The traditional television networks have been bemoaning the loss of the coveted 18-34 male demographic to video games and the Internet for awhile now as it has forced them to lower their ad rates accordingly. So it was only a matter of time before someone figured out how to better incorporate advertising into video games.
Ads have been appearing in video games for awhile now—usually in the form of logos on billboards or signs in sports titles—and gamers generally don’t have a problem with that because it adds a bit of realism to the game without getting in the way. Advertisers aren’t big fans of this sort of product placement though, because it requires them to guess ahead of time which games will be big sellers and the content is hard-coded into the game. The folks at Massive Incorporated are hoping to change that with their new network.
Said Massive CEO Mitchell Davis, “After more than two years of development, we’re pleased to be launching the Massive Video Game Advertising Network right on schedule. The enthusiasm and support we’ve received from both game publishers and advertisers proves that we’re delivering just what they’ve been waiting for: a way to make in-game advertising as simple as traditional channels-and even more powerful.”
The Massive Video Game Advertising Network allows advertisers to simultaneously reach an aggregated audience of gamers through real-time delivery of advertising across an entire network of top-selling video games, enabling brand marketers to tap into the nation’s largest entertainment industry using a familiar model that is similar to purchasing television advertising. The Massive Network delivers ads seamlessly into the gaming environment with no impact on game play or performance, making in-game advertising painless and unobtrusive for gamers, publishers, and advertisers alike. The company also announced that the first advertiser to participate in the network is RealNetworks, Inc., the leading creator of digital media services and software.
Game publisher relationships already in place will allow Massive to serve ads into more than 15 titles and reach a weekly audience of close to two million young men, equivalent to other media buys reaching this audience. Massive has already signed exclusive in-game advertising agreements with Vivendi Universal Games, Ubisoft, and Legacy Interactive.
This has a few gamers in a tizzy as thoughts of their game being interrupted every ten minutes for a full-screen this-game-is-sponsored-by advertisement to play out on their screens filled their heads. Looking at Massive’s website, however, reveals that they seem to be smart enough to recognize that gamers would probably be pretty pissed about something like that. Instead it appears that Massive aims to put the ads in the same places they’ve been appearing previously in games such as billboards, the sides of panel trucks, posters on walls, storefronts, vending machines, and so on with the only big difference being that these ads can be changed. For example, imagine playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and finding that one of the cities in the game has a building that looks like a movie theater which when you pass it has movie posters for movies that are currently showing in theaters. As new movies come out those posters would change. That would be pretty cool. I could even see a possibility for the theater itself to be branded as one of the national chains if they wanted to. It’s the sort of detail that doesn’t impact game play, makes it a little more immersive for the player, and gives the advertiser a little more control over what they’re paying for.
As long as these guys stay smart and make sure their tech doesn’t impact game play then I don’t see a lot of gamers getting too upset about it. If this ends up working well enough that publishers could afford to lower the prices on their games as a result then gamers would probably be even more receptive to it. A title like the aforementioned San Andreas is pretty much guaranteed to be a big seller. Imagine if they could have decent enough ad rates for the game to lower the price to $30 or even $20. I’d be willing to put up with a little product placement for cheaper games.