How do you feel about ads in games? Is this a worst-case scenario or the way we are heading? There are obviously 1,001 ways to have advertising in a game, some of which is totally ‘natural’. For instance, you couldn’t have PGR3 without the Ferraris (a form of advertising in itself), but by the same token it isn’t intrusive, but rather an intrinsic part of what makes up the game.
Similarly, the latest Fifa 07 features dynamic crowds, pitches and hoardings. Hoardings are no doubt paid for by the advertisers with real money – even though the ads are in game – and they probably don’t come cheap either. Fifa is one of the biggest sellers of the year (every year) so that’s some good penetration of the market, including twenty-somethings with a good disposable income.
The main reasons for ads in games would be a sense of realism. If you’re playing a game set in a modern city for instance you’ll want and have an expectation of realistic billboards, posters etc correctly displayed in the game-world. The development team should ensure they met expectations to provide a fully realised virtual world.
Another benefit of advertising (at least with well placed ads) would be to gibe news about the latest products – Halo had some of the best advertising outside of games in the form of Ilovebees.com. This was a fun ARG (Alternate Reality Game) that become entertainment itself as folks tried to figure out what on Earth it was about.
Of course, there are a number of reasons why games shouldn’t feature advertising, and one of the main ones would be totally unsuitable ads appearing in games. For instance, I’m a fan of Ikaruga. Now, that game would have been totally compromised as an experience if, half way through, an ad for soap or something appeared. It would have been weird and unnatural, and would rip the player right out of the game world.
Another example would be the world of Oblivion. To the best of my knowledge, it features no advertising, which is a very, very good thing. Imagine that there’s a billboard out there somewhere with a picture of the latest convertible tucked away before the entrance to Uriel’s palace? What a horrible idea – though if I were the developer I’d have put one somewhere just to see if anyone found it in the massive gameworld!
Joking aside, advertising has a relevant place in gaming, it’s just not suitable however when it is forced down our throats or completely unsuitable. Regardless, can you actually remember the last in-game ad you remember seeing that had any effect on you, barring of course the playing of a demo – a great form of in-game advertising! I think publishers should pay for my referrals; many a friend has bought a game on my nodding and recommendation… However that’s another story for another time when we get our revenge!