Monday, December 08, 2008
In-Game Ads? No Problem!
Being a marketer and also a relatively serious gamer in my down time, I usually take notice when I read things about the business of games and in-game advertising. Of course in-game ads are nothing new but as I've put my XBOX 360 through its paces I've come to notice ads embedded within game content more and more. And apparently this is an OK thing: according to a recent survey 82% of gamers have no problem with in-game ads 1
It's fine with me too. I first really became aware of it back with the Ubisoft release of Tom Clancy's tactical shooter Rainbow 6 Three: Black Arrow in 2004. Sneaking around a subway station and catching a glimpse of a station platform billboard for another Clancy game, Splinter Cell. "Isn't that interesting..." I thought as I stared at the ad "Maybe I'll have to check that one out too." Of course while ogling the ad, I was also promptly shot by a terrorist I was supposed to be hunting in the game. That ad never changed in the game.
But just this summer, not quite 4 years later, I realized how much in-game ads had matured. Playing the Electronic Arts/DICE game Battlefield: Bad Company I noted many of the ads change each time I play. I'm not sure I've even seen the same ad twice. As far as I can tell they still all reside on traditional billboards in the various environments/locales where the game takes place and there doesn't seem to be any behavioral targeting of me that I can discern, but still the fact that they change and I that know they WILL change gets me to stop and check them out almost every time — and then I am promptly shot by an opponent.
I find myself wondering why I'm not bothered by the ads (other than the fact that I get killed every time I stop to look), but maybe it's because in our media and advertising saturated real world, the same display ad metaphor translated into bits and bytes feels so familiar it goes unnoticed. There's some interesting psychology going on there and I suspect the game publishers know it, too. When 72% of the population age 6-44 played videogames in 2007 — up from 64% in 20062 — it seems certain that game publishers and brand marketers alike have only just begun to tap into a lucrative channel even as traditional display ad revenue has declined.
1 Nielsen BASES, commissioned by IGA Worldwide. Summer 2008
"Battlefield: Bad Company" screen capture by Matt Brett. Accessed 12/8/2008. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic license
"Rainbow 6 Three: Black Arrow" screen capture by Vandal. Accessed 12/8/2008.