Advertising In Video Games

Advertising in video games is big business.  So big that it has become more effective than advertising on television.

In a March, 2009 study commissioned by NeoEdge, (a California-based gaming advertising network) 2000 consumers and over one million logo images were used to show that online gamers are more likely to recall brands embedded in video games.  Part of this is thought to be due to the way the eye perceives motion in video games.  The goal of the study was to determine the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of this fledgling advertising medium.

As a result of this research, it is predicted that in-game advertising will explode into a $2 billion industrial giant by 2012.  That's a lot of cash, my friends.

Of course the fact that the study was conducted by a gaming advertising company should raise a little suspicion.  But the results are interesting nonetheless.

In-game advertising is not new.  It is thought that the first example emerged in 1973.  For those of you old enough, you'll remember a little game entitled Lunar Lander.

In this, if you landed the module at a specific spot, an astronaut would emerge, walk across the screen order a burger, then walk back to his ship.

This is a far cry from some of the techniques used now.

You need to smell great when taking over a small country...You need to smell great when taking over a small country...

Take this shot from 2005 's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory.  That giant ad for Axe in the background is an example of what is known as "dynamic game advertising."  These are the result of the software company (Ubisoft in this case) signing contracts with a bunch of agencies allowing promotion of real products in the game's world.  The scary thing is that these in-game ads can be updated and changed via the Internet.  In other words, they are spyware.

Here's a great example.  In 2009 the Massive Network ran a digital campaign for the Cadbury Creme Egg.


Note that this campaign crossed into multiple games...

While I'm not a fan of spyware, I find the use of "dynamic game advertising" intriguing if placed in the proper game environment.  While the Cadbury Creme Egg ad seems at home as a billboard in Spiderman's New York City, it would be horribly out-of-place in a fantasy adventure game.


Gamers are torn when it comes to the use of advertising in video games.  Some feel it adds a needed dose of reality to the gaming world.  I'm one of these people - but, as mentioned above, advertising has to match the tone of the in-game world.  Seeing a McDonald's ad with undead critters crawling around it makes the experience just a tad more real.

I'd be craving a Big Mac at the end of the world.I'd be craving a Big Mac at the end of the world.

Others feel that in-game advertising will destroy the video game industry.  While this sounds extreme, it has merit.  These gamers are afraid of being inundated with advertisements inside their favorite gaming worlds.  Think about it: how many billboards do you see in Grand Theft Auto?

At least you smell nice as you bash the driver's face in and steal his truck.At least you smell nice as you bash the driver's face in and steal his truck.

This parody shows what could very well happen:

Will this be the result?  Some analysts think not.  While an increase in in-game advertising is inevitable, it is questionable as to how prolonged the revenue will be.  This reasoning stems from the study of existing ad-based revenue sites that started strong, then petered out over time.

While I can't quite see the similarity in web-site advertising and in-game advertising (aside from the almost subliminal nature - you see the ads, but primarily register them in your subconscious), I suppose that the ad-based revenue sites are about all that researchers have to go by for data.

And I don't mind ads for real products visually represented in my gaming world if they are properly inserted.  And as long as my dwarf fighter can't dine at Pizza Hut while wearing Levi's jeans, smoking a Marlboro, and having a Coke and a smile.

SOURCES: Wikipedia, Gamer Limit, Tech Crunch, Crunch Gear, CNET