Advertising could arguably be one of the most important steps in any business. No matter how great a product is, what’s the point if no one knows about it? Advertising is an enormous business itself, and it is extremely important for advertisers to come up with ideas to stay relevant. This notion to stay relevant seems to be sliding into video game territory. It’s called In-game Advertising and it is the idea to advertise in video games.

If you haven’t seen an advertisement in a video game yet, count yourself lucky. These ads are incorporated in a couple of ways, but they’re always created in an attempt (a failing one) to not distract too much. No one likes an ad that punches you in the face demanding you to buy their product.  An ad should slide into your mind subconsciously so you think about it without really thinking about it. That’s the general idea, but it’s hard not to notice an ad while playing a video game since they seem so unnatural in the gaming universe.

A game’s setting is important in creating the correct vibe and mood that the developers wish the gamers to experience. For example, if the character is on a highway, it would make sense that there are billboards. In the horror game Alan Wake (2010), there were multiple billboards with the word Verizon written on them. Also, anyone that has played Alan Wake will know how important batteries are. Well all batteries in the game had Energizer written on them. In some ways, this supposedly gives a real feel to the game, but every player knows it is simple advertising.

The most notable advertising ad in any game could be the recent Madden games. Anyone who has played Madden 2011 will immediately recognize the announcers mentioning Old Spice almost any chance there was. Between plays one line would go as follows, “…today’s red zone numbers made possible by Old Spice body wash, smell like a man… man.” That sounds exactly like watching a real football game. It certainly makes Madden feel more realistic, but at the same time, it’s blatant advertising in video games. So the question becomes, is this a bad thing or a good thing?

The most obvious downside to in-game advertising is simple, no one likes ads. Video games; the sacred escape from the real world are now being cluttered with real world distractions. Seeing a distant billboard with the McDonalds logo shouldn’t really bother anyone, but it’s where this could lead that is so worrisome. Not long ago Sony has actually finished a patent that will allow more in-game advertising. Get this, they are currently considering the possibility that ads could stop game play briefly to display the desired ad before resuming the game. That’s absurd. Anyone can deal with a fluent ad incorporated into the background of a game, but if Sony starts stopping game play to show an ad and then resume play after it’s done. There should be riots in the streets. They may even pause online multiplayer in unison for everyone to watch an ad and then continue the game. This idea in itself is painful to think about, but it is a very real possibility.

It can’t all be bad, right? There has to be some good side, and thankfully there is. The entire purpose of advertising is money related. Publishing a game is expensive, no doubt about that. Why wouldn’t a publisher allow some corporation to stick their logo on a few billboards, walls, or during loading screens if they get paid for it? We’re not talking a few bucks here, we’re talking millions of extra cash just to allow ads. Taking that into consideration, it makes sense to allow advertising in games. Video games are an industry, that’s important to remember. As hopeful and idealistic as gamers are, realistically, everything boils to down to money.

Theoretically, developers will be able to take more risks with games they want to create since they won’t be relying completely on the sales of those games. With the added money from advertisements, it will free up some more possibility, and maybe some more original games will be released that aren’t completely conforming to the mainstream style of either Call of Duty, Skyrim, or, Gears of War to appeal to the mass audience like usual. This is theoretical of course with no way of knowing if this will really happen.

Some good news. Apparently the in-game advertising isn’t working as well as corporations would’ve liked. It could be from gamers not even seeing the ads because they are too busy playing the actual game. Along with the possibility that a person sees the ad and is upset by the ad invading the video game world, and chooses not to purchase whatever product is being advertised. For whatever reason, maybe this will put off companies from advertising in video games if it is a waste of money for them.

Okay, this isn’t the zombie apocalypse we’re talking about here. Even if we have to pause every now and again to watch an ad, the world will keep spinning, the rain will still fall and gravity will still exist, and we’ll all live. Still, there is something rather upsetting thinking about how gamers have almost no say in this. With Sony, Microsoft, and, Nintendo having an unrelenting grip on the gaming industry, gamers might just have to sit back and deal with it. Sure, shouting “protest” and “boycott” may sound like good ideas, but who will really stop playing video games. Then again, it’s hard to imagine someone playing a video game, having the game paused for them to watch an ad, and then the gamer thinking how happy they are to have their game play interrupted to see such a wonderful product being sold that they will immediately go out and buy the product. If this in-game advertising doesn’t yield solid results, it probably won’t be pursued too long…we hope.

About The Author

Neil has had a passion for video games ever since the Atari entered his life so many years ago. He's been writing about them for over two years and sees no end in sight. Reach out to him on twitter @nconnors13

  • That was an enjoyable read. I think if I put myself in a situation where ads pause the game, I might take the time to use the bathroom or make a quick sandwich or something.

    • Nconnors13

      On a whole it shouldn’t be too bad, could give some welcomed breathers, but I can also imagine being on some hot-streak mid game and having an ad pop up will throw me off.