In-game advertising has been threatened and enacted upon gamers for some time. The first culprit that comes to mind is the post-Harmonix Guitar Hero games, complete with even a flippin’ bucket of KFC. Sometimes, it’s pretty clear that in-game ads just suck. But one ad firm, Massive — who Microsoft employs, by the way — contends that ads just need to be a little more tactful and add to the experience. The company’s GM, JJ Richards, shared some words with Ars Technica on the subject.
“Imagine Times Square with ads you just saw on television or read in a newspaper—the latest movie release or television show or a new car model, Imagine further that it is up-to-the-minute, whether you played your game today or six months from now. That is much more realistic… The ads add to and enhance that experience, and our research shows that it is highly effective for both game play as well as advertisers.”
Richards also explains that the ads must be heavily managed, explaining that the ads they choose to use absolutely must add to an experience, and not distract. He even states, “We have turned down campaigns in the past for several reasons, among them a brand being a poor fit for a game title.”
He also uses the very simple argument: It’s not nearly as bad as television ads. “Games in Massive’s network contain four to five minutes of advertising or less per hour. Contrast that with an hour of television where consumers are likely to be exposed to at least 12 minutes of interruptive advertising.”
Fair enough, but it’s still a little weird whenever I see real-world ads in my videogames. Rainbow Six: Vegas comes to mind, taking cover next to a huge Axe Body Spray poster as terrorists attempt to shoot the dude I’m controlling. I can’t honestly say it ruins the game, and I guess it is novel and neat, but there’s also something about it that betrays immersion. All of a sudden this fictional Vegas is showing me things I might see in real Vegas. It’s a bit jarring, but again, nothing serious. Guess we’ll just have to get used to ignoring them like we do real world ads.