Today we announced our partnership with Double Fusion to provide optional in-game advertising for City of Heroes. I wanted take some time to share some details beyond those in the press release.
In-game advertising is something that we have carefully considered ever since the initial release of City of Heroes in 2004. From our perspective it always came down to a few fundamental questions: Will this technology make our game experience more immersive or less immersive? In other words, is City of Heroes an appropriate environment
for it? In-game advertising in other MMOs has sometimes been received as an unwelcome addition, so could we actually find ways to make this a significant win for our customers? And with the plan of reinvesting all the revenue that we make from this, how much will this single (optional in-game advertising) initiative actually allow us to grow our development team?
These are complex questions that can’t necessarily be answered with 100% certainty, but after discussing this for a number of years we believe we’ve found the right partner to bring ads to the game while being sensitive to our community’s needs. I want to make it very clear that we are not “forcing” in-game ads upon our players. Thus, the word “optional” is of key importance. None of our players have to change their game experience in any way if that’s what they prefer. All that you need to do is opt-out via the Options menu in the game.
Having said that, I should make it clear that we are extremely protective of our City of Heroes game experience. Only contextually relevant ads or branding that the development team approves will go into the game. We will be very careful not to break the immersion and feel of Paragon City or the Rogue Isles. Additionally, we are a Teen rated game by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) and we will not be displaying any "mature" ad content like alcohol, tobacco, etc.
So, how far do we plan to take these optional in-game ads? Initially, we are limiting ads to the exact same fictitious billboard placements that are already in the game. To get a better idea of this, check out these screenshot examples.
We estimate that this will go live some time this summer. After that, what are our plans? We are definitely looking at how this feature is received by you, the community. If it makes sense, and keeps the same level of quality and immersion we believe the initial implementation does, we may look at other avenues in the realm of optional advertising. There are a whole lot of really fun ideas to consider, but the core game development of City of Heroes is by far our highest priority. Another interesting opportunity that the optional in-game advertising technology presents us is dynamically displaying other billboard content. We can swap in new signs that we create much more easily, and we can even display player-created content! This provides a cool new area for community contests, recognizing great player art, etc. In fact, we are inviting any interested players to submit their own advertising materials in our defined horizontal, vertical and square sizes (see all of the specific requirements here). We will use some of these to test the new optional ads on the Training Room (test servers).
So beyond all of this, what benefit does leaving optional in-game advertising “on” bring to the players? Why should you not opt-out? All ad revenue dollars go directly to the further development of the game, which means more great content than ever before! As we have made it pretty clear lately, with the acquisition of City of Heroes from Cryptic Studios last November, we are entering a major phase of reinvestment for the game (and brand). Our development costs are ramping up in a major way as we look to literally double the team this year to accommodate big plans for the short, medium and long term. Optional in-game advertising is another revenue stream that helps us to accomplish all of this at no additional expense to our players. Ultimately, we leave it up to you, the players, to decide which experience you prefer.