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In-Game Advertising

Dan Fortier Posted:
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Debate: In-Game Advertisements

Dan Fortier and Garrett Fuller debate

Editor's Introduction: Every Saturday, we feature a debate between two writers here. If you have any ideas for future debates, please do not hesitate to post them in the comment thread linked at the end.

Dan Fortier: Recently Funcom, makers of Anarchy Online, announced they were adding interactive billboards featuring advertisements for Toyota. I’m not sure wether to laugh or cry at a game developer trying to sell in-game adverts as a feature. I understand that this isn’t the first off the wall ad placed and the game is free to play and this a way to generate income, but please spare me the speech that supposed to get me excited about it.

This kind of thing has been going on in some form for quite a while with games like SWAT 4, Splinter Cell and a virtual horde of sports games placing ads for real life products into their games, but having a billboard for something that clearly has nothing to do with the world I’m in is just wrong. While certain ads can actually enhance the game somewhat by placing things you would expect to see in a parallel world, it borders on insulting to see something like Judge Dredd holding a Red Bull can.

Garrett Fuller: Well Dan, like every other form of entertainment in this world advertising comes into play. I don't think it is a bad thing to have advertising in games if it helps companies generate more money to make a better game. If products are placed throughout a game as advertising and they don't get in the way of playing I can't see a reason to complain about it. Ads and products have been placed in movies and television for decades now. There is nothing to stop it from happening, and no company is going to turn down the extra money just to put an ad up somewhere in a game.

My biggest fear is when ads will get in the way of game-play. If I have to sit through ads or previews, like we all do at the movies, before I can start playing it will really make me walk away from a game. That being said, product placement isn't the worst thing to happen to games and movies. After all, most people are in it to make money and that is what ads generate

Dan Fortier: Yes, yes...We live in a capitalistic world where all that matters is the almighty dollar. I'm not trying to rage against the machine here, just avoid being treated like a mindless consumer. It's an insult to my intelligence to get me to think interactive ads are a feature. Should I giggle like a school girl in anticipation of the next jaw dropping commercial? It is really just a matter of principle in that regard.

As far as the "more money to make better games" angle, It is the companies with the biggest budgets that are most inclined to rubber stamp a crap game behind a dazzling media blitz. Is it coincidence our pals at Microsoft bought Massive?

Garrett Fuller: Kicking the business side of things to the corner. I still wonder how advertisements will impact game play. If any developer comes up with the idea of pop-up ads during a game it will be the worst thing in history. That being said, there is nothing wrong with futuristic or apocalyptic games having some kind of billboards in the background showing products.

I think with more and more people playing MMOs you will see more companies getting involved with the advertising. Games have become big business with billions of dollars in the industry. Many companies will want to get into that world and collect a piece of that big green pie. I just hope that the games don't suffer because of it.

Dan Fortier: Well the sad thing is that someone did a study that shows gamers are less resistant to in-game adverts than most people are to TV commercials. I mean seriously, you can order a freaking pizza in Everquest! Where does it stop? We all know that major companies are never afraid to do something that improves the bottom line even if it is bad for the game overall, so if in-game ads generate the fat loot, I can see them getting out of control with this new medium to exploit.

Just because commercials and ads have become part of my everyday life in the ‘real world’ doesn’t mean I want it in the games I pay to have fun in. To me this just like a can of worms ready to be opened up on us.

Now that me and Garret have had our say, tell us what you think about advertizing in games....Good, bad or indifferent?

You can comment on this debate here.


Dan Fortier