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What’s Wrong With In-Game Advertisement

There is a problem that..BUY SODA..has become all too..SEE THE NEW HANNAH MONTANA MOVIE..rampant in video games as..ENLARGE YOUR PENIS FOR PENNIES A DAY..of late.  I’m speaking of in-game advertising.

This is a heated topic that has been discussed everywhere you can find anyone talking about video games.  We have all experienced it at some point whether we are aware of it or not.  It’s actually been around since about 1978, but it is only recently that it’s truly becoming big in the game industry.  Let’s examine some of the more glaring issues with it.


Most of us play video games to take a break from reality and entertain ourselves by visiting a different place and having adventures as a soldier, knight, racecar driver, pilot, or prince of the cosmos.  In order for any video game to work effectively in the next generation you will have to have some sense of immersion in the game.   This is the feeling where you forget that you’re sitting on your couch playing a game, and instead are more concerned about that tank that just drove into sight or that the evil boss just killed your girlfriend.

So where does in-game advertising come into play?  Advertising and game companies would have you believe that it actually promotes immersion.  It feels more like a real world to see real world advertisements on buildings and newsstands.  The fact is that it can work, but not all of the time. In a sports game, it would actually hurt immersion I think to not see the real world advertisements that line the walls in a baseball stadium, or to look up and not see the Goodyear blimp in a football game.  This is a case where it can help because these are real life sports and with real life advertisements it works for immersion.  This can be held true in racing games as well.  Seeing real billboards or the emblems/decals on certain cars can actually add to the immersion.  A clear example of adding to realism is Crazy Taxi.  In Crazy Taxi you are required to take people to some real world locations.  This isn’t overt and it makes the city feel more real.

How are there no fat people in Crazy Taxi?

The bad side however is when the advertisement has the adverse effect and completely knocks you out of your immersive feeling.  Here is a prime example that I recorded myself a while back even before I thought about this article.

You might say they really “dropped the bomb” on this one….

If you can’t make it out, this is an advertisement for Gamestop that I came across while playing Prototype.  This is part of a deal I believe they made since there are two Gamestop/Prototype advertisements that run on tv and the Gamestop TV network.  This specific advertisement just completely destroyed all immersion I had in the game.  Basically what I was staring at was a giant reminder that screamed “Hey! You’re playing a Video Game!”  This is bad.  This is counter productive to enjoying the game and is part of the reason why many people get annoyed by it.  This doesn’t add to the game mainly because there are little to no other real world advertisements in the game.

Another big issue is how the advertisements are done, when they are done.  They are always super bright in contrast to the rest of the world.  The adverts are made to stand out amongst the background, and often don’t apply to the lighting that’s currently in place in the environment.  Drawing your attention to an advertisement is normal, but when you apply that to a movie or a game it feels more like an irritation.

In a game where you spend most of the time hanging, I would be concerned about my armpit stench as well.

Take this as an example.  It’s an obstacle in the world and you can’t help but notice it.  Sure neon signs at dark are meant to be noticed, but this seems a bit too much.

Another problem with immersion and in game advertisements is that often times they just don’t fit.  This is a huge problem because it destroys the environment around you and makes the world feel fake.

For that matter, why is this advertisement by a factory in a desert.

Look at this image from Battlefield 2142.  If I’m fighting a war in 2142, why am I seeing an advertisement for a movie being released on Blu-Ray next month.  This doesn’t make sense and just messes up the environments feeling.


If you’re going to have advertisements, then make them more seamless.  Movies have been doing it for decades.  An example is any scene of people eating where they are drinking a soda.  If the soda can is in the shot you can be guaranteed that the logo will be facing the camera no matter what the angle is.  Most people don’t notice this because it’s subtle and doesn’t draw attention away from the scene.  This tactic wouldn’t work in a videogame of course because you should be able to walk around something without it always facing you.  There are other things you can do though.  You can put a billboard along a common route taken in the game for example, but don’t have it be in the player’s way.

Another thing you can do to make it work is apply the advertisement to the game.  If your game is set in the future, then advertise for a silly version of a known product in the future.  An example of this is the Pepsi placement in Back to the Future II.  Another way to make it work is to make a humorous advert.  Take Prototype for example.  You could have an advertisement like “Exhausted from running up buildings and throwing tanks? Get some energy back with Gatorade.”

Kinda feels like what many companies are using my money for.


One of the main points regarding in-game advertising is that we are paying to be advertised to.  The basic principle is why are we paying 60$ for one game with no-ads and the same 60$ for a game that has ads that are constantly being updated.  Now advertising is prevalent in all forms of media, but the problem is that the price reflects that.  Magazines have advertisements because it helps pay for the cost or releasing said magazine to the consumer at such a low rate.  Television has advertisements to help pay for the production costs of the show.  When the shows are released on DVD, there is a flat rate to watch the show without commercials.  The same should be applied to games.  Can you imagine what would happen to DVD sales if the DVD’s had constant updated commercials you were forced to watch?

I’m not trying to complain that I want my games to be free or nonsense like that.  I’m just staying that if I’m going to be paying money to get advertised to, then I want to see something for it.


An example would be that if a game has in-game advertising, then it is a little bit cheaper.  If I’m playing an MMO that has a monthly fee, then make that monthly fee a bit cheaper.  If the advertisements are being used so that the game can continue to generate revenue after launch, then I expect DLC to be free.  Recently there were rumors of advertisements being placed directly on the Xbox 360 dashboard backgrounds.  If they are going to do this then we need to have a reduction in the fee for Xbox Live Gold.

Screw Big Brother.  I Want GLaDOS watching over me.


This is one of the more touchy subjects.  Games with in-game advertisements can sometimes provide too much feedback to the advertising agency.  Things are recorded such as the player’s playtime, time they look at the ad, what angle they view the ad, how often they see it and other such data.  This is very uncomfortable for most people and feels incredibly invasive.  It’s one thing to watch a commercial on TV, and another thing to have a camera on you while you do it to determine how long you watched, what you were wearing, what were you eating, etc.


First and foremost, this should never be hidden.  If you are monitoring a player for any reason other than trying to make the game better, the player has a right to know.  I don’t mean in some miniscule little fine print on the back of the box.  There should be a clearly visible warning that your data is being monitored.  This should also really be entirely optional.  If we want to opt out of being monitored we should have the right to.  True, you could always just not play the game, but there’s a better solution.  Give us a reason to opt-in.  As mentioned before the biggest issue is we feel we are being profited upon without a benefit to us.  Let us choose to be watched and give us a reason for doing so such as a special in-game item or experience points we can use towards something.  Nothing game breaking, but any benefit is more than enough incentive for most of us to be ok with being monitored.


A lot of this has been said before, but very rarely do the articles seem to look at it as a bad thing.  Most regard it as a great new source of revenue for the game companies instead of acknowledging the complaints of the players.  Presented here are a number of solutions that can validate in-game advertising to a number of people.

Sound Off Geeklat: In-Game Advertising Yay or Nay?

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