Advertising in Games: Intruding Into Your Experience

written by Jas Kao on July 26, 2011 in Classic Posts and Special Feature

So a couple of weeks back, I’m sitting there playing Dead Rising 2, and while I’m going about humiliating all the zombies with the various means available to me, I ran past one of those mini-billboards/signs that you usually see in malls and had to do a double take. Right there in front of me was a cover to a Playboy magazine.

Wait…What the?!

I don’t know about you guys, but this sort of in-game advertising kind of took me out of the experience, and I don’t like it one bit.

In-game advertising is getting to be pretty prevalent in the gaming industry. Its expected growth is to be $1 billion in 2014, and apparently the research behind in-game advertising means that it’s pretty sound which, to me, is unfortunate. Apparently, about 65% of gamers agree that in-game ads stand out more compared to other forms of advertising (online, print, TV).

Going back to my ad encounter in Dead Rising 2, after doing a bit of digging, Capcom and Playboy had indeed brokered a deal where images of Playboy magazine and Playboy icons would be appearing all throughout the entire game. A Playboy Club is even in there somewhere in Fortune City. The thinking behind that was that Playboy fit into the Dead Rising 2 universe.

While there is a certain sense of logic behind that, being that Fortune City is based off Sin City (Las Vegas), it goes against my gaming style. You see, when I game, I like being completely immersed in the game. Everything about the game–like the characters, the story, the lore–all work to get me into the game and let me travel to another world for a bit, similar to when one reads a book. But, whenever an ad like the Playboy ad pops up, it kind of shakes me out of the fantasy of the game and drops me back into reality. Like, say, when someone punches you in the face when you are reading a good book, though infinitely less painful.

Many other games are guilty of in-game ads. The whole sports game genre is littered with games that have ads about shoes, products, and clothing. In fact, I can’t seem to recall any sports games out there that don’t tote the products of something or another.

The Xbox is even introducing a new type of in-game advertising where Xbox users will be able to use voice and motion commands to interact with advertisements while they are playing their favorite game or watching a video to promote engagement. To me, I feel like this sort of advertising is pretty damn intrusive. Why would you want to interact with an ad when you’re in the middle of a game? And when have you ever wanted to watch an ad and interact with it other than trying to skip it all together?

The most gaming publishers get back is a few bucks per game sold, which I’m sure does add up in the long run if the game does well, but does that still justify putting ads in your face? Gaming publishers have argued that with the extra dollars they are earning by selling ad space in-game to advertisers, they will be able to make better games and do better things for us, the consumers. Have you seen any improvements? Because it still feels the same to me. Not that the games released nowadays are bad. One could also think that, with the money game publishers earned off the sold ad space, they could potentially filter down to us gamers in the terms of a bit of savings, but instead games have never been more expensive.

I’m not a fan of in-game ads nor will I ever will be.

I’m curious to know what everyone else thinks about seeing ads in game? Share in the comments.