Friday, September 28, 2012

An Analysis of Advertising in Video Games

Becoming a recent member of the RTC team, I took time to look over a presentation prepared by a previous intern that focused on the idea of advertising within a video game and discussed the approach used to make such in-game advertising effective. Having reviewed the presentation, which discussed gaming as a method of social interaction and suggested different methods of advertising, I saw fit to elaborate further upon the ideas of advertising in video games that were presented, which included billboards in the background of driving video games and in the background of stadiums of sporting games.

The issue of advertising in video games was a source of debate in the past, with gamers heavily opposed to advertisements butting in on their gaming experience by throwing in product placement or forcing gamers to sit through video advertisements. Some argue that advertising is simply inappropriate in that environment and some are strongly opposed to such advertising due to the loss of immersion in a game world that would be brought about by throwing in an advertisement for a real product such as a cola or fast food chain. Many have found that in-game advertising has risen in recent years, with such approaches as Obama throwing campaign billboards into a racing game and Gatorade being mentioned in NBA games, which led to an actual increase in Gatorade sales. In fact, in 2012, Obama’s campaign has said that they are putting campaign advertising into video games that are online-enabled in order to better target areas of swing states.

It can be seen, therefore, that video game advertising comes in many forms and can be done effectively. This does, however, prompt one to wonder when such advertising is done effectively and appropriately and when it is overdone or unnecessary. As I’ve implied above, in-game advertising is effective, but only when executed correctly. The immersion of a game can easily be ruined, if the in-game advertisement breaks people out of the experience. This has been a complaint in a number of video games, but the most blatant in recent memory is Alan Wake. In-game advertising that forces the game’s player to arbitrarily sit through an advertisement, or show blatant product placement or advertisements in a way that doesn’t fit the tone or setting of the game, will be off-putting to players and possibly result in backlash against the company that is advertising.
In some games, the immersion can be unbroken if the in-game advertising is done right. In a series focused on driving, which can include billboards, or a sandbox game involving a large city, the use of billboards, bus ads, in-game fliers and signs on store-fronts of real life stores can be put in without breaking the game’s immersion at all. At the same time, however, putting such product placement into a fantasy role playing game would not only remove one from the experience but receive a great deal of mockery and possibly backlash. Nevertheless, gaming is one of the emerging methods of communication that presents a great potential to advertisers. Coming up with unique and innovative methods of reaching gamers with an advertising method could create a strong relationship with gamers and aid in marketing, but it must be done, as said before, in an appropriate manner.

Throw a billboard into the background or put a real life fast food
restaurant onto the side of the road, it would blend well.

But ultimately, some will say that there should be no in-game advertising, even if it could be deemed necessary. The debate rages on about the necessity of in-game advertising, but video game revenue and sales have been dropping in the year 2012, according to the Huffington Post. It’s of no doubt that video game developers are looking for ways to increase sales and pull in additional revenue, and in-game advertising is a way to do just that. Providing game developers with advertising revenue is much like putting product placement into film, in that it will provide the producers and developers with the revenue necessary to get projects launched. But ultimately it’s up to the player and the question of whether or not the game can still be enjoyed will inevitably rise. Ask yourself and leave a comment here: how do you feel on this, should gaming accept the incorporation of advertising or try to stay free of it?

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