Virtual billboards

So most gamers hate the idea of advertising in games. Me, I’m okay with it, if it fits into the game without me noticing. I’d be upset if I saw a Pepsi banner flying from a flagpole in Guild Wars. It doesn’t fit. If I happened to pass by one of the floating animated billboards in EVE Online sporting a Pepsi ad, I don’t think it’d bother me. Especially if the ad was done in a way to “fit” into the world of EVE. You know, a futuristic looking font spelling out “Pepsi: The choice of the Minmatar generation.” I think I’d be okay with that.

After reading this Business Week article (ignore the mostly irrelevant title), it looks like I’m not alone:

In American Wasteland, from gamemaker Activision Inc., for example, Jeep learned that all players were shown the 3-D vehicles an average of 23 times in 20 minutes. And 96% of those who recalled seeing the Jeep felt the vehicles fit well in the game. Feedback even more welcome to Jeep: 51% of American Wasteland players, including some not yet driving, said they would recommend Jeep to a friend, and 65% would consider eventually buying one.

I’m no marketer, but you don’t have to be to interpret those kind of numbers. American Wasteland needs cars in the street. There’s nothing wrong with making them realistic looking Jeeps (full disclosure – I own a Jeep and love it). In this case, it fits. The Jeep isn’t out of place.

Here’s the rub I have — if Jeep is going to pay to have its products placed in a game, that effectively increases the budget of the developer and publisher of the game. Simple mathematics would mean that the game would cost less to produce, a savings that could be passed on to the customer. They could even give us a choice – pay $39.99 for the ad-supported version of the game or $49.99 for the “pure” version. I don’t think anyone would have a problem with that. I know I wouldn’t.

Of course, this won’t happen. But I am ever the optimist.


  1. unless i’m completely mistaken, korean gamers at one point, for a special event, had pepsi shields. in guild wars.

  2. IKEA_Riot says

    What adverts would fit into Guild Wars ?

    Wouldn’t there come a point where investors would only be interested in financing games into which adverts would fit ?

    Ergo, less Guild Wars, Everquest; and more sport-sim games.

    An inevitability, but sad non-the-less.

  3. Well, let’s stay on track. I think the post covered the use of appropriate advertising, but the real question really is where does the consumer benefit?

    I don’t mind ads in games, but they can also be a nuisance as well. So the developer benefits in terms of more dollars for development, the advertiser benefits because they build brand awareness, what does the consumer get? The joy of knowing how spiffy Jeeps are?

    I think the end result will realistically be just more of the same though. Developers will offset their costs by accepting advertising dollars and gamers will continue to shell out $50 a game at release.

    Just to share an anecdote why, I used to work for a major specialty retailer that was #1 in its particular corner or the market. Oddly enough, even though we had no national level competition we were the higher priced player. We were given a presentation on a new real-time inventory roll-out that was going to save our company millions on distribution costs. Someone asked if that meant we were going to start competing on price now that we could distribute our products cheaper to the stores. The CIO sort of stammered and got flustered and then admitted that there was no plan to lower prices at this time.

    So the company’s stockholders benefitted, the CTO likely received a bonus, the company itself is making more money per product, and the consumer got squat.

    And that is how business works.

  4. well i’m going off topic again.
    those pepsi shields i’m speaking of were actually sought after. i can’t imagine they fit into the game at all, and yet when north american players heard about them, some were actually angry they were not able to get their hands on that content. imagine being angry that you’re not being advertised to.

  5. “imagine being angry that youre not being advertised to”

    Well, considering that we live in a culture where people collect advertising, I am not surprised. I don’t know about you, but I see old “vintage” (Meaning they look old but were made in 2004) Coca-Cola signs in peoples houses all the time.

    Also factor in that there was a special item out in the game, people will want one simply because of its status. It seems sillier when you consider they are seeking after an item that doesn’t physically exist.

    When you have that level of passion over a digital advertising item, is it any wonder that advertisers begin to think they can get away with almost anything?

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