Going where the gamers are: Video games get their own ad network.

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.

13 thoughts on “Going where the gamers are: Video games get their own ad network.

  1. That sucks, what’s great about video games today s that they are very realistic with the budweiser billboards in a ballpark.  I don’t like someone trying to manipulate me and slipping things inot my games.

  2. I’m a bit scpetical as well, Les:

    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

    Thats just boilerplate to sooth the furor. Advertising that unobstrusive is not working! You will eventually find a rising tendency to have them get into your face about it.

    This won’t end gaming as we know it, just as TV ads, however intrusive, did not keep people from looking and enjoying TV. But there sure will be a couple instances of great games being ‘ruined’ by the ads.

    Bush commercials during oading breaks, anyone?

  3. I suppose the game publisher runs the risk of getting sprayed if the shit hits the fan, so I suppose that will impose a level of control.

    Trusting that advertisers have the best interest of gamers at heart would be setting yourself up for disappointment in the extreme.

    I’ll miss the “fake ads” that the gamer writers currently insert. Some of those posters are pretty funny the first time you see them.

    Why not take this further though? Escaping from police in GTA, and run into a traffic jam that’s being reported on your TV at that very moment…

    It has been done before, of course. Flight Simulator downloads real weather reports.

  4. I think the developers are more than a little aware of the potential for backlash this holds. Do you really think they’re going to let the advertisers take over the game and risk damaging sales in the process? Not the smart ones at least.

  5. I think it will be a creeping progress. TV didn’t start out as 40% advertisement either.

  6. I’m curious as to what kind of advertising companies will do beyond “branding” campaigns like they’ve done so far.
    Seems like in “Sims” games, actual products could appear and be used… in GTA, the radio stations could have “real” ads, with a GTA flair inserted… they could also have onscreen/sponsored by graphics, just like they have during soccer games (again, branding)…

    Indeed, it seems like pre-established titles are the ones that advertisers will get the highest ROI on.

  7. We’ve been talking about this for awhile now on the Obsidian forums.  The thread is now FIVE PAGES LONG but very insightful.  Let me lay down some of the things we’ve discussed over there (BTW, I post as Servant of Eru on that forum).

    1.  We’re very unlikely to get any price cuts from this, more than likely, the extra money will be lining the Publishers pockets, who already have an established habit of leeching off of the Developers, and Cosumers.  (Developers like Obsidian make the games, Publishers distribute them, and rip everybody in general off.  )

    2.  If these really are ‘real time’ rather than a package that you download weekly or monthly, it’s pretty safe to say that now Dial-Up users (myself included) will now not only have game crippling lag in multiplayer games, but also in single player. 

    3.  It’s likely, but not confirmed, that because titles that support the idea of ads without changing the game world would be more lucrative; it will be EVER HARDER to get a publisher to make a new idea for a game…which is already pretty hard to do, which is why we have all these sequels. 

    4.  This idea fucking sucks. 

    I’d suggest you read the thread, it’s very insightful.

  8. If they did demographic advertising, be damned sure there would have to be a spyware element to it somehow…if just to try to gather personal info via online game registration, etc. This whole idea is extremely disturbing. I wouldn’t mind static placement of real products, like Pepsi, Coke, etc in vending machines or a McDonald’s here and there in a Need For Speed game or something, but this real-time advertisement stuff is just not cool. And like several people said in the forum site you linked to, what is to prevent these people from sissifying FPS games or something because they (the sponsors) only want something “family friendly”? Grrr…

  9. I think folks are too quick to apply what they know of how TV advertising works to video games. Advertisers are only going to be able to sissify a game IF they hold the purse strings completely. Until games are distributed freely the same way TV programs tend to be then the developers will know that they have to first get people to buy the game before they’ll be exposed to any potential ads inside. If they’re giving in to the advertisers as opposed to their audience then they’re not going to have much of either.

    Interestingly enough they had a small blurb about this very topic last night on G4TechTV’s news show Pulse. Apparently the new Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 game is already making use of this as they mentioed that Jeep has a contract with Activision to have the Jeep Wrangler featured in the game. They showed footage of one of the challenges where you grab onto a vehicle driving by in order to get up to speed and that vehicle is a Wrangler. In a couple of months it could end up being a Corvette if they wanted it to.

  10. Okay…..but if these ads really are real time rather than a package you download every so often, it’s almost assured that those limited to dialup WILL have lag.  This is crap man.

  11. Slick, I don’t think the ads are real-time, but the download-a-package-every-so-often type that you mentioned. As far as I’m aware this network isn’t constantly sending out information.

    Of course with games on the PS2 or Xbox, if you never attach them to a network then they’ll never pull any ads.

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