Tuesday, December 16, 2008

EXP Podcast #4 - This Game is Sponsored By...

This week on the EXP Podcast, we wade in to the murky waters of advertising in video games. Microsoft-owned company, Massive Inc. held a conference in which several large publishers (such as EA, Activision, and Ubisoft) discussed how to best implement commercial advertisement in games. Let's not let them be the only ones discussing this...

As gamers (and consumers), we think it is important to engage in a conversation about advertising. Take a look at the original articles in the show notes, and feel free to weigh in on the issue.

Some possible questions for discussion:

-How aware are you of advertisements in games? Have any stood out, in either a positive or negative way?
-What kinds of games would you accept ads in, if any?
-What do you think about the financial argument in favor of placing ads in games?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

-Run time: 29m 26s

-The MTV Multiplayer story and the Microsoft press release

- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. I'd rather have something like the loading screens or save screens, something of that sort, have an advertisement, rather than in game. I personally don't pay attention during those times, so I wouldn't mind it. I do expect to have advertisements in sports games and such because those games are a true business, having to buy licenses and such just to have the players' names. Plus when I'm in a sports arena, I just expect to see advertisements, sames goes for something like GTA. Sure, it would take away from some of the funny fake advertisements they have, but it wouldn't really have an effect on the game. Regardless of these exceptions, I'm scared shitless of advertisements appearing in games.

  2. Without even listening to the Podcast...

    -How aware are you of advertisements in games? Have any stood out, in either a positive or negative way?

    Way back when Burnout 3: Takedown released, the advertisements in that stuck out to me. The immediate assumption was to blame EA and quite possibly rightly so too, but regardless of whose decision it was to include them in-game, the ads themselves definitely stuck out as something that didn't belong. Well, when compared to the predecessor anyway. These days, an advertisement in Burnout ('cept maybe for the Obama ones - ads I didn't see due to being Australian) wouldn't really be noticed because of how the series has changed and is now (currently anyway) set in an open city setting. Either that or I have just gotten used to it. Other than that ads have not really stuck out to me because I feel they have been placed in exactly the sorts of games they should be, sport games, racing games and that's it basically. If they stay in these sorts of games then I don't have a problem with them.

    -What kinds of games would you accept ads in, if any?

    The ones I just mentioned above: sports and racing games. Perhaps to extend on that I would also include the games set in cities, be they real or fictional as one would expect to see billboards around the place. That would have to be it though because otherwise our immersion with the more fictional games (even if they are 'realistically fictional') will be broken if we see an ad for Burger King or whatever somewhere. Plus it is much more enjoyable to see a fake ad that was included in the game as humour or otherwise that still fits within the context of the game. To lose that aspect of those games would be to lose some of their personality, something that is definitely not cool.

    -What do you think about the financial argument in favor of placing ads in games?

    If by financial you mean games' prices being lowered because of advertisements then I can see that as being a legitimate reason. Games are all about the experience to me so as long as an advertisement doesn't hinder that experience in any way then I think I would be okay with their inclusion. Break my immersion with a game or having an advertisement that is blatantly out of place and then we have problems. Honestly though, will the inclusion of ads really start bringing the cost of our games down? Somehow I don't see it happening...

    *presses play on Podcast*

  3. Right, after listening to it the only thing that comes to mind is Metal Gear Solid 4.

    What was being discussed at the end of the Podcast was what made me think of the game and its inclusion of the iPod, among other things. Being new to the PS3 means that I am still yet to play the game, so if either (or both) of you have then I am curious to know how the iPod's inclusion or any of the other products affected your time with the game or if it did at all. From what I have read about the game, that sort of inclusion is the subtle ways that was alluded to in the Podcast and so if I am right then really it has already started happening rather than due to start happening slowly.

    On an overall level though I pretty much share your thoughts on the subject in that it is both interesting and worrying at the same time to see the potential (good and bad) and where that will go. As mentioned in my first comment though, as long as the ads remain within context of the games they are included in then generally speaking I think I will be fine with it.

    I do wonder though, is it just the games themselves that should be up for consideration in this discussion or does things like sponsored achievements and the console dashboards having ads come into play here too?

  4. I have 2 quick comments on this

    1) I am currently developing a game and plan on selling it for free on the iTunes store and plan on having in menu ads. This is b/c i want people to play the game but would like to re-coup some of the cost. Would that type of advertisement make you not want to play the game even if it was free?

    2) I really don't mind even intrusive ads. In burnout Paradise there are these edge shaving gel cars that drive around everywhere. I always make a point to wreck them because it is fun. Additionally, I would rather see a coke vending machine then ABC Cola which looks exactly the same. More immersive that way.

    Great podcast as always.

  5. @Andrew

    Personally, I have no problem with ads in free games, unless they somehow affect the gameplay. I know that money doesn't grow on trees, and I'm all for supporting someone who's trying to put something out and trying to make the rent!

    Good point on the believability of ads. It is a bit distracting to see ads that are almost-real, but not quite.

  6. I'm just going trough your podcasts. I like them very much.

    One question I always ask myself is why do we pay for racing games like Gran Turismo. Shouldn't that game be actually free? Are car manufacturers paying to be in Gran Turismo? It is a HUGE commercial for their products after all. Millions of potential customers all over the world clocking man-years worth of test drives. I mean, Nike surely paid for their Second Life shoe store. Where is the difference?

    Yet, if I had to decide whether I want a Gran Turismo with realistic cars or one with fictional cars, there would be no question - I would even pay more just to have realistic cars.

    -What kinds of games would you accept ads in, if any?

    There is one GREAT example of in-game advertising. The hardcore sci-fi mecha simulator Steel Battalion uses the names of real manufacturers of military machines like Komatsu. A lovely detail! I believe such things are possible in Japan only. I know german companies would rather not be associated with futuristic "toys". For example, VW and Porshe both refused to allow the new Transformers to be based on their cars (even though it was possible in the 80ies). Of course, it is different for a car manufacturer and a company that in fact does produce war machines. And I also wonder if Komatsu sold any more excavators because of Steel Battalion ;-)