Who knew that the young, male gamer could be such a problem group for advertisers? I always thought that appealing to such a crowd would be easy: convince them that they might make contact with a real, live girl, or give them the idea that their disabling social ineptitude might be cured. Ahh I kid, I kid – sort of. There are actually a frightening number of people who spend the bulk of their free time gaming; holed up in the dark with their X-Boxes or computers, their eyes transfixed on their World of Warcraft character or glued to a burning car crash in GTA 4. Forget watching television or picking up a newspaper – for many of these gamers, their consoles are their contact with the outside world, and their news is streamed through their gaming vessel.
So what are companies to do when a massive chunk of the population is virtually unreachable by traditional forms of media, like television? Well get in there of course! In-game advertising is the latest and greatest from the advertising industry and companies like Double Fusion, IGA Worldwide, Microsoft’s MochiMedia and NeoEdge Networks are paving the way.
Google has long been quietly tweaking their own “AdSense for Games” project for months now, drawing attention to it in February of 2007 when they purchased Adscape for $23 million which is a company which delivers dynamic ads for video games – ads which don’t interrupt gameplay and indeed often add to it while offering promotions or special benefits to gamers. An article on venturebeat.com said that in demos of the Google’s AdSense for Games technology, “a game character can introduce a video ad saying something like, “And now, a word from our sponsor,” before showing a short video at the end of a sequence in a game”.
The in-game advertising firm, Massive, purchased by Microsoft in May 2006, already has more than 200 advertisers in its network and in over 70 games they have imbedded fixed or live ads. Picture a hockey game, something a little more current than the classic, Ice Hockey; see the sides of the rink and picture them laden with ads and promotions for various products and companies. Watch as the huge screen that dangles above center ice displays live commercials and ads. This is only beginning of the future of video games.
So how are people feeling about this? There is a mixed palette of responses – some people have said that they will appreciate the ads and that billboards would even add to the realism of games. Others think that they will be a huge distraction and are pretty sure that no one would stand for a video featuring a word from any sponsor no matter how short it is.
And will these ads allow for cheaper games? Or will we still be spending 70 dollars on games stuffed with product placements and advertisements.
It’s hard to know what the results will be or say anything for sure, but it will definitely be interesting to see how the gaming community responds to this level of product placement in games.