FileBlog: FilePlanet Mailbag: In-Game Ads? You Speak Out!
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FilePlanet Mailbag: In-Game Ads? You Speak Out!

February 16, 2007


I'm also a cartoon in real life. Last week I posted about in-game advertising, specifically an analysis of Jay Cohen from UbiSoft and his arguments that in-game ads are a good thing for the industry all around. Read the original piece if you're having one of those "Say WHA?" moments. Meanwhile, I've got a pile of mail here with opinions from all over.

A Positive Spin

I was surprised to see that many of our readers were okay with in-game ads, albeit with caveats. Some readers thought it could be a really positive thing, particularly if it'll bring the prices of games down:

"Am I really in a crowd of very few people in that I think, and have for a very long time, that in-game advertising is a very good thing? ... Advertising is the means for why Hollywood only requires a minimal charge of $20 for a class A movie. Yet, gamers still are forced to fork over 2 to 3 times that amount for a class A game... I do hope that if advertising does become paramount in games, at least the price of titles begin to drop. $50 to $60 for new titles is too much. It simply needs to come down, and if ads can help, so be it...." -Scott Wilkins

"As a long dedicated gamer it don't bother me one bit if the company gets money and puts it back into the game for patches, new content (booster packs, expansion packs, etc) And as long as it doesn't distract you and is plastered all over the place. A lot of in-game ads add some realism into it if your playing in a city. I say they continue doing it." -Thunder

"I woudn't mind looking at 10+ advertisings a day if I could play WOW for free." -Glen Fernandez

"If you want 'Gamers' to get on board with advertising in games then make it worth their while, cheaper games for instance ($50 vs. $60), FREE download able expansion packs. It's 'ALL ABOUT THE MONEY!!' and since 'ME' the consumer won't be getting paid any of that, then a little less of it when I buy the game will be just fine with me!" -Sheldon Spradling

"Now when it comes down to the money, I have to agree with Mr. Jay Cohen, Take the money. Too many games get cancelled, come out with tons of bugs and glitches, just plain suck, or countless other problems simply because they don't have the money." -Scavar

A View from the Middle

Most readers were in the middle, begrudgingly accepting ads if they were done well:

"Although I can see [game publishers] getting carried away in their advertising, I think that, if they do, they will listen to complaints and tone it down. I think they blend brands into the games. Example: Crasftman gear in a hunting game, or a computer in a room, off to the side, that says Dell on it. I don't think it will get too crazy." -Layne Henderson

"...for player not to get angry about in-game ads developers must NEVER cross the fine line of subtle ads, like simple items or board/poster in a level. I would personally send a hatemail to the first developer I see put something like 'This loading screen is presented to you by (insert product name)' in their game... my personal opinion about those in-game ads is that it will only benefit a small portion of the games out there. Since for the player to accept that there is ads in his games they have to make sense with the game environment." -Korzen

"The classic question of 'how much is too much?' becomes apparent rather quickly. The rule which I believe developers should go by -- a rule which I've already seen broken by EA and Ubisoft -- is that ads should not be noticeable... An example of this problem is the preponderance of Tag Body Spray adds in GRAW: first of all, the majority of the population in the areas where the game takes place are not nearly wealthy enough to be wasting their money on that kind of product, and second, it's the same ad everywhere. If I saw it once it would be fine, but every billboard in that game has the same ad. Too distracting! .... Here's a statistic I think developers should gather: how many times players shoot in-game advertisements in anger. I know I do that quite a bit." -Jake

Dissenting voices

Roughly a third of readers think that games shouldn't even go down this road. Many of them assumed that non-intrusive in-game ads today would lead to "roadblock" advertising in the future (like watching a commercial before you get to play.) And most of you already know how to solve this problem: with your wallet. The best way to influence publishers and developers isn't to complain on forums, but simply to refuse to buy games that have obtrusive advertising. Here's what people are saying:

"I don't need any more distraction. There are enough ads when going to a site, do I really need an ad on a product I may not use or for that matter do I want to stop playing a game just to see a advertisement Hell No! Look at what's happened to regular TV? You can't watch a one hour program without 30 minutes of advertising!" -Wolfeyes

"NO!! There's already so much advertising on on TV that I can't watch any cable station for more than five minutes without wanting to hurl at the number of ads I'm hit with... the effect of advertising on TV in most sporting events has brought the continuity of game play to a crawl. These in-game ads are one of the main reasons I refused to buy into BF2142, though I love and continue to play the prior BF2... I can see a point in the near future where a game will screech to a halt in the middle as the players are forced to watch a 30-second 'spot' of advertising. HATE 'EM, HATE 'EM, HATE 'EM!!" -Ken Carroll

"Is there nothing sacred in this world anymore? Is there anything that we can do in this world without the bombardment of big brother putting his hand in it and making money off my experience?" -Steve B

"Let me put it this way, I refuse point blank to buy or play Battlefield 2142 because some little tit in an overstuffed chair needs to buy another expensive suit which he thinks he earned buy targeting advertising at me through his sypware. Don't get me wrong, I have no objection to companies legitimately taking data from my gameplay as long as it benefits any improvements in either the game or the way I play it (AA Tracker for example), where I draw the line is at being informed that in order to play a game I shelled out £30 - £40 of my hard earned money for, I have to let them intrude on my free time by letting them bombard me with the same adverts I ignore in my daily newspaper..." -J. 'Mozartonacid' Reilly

[After a lengthy story about being unable to play Battlefield 2142 without it trying to use his Internet connection] "In short, if I cannot play a single player game offline or online in which I cannot play without my privacy being violated, then I will give up being a gamer at all." -Nathan "Bloodraines" Raines

Conclusions

Opinions were pretty evenly spread, with more people being okay with non-intrusive ads than I thought. What's clear to me is that in-game ads are a tricky proposition for publishers: if they're smart about it, they can find a balance that gamers can get behind. But any abuse of a gamer's trust or time won't hold water. Will the big name publishers be able to walk the line? Time will tell!

Thanks to everyone who wrote in, and sorry I didn't have time to answer each individually.

      -Fargo

Today's Geek Stuff:
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Posted by at 11:29 AM PST
Edited on: February 16, 2007 11:30 AM PST
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