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Games Technology

In-Game Advertising Makes Games Better? 352

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the i'm-sure-these-systems-will-never-be-abused dept.
Pretty much every time we hear about a game launching in-game advertising it sounds like a horrible idea that will only serve to detract from the experience. However JJ Richards of Massive wants you to give it a chance, claiming that if done correctly it can not only work, but actually enhance the overall experience. "In fact, according to Massive's research, gamers like ads. Here's the caveat: they have to add to the gaming experience. He describes a game that takes place in Times Square. With no ads, it's not real at all. With generic ads, it's a little better. 'Now imagine Times Square with ads you just saw on television or read in a newspaper—the latest movie release or television show or a new car model,' he said. 'Imagine further that it is up-to-the-minute, whether you played your game today or six months from now. That is much more realistic.' His argument is that gamers consume the experience of ads, not just the ads themselves. 'The ads add to and enhance that experience, and our research shows that it is highly effective for both game play as well as advertisers.'"
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In-Game Advertising Makes Games Better?

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  • Yep (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Friday October 09, 2009 @12:16PM (#29695447)
    While never released, I worked on a video game that was set in the future, and we planned to have fake ads on billboards to make the game more realistic. If we put ads for future products that might exist, i.e. the Sony PS9, it would have been even better.

    However, a popup that distracts from the game would have been right out.
  • Re:Illusion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SEAL (88488) on Friday October 09, 2009 @12:20PM (#29695527)

    But this also has the problem that trademark owners usually dont like showing their products in bad light and going even so far that the game is not allowed to break their cars and so on.

    This is right on the money. Forza Motorsport 3 had to rely on a lot of Microsoft legal wrangling to get the car companies to even allow *limited* damage modelling in the game. The major auto manufacturers are VERY picky about how you can depict their vehicles. This applies to movies as well as racing games. Look at the blatant Audi product placement in Iron Man. I'm not talking about the R8 either. I'm talking about the family driving in their Audi towards the end of the movie in the last major fight scene. Thanks to our hero, and the excellent quality and performance of the car (gag) they get away unscathed even in the middle of the destruction and mayhem that's going on.

  • Re:Illusion (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Blaze74 (523522) on Friday October 09, 2009 @12:20PM (#29695533)
    The problem is there is a very small segment of games that fit the model. You can't throw ads in yet another WW2 shooter, or some fantasy world, LOTR, etc. So if in game advertising is where people want to go, most of our games will end up being current time, or near future.
  • by Terwin (412356) on Friday October 09, 2009 @12:22PM (#29695565)

    I can see some utility in this. Imagine if you are toting around your grenade launcher and you see an ad that particularly annoys you. So long as you can frag it, I am all for having it in the game.

    Especially effective if you have political advertisements so that you can launch your grenades at a poster with the face of your favorite political demon.

  • Re:Illusion (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dvorakkeyboardrules (1652653) on Friday October 09, 2009 @12:25PM (#29695613)

    "Product placement" I would agree with, but product placement isn't advertising.

    When my dad was a freshman in college (1954) the cigarette promoters gave smokes to the fraternities for parties called "smokers". The booze distributors also gave booze for those same parties and this was at a state university. They also used the red cross to distribute free smokes to the military service men.

  • Not so fast... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phayes (202222) on Friday October 09, 2009 @12:32PM (#29695699) Homepage

    The only games I can think of that try to be as close to RL as they can get are the Sims & GTA. OK, for these games the times square example has some validity, but even there, we are not really there for the ads, but to play the damned game. As soon as they start modifying the gameplay to make the ads more visible than they are in RL they will have gone too far.

    I don't want a driving game where the ads are so in your face that you cannot see the track. I don't want a soccer game where the ads are 5 times the size they are in RL. I do not want to be pestered by ads for softdrinks in WoW. Unfortunately I'm sure that once advertising gets a foothold in gaming these & other abuses will outweigh any increase in "realism".

  • by JSBiff (87824) on Friday October 09, 2009 @12:32PM (#29695705) Journal

    I could go for some limited product placement. . .

    Like, say, in a car game like a GTA, having actual brands of cars, and having their physics more or less be accurate for the car model (so that the BMWs and Ferraris accelerate much more quickly than, say, the Smart Car, and being able to 'Test Drive' the car in-game by jacking it from a car lot. (Note, I've not yet played any of the Recent GTAs, so they may have even done this, by now, for all I know - the last GTA I played was Vice City, though I'm slowly catching up with the rest of the world).

    There might be other things. . . like maybe having some virtual mannequins in store windows dressed up in styles some department store or designer is trying to promote in real life, or maybe having some of the npc 'citizens' which are walking around the streets wearing such fashions. It would get very annoying, though, if those same npc citizen's are spamming the local chat with exclamations like, "I *love* these new $designerName slacks I got at $vendorName". Maybe if I was actually interested in what he/she was wearing, I could go talk to them individually and find out more info in a private 'conversation'. I think I could tolerate that.

    The virtual billboards/signs thing, though, I'm less inclined to want. I've always found it much more entertaining to have funny *parodies* of real ads in a game, than actual ads. For example, in the game City of Heroes/City of Villains, they had some very funny and clever fake ads, like a defense lawyer who had a billboard about getting villains back on the streets of Paragon City.

    CoH even had some quests/storylines which were based around some of the fake products you would see advertised in the city (like a Cola which was, I dunno, poisoning the population, or mutating them, or something, by the local MegaCorp). How can you have things like that if you are using real advertisers? I doubt Coke Zero will appreciate it very much if you have a plot based around their beverage doing bad things to kids (although, maybe Coke would pay to have Pepsi be the culprit *grin*).

  • Re:NO, we don't. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ZekoMal (1404259) on Friday October 09, 2009 @12:36PM (#29695783)
    Again, it depends. For example, if a game was set ten years in the future, it may add to it. Say, massive monster apocalypse, and you walk by a billboard that says "McDonald's, I'm lovin' it!". Biting irony, maybe have some blood splattered on it or some splayed corpses. On the other hand, how unrealistic would it be if it was entirely devoid of all advertisements?

    But 30 second load screens? Oh yeah, those suck. 100% agreeance. In game product placement advertising? May add to it, but only in the right kind of games.

  • Reverse it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Friday October 09, 2009 @12:41PM (#29695849)

    Maybe Times Square would be improved by removing the inundation of advertising. Been there, seen it, pretty lame actually once you look just a bit past the initial "Ooh! Shiny!" reflex.

  • Times Square (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 09, 2009 @12:42PM (#29695863)
    Times Square without ads? Sounds like a much much better place to visit than the real Times Square.
  • by calzones (890942) on Friday October 09, 2009 @12:43PM (#29695873)

    How SAD it is that our culture has gotten to the point where we need ads and overt commercialism to validate an experience as 'real.'

    This is the same problem that plagues the movie industry now, where entire plotlines revolve around using famous TV anchors, Larry King et al, or pretend news reels, and copious doses of ads and famous logos to make something unbelievable seem more real.

    Oh gee, if they're interviewing that space alien on Oprah and he's feeling depressed and she's helping give him a sense of self worth then it MUST be real and we laugh along knowingly because it fits in with our mental schema of the real world. WTF.

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday October 09, 2009 @12:54PM (#29696071)

    Thank you. I was starting to wonder whether I was the only gamer out there who was surprised that I was "consuming the experience of ads".

    No. I do not consume the experience of ads. Here's what I do:
    I play multiplayer games with friends, where the goal is generally to beat something or each other. I don't give a rat's ass about ads at that point. The fact that the walls around a soccer field say adidas instead of amiras doesn't matter one lick to me. Just to show how little names matter: I don't care whether I have Ronaldinho on my team, or Rohualdo.
    I play single player games, where I want to be told a story, or have my brain and hand-eye coordination challenged. Ads can add to the story in the situation of a story. But really, if Psychonauts would have had an ad for a $5 footlong from Subway, I would have put the game away immediately. The one product placement that I was able to tolerate very well were the Dole bananas in Monkeyball: the logo was tiny, I rarely saw it anyway, and it kinda made sense.

    But here is what I do expect from actual ads in a game: a cheaper game. I'm willing to put up with ads and product placement on two conditions: they fit into the world the game describes, and they result in a game that would not have been possible without them. If Shenmue would have had actual ads from the 80s, with payment going towards production costs, I would have been ok with that.

    However - and this is why I consider marketing executives evil - the idea that I consume the experience of ads requires a mindset that I can't even begin to imagine. Ads are a necessary evil. They are not something I want to experience.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday October 09, 2009 @01:06PM (#29696227) Journal

    Both you and the Article's quoted "expert" make a false assumption:

    - I'm not really looking for realism in my games. If I was I'd play games where my soldier characters get shot and falls over. The end. Instead I play games that are deliberately non-realistic, where I can get shot 10,000 times, eat some food, and miraculously heal.

  • Re:Illusion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by uncledrax (112438) on Friday October 09, 2009 @01:08PM (#29696263) Homepage

    I concurr.

    In the OPs example of Times Square, in a contempory-themed game title, real ads would work great, and would in fact enhance the experience. However you're correct in that the legal-wrangling involved between the companies might make it hard to do well.

    I'd be A-OK with ads in titles like MMOs if:
    - The revenues went to cost-deferring expenses for the player (either make the game free-to-play, no-up-front cost, or otherwise use a good portion of the moneies to expand/enhance the title)
    - Ads are in-character for the game title.. this means both placement and appearance. They should blend into the background..
    ---- A coke add in Fallen Earth should be gritty and dirty, but still recognizable (because if you can't recognize the product, then why buy the ad?). This would very likely require custom ad campaign generation for each game title.
    ----- A McDonalds ad in {generic Fantasy RPG} could be a 'scottish-like' building that serves up inexpensive consumables. Since games rarely consider dietary considerations beyond 'food restores hitpoints' that makes it easy to skate around issues like 'eating 10000 orders of fries will kill you' stuff.
    - And as pointed out above, many companies aren't interested in having their product placed next to a pile of corpses, or otherwise depicted in less then angelic environs and situations. The game company would also have to act responsible to the immersion of the player. Putting Camel ads in a My-Little-Pony MMORPG would be non-immersible.. some products just aren't suitable for all genres.

  • by mh1997 (1065630) on Friday October 09, 2009 @01:11PM (#29696309)

    I've always hated how the character you're playing never needs to eat, drink, sleep or do something fun once in a while. He always just adventures and fights the bad guys till the campaign is over.

    To watch your character sit and eat a meal for 30 minutes, immediately take a crap for 20 minutes, sit on the couch and watch tv for a couple hours before the character goes to bed does not sound like a fun game.

  • by GIL_Dude (850471) on Friday October 09, 2009 @01:14PM (#29696335) Homepage
    Good call on that. I also see they mention things like:

    Now imagine Times Square with ads you just saw on television or read in a newspaper

    But I don't see any ads on TV. That (and time shifting) is what a TiVo or other DVR is for. Ads are there (for the marketer) to convert to sales. For the user, ads are there to annoy us. I don't read a paper - I use the internet. With Adblock Plus. Now, can they find some other reason I would want ads in my game?

  • by CecilPL (1258010) on Friday October 09, 2009 @01:24PM (#29696457)
    So each character, in addition to an HP meter and an MP meter, also has a hunger meter, bathroom meter, and tiredness meter? And then if any of those meters get up too high they get some status effect that prevents them from fighting adequately?

    Seems like a cool idea, until you realise that having 4 characters in your party, all of whom need to eat, sleep, and shit at differing times, makes it really difficult to actually PLAY THE GAME. The last thing I want to do when levelling up before that boss fight is make 14 extra trips back to base so my guys can take a dump.

    Why did The Sims stop being fun for you?

  • by Sl4shd0t0rg (810273) on Friday October 09, 2009 @02:26PM (#29697321)

    Absolutely, if it would seem out of place without the ads (racing simulators, licensed professional sports games), make some money off of it.

    ...and please adjust the cost of the final product to the consumer accordingly.

  • by awshidahak (1282256) on Friday October 09, 2009 @02:52PM (#29697639)
    Not a bad idea at all if you give me the game for free. Kinda like every other thing I have with advertisements. I refuse to buy something and have to pay for it after I've paid for it. I don't buy shirts with advertisements on them. I don't buy TV shows with advertisements on them (that's right, no cable and somehow by some great miracle I'm still alive). And, I won't buy games with advertisements on them. (Now, if only movies didn't have ads, I might purchase those rather than waiting a couple months and going to the library.) But, if it makes the game free (as it sometimes does my clothes and TV shows) then I might get the game (if I'm interested enough).

One person's error is another person's data.