'll never notice it! :-D
  • ... the ads can sometimes be distracting to the plot. My girlfriend had CSI: New York on last night, and as one of the characters was walking across the street to a suspects apartment, his girlfriend calls him and his blackberry starts ringing with Coldplay's "Talk".

    I didn't know what was going on until it cut to commercial and the first ad was "Buy Coldplay's 'Talk' ringtone, as advertised on CSI: New York!". I personally find this kind of ad distracting, it felt like the whole 30 second scene was insert

  • Remember when baner ads first started creeping up on websites? A somewhat benign way of advertiseing that didn't get in the way of your info....but look not at the major game sites: IGN, Gamespy, Gamespot, etc...you can't go 2 clicks without either an ad page or one of those obnxious expanding ads or pop-ups. Its gotten so bad that we need software to prevent it from flooding our desktops.

    What I'm worried about with games is that I can image something similar if left unsupervised. Streaming ads over a

  • Would that be short for "adverse gaming experience?"

    Seriously, it reminds me of "infotainment," which is neither informative nor entertaining. No marketing buzzword is going to make me see advertising in games as anything other than what it is; an intrusion into my leisure activity in an attempt to sell me something.
  • First off, what kind of ads are we talking about? McBurger Kongs in Red Alert 2? You know, in modern CITIES. Or little "Sponsored by" ads in the corners, loading screens, startup screens? Maybe "special" items (I know Gunbound did this recently).

    Second, if, say, it's a single player game, would players be forced to download updates or be connected to the internet to get new ads or send play times?

    Waitwaitwait, why am I even asking these kind of questions? Must yet another aspect of my life be penetrated (pu
  • What is wrong with in-game advertising? I personally see nothing wrong with it so long as it fits the personality of the game.

    Let's take GTA: San Andreas. Wouldn't it be more beneficial to see a Pepsi sign on the billboards vs. some other made-up brand? It would definitely make the game seem more realistic (oops, wait, we want GTA to avoid the courtroom, yes? hahahah

    World War II FPS are very popular right now. Seeing ads for companies that were around at the time on signs etc implemented in the ga
    • Let's take GTA: San Andreas. Wouldn't it be more beneficial to see a Pepsi sign on the billboards vs. some other made-up brand?

      I don't think so. Part of the appeal of the GTA series for me was how it took place in a slightly distorted version of our own world. Brands were satirised and mocked, which along with the radio content the game made quite an anti-consumerist statement - people blatantly trying to sell you over the top crap they knew was crap. The game was art, IMHO, making a statement about how mod

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