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IN-GAME ADVERTISING IS PERFECTLY WELL UNDERSTOOD

25 Sep 2008

While this is not exclusively a games blog, my primary focus is on video games and game development. My last several posts have been of a markedly non-game nature, so let's return to our roots, shall we?

Today, GamesIndustry.biz reports on Ed Bartlett, co-founder of in-game advertising agency IGA Worldwide, asserting that advertising is misunderstood by game developers and publishers. He defends the use of in-game ads, suggesting that they actually increase creativity:

"There is so much emphasis on creativity for most brands today that I would argue that in-game advertising will actually promote creativity in games, not reduce it."

How does this work? Bartlett provides the example of early television advertising, where a particular broadcast would have a single sponsor which might pull its advertising dollars if it didn't agree with the content of that broadcast. This total reliance on a single sponsor clearly chills creativity. Games, by contrast, do not rely on a single sponsor; in fact, most of their development costs are paid by publisher investment, and many games are fully-funded without advertising sponsorships of any kind.

This explanation has me raising an inquisitive eyebrow. Bartlett seems to argue that in-game advertising increases creativity, but as far as I can tell it only doesn't chill creativity.

These are not the same concept.

Bartlett is propping up a straw man here: disdain for in-game advertising has never been about chilling creativity, because the industry at large has never had to deal with a single-sponsor model. The opposition to in-game advertising is entirely directed at its effect on the user experience.

Simply put, we play games to escape from real life. Yes, even "realistic" games are played for this purpose. When I'm busy enjoying my escapist fantasy, the last thing I want is McDonald's, Coca-Cola, and Ford crashing my party. I did not pay $60 to learn how Axe Body Spray helps me pick up chicks (LOL) or how much money I can save on car insurance by switching to Geico.

If you'll please excuse me, I just want to blow the shit out of some aliens. You can advertise to me when I return to the real world.

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business video-games