I mentioned awhile back how a new company by the name of Massive Inc. has developed a system of delivering ad content to video games connected to the Internet. The company has attracted a fair amount of interest from developers and several games already make use of their service having added the needed code to their programs. The API allows for the placement of ad content on a variety of surfaces within a game including but not limited to: billboards and posters, vehicles, pizza boxes, soda cans, screensavers, and TV screens. Reaction from gamers has been mixed with some thinking it adds to the realism of a game and others being against having to pay money for a game that then forces ads on them. Love it or hate it the initial response from both publishers and advertisers implies this could be a very lucrative undertaking on Massive’s part and no less than Microsoft has taken notice.
In fact Microsoft just announced their intent to buy the company. This pretty much means that you can expect practically every title coming out of Microsoft to include this advertising system in it. Considering that the percentage of Xbox 360’s that are hooked into broadband connections is estimated to be around 60% this could help offset the fact that the console is sold at a loss, if not make it ultimately a non-issue. It also means Microsoft will likely get a chunk of change from any other companies that decide to make use of Massive’s system.
Personally I’d be happier about this if it meant lower game prices thanks to the increase in revenue from the ads, but somehow I doubt that’s going to happen anytime soon. As long as it stays relatively non-intrusive in the form of textures on objects (soda cans, vending machines, etc.) and not something that interrupts the game for a 10 second commercial every 10 minutes then I’ll probably be just fine with it. With any luck some games where such things would be out of place (say like Nike ads in World of Warcraft) the publishers will avoid the temptation to slap in ads, but already the folks at Anarchy Online—which uses the ad system in their MMORPG of the same name—had a poster for Batman Begins in their game world that included the release date of June 15 of last year which is seriously out of place in a game set in the far future. Still whether you like it or not Microsoft seems intent on making them more common.