Monday, July 25, 2005

In-Game Advertising: An Awful Idea Reaches the Next Level


Take a look at this excerpt from a Wall Street Journal Online article about in-game advertising (
Advertising in videogames, dominated in the past by static ads such as billboards and signposts, is beginning to look more like TV commercials.

For the past few weeks, Massive Inc., a New York company that distributes ads in videogames, has been testing an ad with full motion and sound in a science-fiction game called Anarchy Online. Today, Massive will roll out the full-motion ad capability to advertisers generally.

Fire up the Vomitron, Wendy, it looks like we're going for a ride.

15-second full-motion ads. From the screenshots shown in the article, it looks like when your character walks near an in-game video screen, the ad is activated.

This is from the Anarchy Online website: "Explore an epic and believable sci-fi universe with an involving and deep backstory." That's right, because there's nothing more involving and immersive than a futuristic sci-fi game with ads for movies that are playing three blocks away at your local theatre. No problem there at all.

It's going to get worse. Sorry to tell you that, but we all know where this is headed. Here are the next three steps in this very sorry progression:
1. Full-motion ads will come standard for any non-fee based online game (excepting Guild Wars). Many fee-based online games will have them as well.
2. Then someone will pay to have their company logo inserted as a persistent part of the onscreen display. That's right--lower right hand corner, just like the channel logos on television, except these will be corporate logos or logos for a particular game.
3. Then, and I think this will happen within five years, ads will get inserted into sports games as commercials in the standard spots for commercial breaks--after changes of possession in football, or after timeouts. They will only be fifteen seconds long, at first, but they're going to be there. EA has already inserted announcers talking about the "Old Spice Red Zone" and the "Pontiac Drive Summary".

I know, that sounds fatalistic, but games are mass media now. Advertisers have to reach what they perceive as their audiences, and with television viewership dropping steadily, games are the new t.v.

Thanks to DQ reader Tom Shannon for letting me know about this story.

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