Thursday, June 05, 2008
There's a lot of hubbub these days about the integration of advertisements into games. Many people think in-game billboards and such will fail for a number of reasons. I doubt they'll fail. The inclusion felt pretty seamless in Hellgate: London, and I expect to see several games over the next year that help advertisers without disrupting gameplay in a similar manner.
The key there is to allow only the right ads. Advertise only products that fit the game's setting, and demand that advertisers tailor their ads to the game and not just the audience. The Nvidia ad above is not tailored to the setting and so is jarring. The comics ad below (on the left of the screenshot) fits the game's dark tone, is a more reasonable size, and is more tasteful in general.
Another form of advertising that I think is genius, and far more successful, is arcade games designed around particular products. The Xbox Live Burger King game was priceless, and the Yaris game wasn't half bad for a glorified advertisement either. The former generated a lot of praise from gamers, and it probably endeared Burger King to many potential customers.
But the form of advertising that I haven't seen yet and think would be the most successful integration with games is a the possibility between in-game billboards and full games: playable products in-game.
GTA 4 could have secured advertising money to include real vehicles in Liberty City. Whether the vehicles move and control realistically isn't as important as whether or not driving them in the game is fun and somehow reflects their general styles (selling points). Most advertisments are less about facts than impressions and associations, anyway.
Lockheed Martin and Boeing sometimes advertise on TV. If the purpose of those ads is what I think it is -- to increase voter approval so they can win government and military contracts -- then they'd probably have more success by touting their products in war games. They should pitch to EA, Ubisoft, or Activision what makes their latest overt products innovative, and I'd imagine that those innovations might often inspire game developers to come up with some fun gameplay. F-19 Stealth Fighter on DOS was an awesome game, as was whatever game I played on DOS with the F-14 Tomcat.
Anyway, you get the idea. Make a product into a virtual toy that fits a game's setting and that interactive product exposure will have far more impact than just a static advertisment or an arcade game that is defined by advertisement (the general thought of "advertisement" annoys a lot of people, so ads are received better when mixed into something else).