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Published on February 21st, 2012 | by Ethan


What Makes a Game—In Game Advertising, Why are People Mad?

It’s not as bad as people think

Product placement is nothing new to the world of the mass media. It has been in movies and TV shows for years now and is considered a very effective way of advertising a product inside of a piece of entertainment. Reese’s Pieces probably would not exist today if it wasn’t for E.T. and M&Ms being too snobby to show their product in a movie. Of course, game publishers at some point realized that, “Hey! We can make even more money if we sell ad space inside the game!” A cry was heard from the internet as people were angry that their sacred form of entertainment was being tainted by the man.

"The trailers are the best part!"

"The trailers are the best part!"

The aspect that makes gamers grumpy is when players find in-game advertising to ruin the immersion of a game. Some movies are set in modern day, so having a character drink a diet coke or come out of a McDonald’s makes sense in a lot of cases. Some games are set in modern day too, but significantly less so then movies.

To put it bluntly, if it doesn’t really fit the world the game is set in, it shouldn’t be in there. Mario shouldn’t be seen wearing Levi Strauss jeans in the Mushroom Kingdom.

Thankfully, in game advertising hasn’t come to that yet. So far it hasn’t really been obnoxious in a majority of mainstream games. Prototype had GameStop billboards in a modern city. Rainbow Six Vegas had movie advertisements that blended in perfectly in the city that never sleeps and is naturally covered in advertising. Of course once in a while a game will go too far with their advertising liberty and get gamers complaining about how the publisher is yet again, ruining a game.

Corporations in my game?!

The most recent offender of in game advertising is Deus Ex: Human Revolution, where a patch has added a small advertisement at the bottom of the load screen between levels. Reaction to this patch has been mixed. Some gamers on the internet are saying that they don’t care as long as it doesn’t interfere with the game world itself while a whole other lot are furious that a great game has been tainted by advertisements for the rerelease of Star Wars Episode One. No word yet on if this will be implemented into the actual game itself yet. If it comes to that, pretty sure significantly more gamers will be up in arms pretty quickly. Games that don’t really fit advertisements subtly have received backlash from their audience.

Legendary enough to survive into the next century!

An example of obnoxious in-game advertising happened in Battlefield 2142. While the game was set in the far off future, there were still billboards intact selling Intel processors. Intel may be optimistic that their company will still be around during that time, but it felt silly and out of place. Other advertisers purchased the ad space as time went on making the billboards make even less sense.

Sonic Adventure 2 had a copious amount of advertising for the brand of rail grinding shoes, Soaps. Sonic and Shadow even wore variations of the shoes so they could properly grid in game. So here is a confession. When I was young and loved Sonic Adventure 2, I actually considered picking these shoes up, despite the fact I was and am lazy and un-athletic. In-game advertising at least works on one person, even if that one person was young and impressionable at the time. Younger kids are more susceptible to advertising in general. Also, what kid wouldn’t want to be as much like Sonic as possible?

Sneaking around delivering burgers is great advertising

Scientist have found out that dinosaurs love the taste of Doritos delivery trucks.

Some games are purely advertisements. Doritos has made many free games for the Xbox, solely to advertise to their market of 16 to 30-something year old males. Let’s not even dare forget about the awful and hilarious Toyota Yaris game, which was just a car with a gun stuck on top of it, destroying things in a tube. These games are free on Xbox Live right now.

Games that aren’t free but are advertising at its purest sense are Sneak King, PocketBike Racer, and Big Bumpin’ which are all part of a series of Burger King games that feature the King mascot. One of the earliest incarnations of a full game draped in corporate advertising was M.C. Kids, which was released on the NES and featured platforming kids adventuring in McDonaldland. Weird stuff, but if the game is fun, who is to complain?

If it fits contextually, then fine put it in there. If it doesn’t fit at all then I had better be getting something out of it. Finding hot singles fast doesn’t really fit into Angry Birds’ style, but since I didn’t pay for the game it makes sense that they make money somehow. The Doritos games aren’t too bad and they are free, so I can’t really complain.

As for Deus Ex goes, getting advertisements patched into a game after release is a little shady. Even if the price is going to drop soon and publishers want a little extra cash, people who paid full price are going to feel a little bit betrayed when they boot their games back up to find Star Wars Episode One staring at them while the game is loading. It’s not a good trend for gaming, but it really isn’t a huge deal breaker. Like I said earlier though, if it isn’t intrusive, doesn’t break the immersion, and the game is good, no one is really going to care if their games are pushing them to buy Mountain Dew.

Unless Mario is, then it’s just wrong.

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About the Author

Ethan Having long been an avid gamer, Ethan found his niche in the PC gaming market, while still occasionally dabbling in the medium that got him into gaming, consoles. Usually, he finds time to play his Xbox 360 and occasionally will dust of his Wii for a bit to play with friends and family when he isn’t found locked in his room playing shooters and strategy games. Follow him on Twitter: @ethanhawkes

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