The ads are here - where are the savings?Shawn Drotar

Posted on July 25th, 2007 in Gaming, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, News, Opinion by Shawn Drotar

Madison Avenue loves gamers.

They know they have money to spend on games, and they know they’ll spend hours looking at their TV screen playing those games instead of watching the latest run-of-the-mill doctor/lawyer/cop show. So what’s a poor marketer to do? The latest answer:

Electronic Arts has added branded Xbox 360 Achievements to NCAA Football 08, and it’s reasonable to expect you’ll see this type of thing in every EA Sports title this year. Also, by partnering with Microsoft-owned Massive, the ad firm will be placing dynamic ads in the recently-released NASCAR 08 and the upcoming games Madden NFL 08, NHL 08, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08, and Skate for the Xbox 360.

Sports games have been slathered with ads for years - in part because the real-life events are, too, making them stand out less. Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six: Vegas had dynamic ads placed in-game as well, with billboards and posters in casinos, touting cable television programs and way too much Axe body spray. But these are not the only games that are embracing advertisers’ strategies for forcing ads in front of a captive audience.

They’re simply the lapping waves on the beach preceding the tidal wave.

Sony Computer Entertainment of America recently announced an agreement with Nielsen, the company that tracks television-watchers’ habits, to provide similar services for it’s products on the PlayStation 3 - not just in games, but in PlayStation Home as well - opening up a whole new frontier for in-game advertising.

I suppose this was inevitable, but game companies aren’t simply handing these valuable ad spaces out for free - they’re profiting from them, and ostensibly, those monies earned would be thrown back into game development. But what if they’re not? What if the companies just pocket the cash and go on with their business? It’s not as if regular consumers would ever know. That’s basically how every sports league in America works, by the way, and they’ve gotten away with it for decades.

Next Generation has published a wonderful (if disheartening) piece on the rising price of gaming, and it only begs the question: if retail prices have gone up while publishers are being paid by advertisers before the game even reaches store shelves, why not pass those savings on to the consumer, who’s being sold out for these ads? Unlike television, you can’t switch in-game ads off or use your TiVo to skip them, and simply playing the game effectively surrenders your right to privacy, as the Sony/Nielsen announcement suggests.

Is this what gamers are willing to accept? The answer, of course, is almost certainly “yes”, but in an age where privacy is a myth and rights to your experiences are salable commodities for fat-cat corporations, isn’t it past time for gamers to at least demand that their privacy be paid for - instead of paying game-makers to take it away?

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