Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Advergaming - Ads in Games
In an article over at Ars Technica it has been revealed that THQ is strongly in support of in-game advertisement. The company has announced a deal with Massive Inc. that will eventually result in dynamically updated in-game ads for players connected to the internet.
From the THQ Press Release:
The Massive Network is the first and only network of its kind to deliver dynamic advertising seamlessly to an aggregated audience across premiere video games titles. The Massive Network enables publishers and developers to capture incremental revenues through the aggregation of the video game audience. Developers are able to integrate real-world ad campaigns that are timely, and enhance the game environment with more realism. Twenty-nine premier game publishers have committed more than 100 titles to the Massive Network.
So 29 publishers are committing 100 games to use in-game advertisement. That's pretty serious. And that's just one ad network, there could be a lot more deals being made with other networks or just between game companies and advertising companies directly.
From Joystiq (read all the links for further details about this subject):
In summary: in-game ads are excellent for deepening publishers wallets, but distracting and ultimately annoying for gamers. Unfortunately for gamers, the endless march towards ads in games seems depressingly inevitable.
How will gamers react to this? Swat 4 added games in as a patch. That seemed particularly despicable, since the original purchasers of the game didn't know they were buying an ad-infected game at the time of purchase. Also I believe that the online RPG Anarchy Online has had in-game ads for quite a while for the free version.
My personal feelings are that I will not knowingly pay full price for a game that includes advertisements. If games start coming with ads, I'll probably stop buying those games. I do not want my games to become like television, where you have to suffer through advertisements that completely break your immersion of the story and game world. In TV ads are so intrusive that most people get up and do something else while the ads play. Will gamers end up having to do this for games?
Advertisements are infecting our society on every possible front it seems, making it impossible to do anything in this world without being assaulted by blinking, flashing, screaming advertisements all day long. I don't want my entertainment infected by this any more than it already is. And we know that advertisers will start off subtle but become more and more blatant as gamers become more and more accepting to ads in games. This is why we need to stop and say NO right now, before it gets to that point.
Would you pay full price for a game that has ads in it? Would you buy a game with ads if it were signifcantly discounted? Would you play a free game that had lots of ads? What are your feelings about this? Let me know in comments.
Then the patch came out, and I learned about how ads had been added to the game without notifying gamers, and after the fact.
I still haven't bought SWAT4, and if I do, it will be off a sale table or on ebay. And I likely will not patch it until I find a hack that blocks the ads. I don't need spyware inside my games, thanks.
On the bright (?) side, if in-game advertising gets too big a problem, "ad cracks" will likely be released alongside no-cd cracks.
As for price considerations, I doubt many gamers will demand (with their wallets) a price decrease for non-intrusive ads in games: things like pop machines in FPSs and billboards in racing games. The nastiness will start when games start featuring full-screen ads during their loading screens. Imagine 10 seconds of in-your-face advertising every couple of minutes during a fast-paced FPS game, and you'll have the idea.
(Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go patent this idea [I mean: process that uses a computer] so I can squat it and rake in millions.)
This reminds me of when large corporations were buying sports arenas, etc. Proponents would try to calm fears of "intrusion" by saying that it should be a good thing for corporations to help foot the bill of professional sports events. However, I think in-game ads will lower the cost of games about as much as "Minute Maid" Park has lowered ticket prices.
There's spying, and there's doing untoward things with the information spied. To my knowledge, Blizzard and the punkbuster folks don't sell or steal with the information they spy from their users. Yet, they spy that information just the same, and users are okay with it because they view the alternative--cheaters--as a greater evil.
It wouldn't surprise me if publishers did lower prices for advergames until the majority of games contained ads. At that point, prices will begin creeping up again until they're at or beyond their present level.
As a side benefit to publishers, since users will need an Internet connection to download the ads, they might as well verify that CD key while they're at it. Next they tie the CD key to your computer's NIC address the first time you log on as an anti-piracy measure.
The more I think about it, the more I think there is no nipping this in the bud. It's a wide-open goldmine for game publishers!