When I was a kid, once you bought a game, your transaction with the publisher was pretty much over. No matter how great the game was, once it was over, that was it -- you could play it again, or get a new one. Nowadays, with the advent of widespread broadband-connected consoles in the current generation of video gaming, downloadable content is key. Even if it's a new color scheme for your character or a few new multiplayer maps, a game ain't over till you've spent a some cash on the Xbox Live Marketplace to extend its life a bit.
There is a game set to take the Xbox360 by storm in the next few months called "Mass Effect." The game is developed by BioWare, which also created the "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" series. The company's games have generally focused on gameplay with a very complex and detailed "choose your own adventure" type of structure. Players make decisions in forging friendships or rivalries, and these decisions can have a massive effect (hence the name of the new game) on the game world.
Placing ads in games works really well for a narrow set of genres. In racing games, authentic sponsorships on the walls bring a feeling of realism. In certain "realistic" shooters like "Rainbow Six," any ads that might make a location like Vegas seem more authentic will be seen as a positive addition. However, in the broader spectrum of games, realism is something to be avoided.
While I wrote this column, I was watching my "Casablanca" DVD, and took judicious breaks to play "The Ancient Art of War," a strategy game from the dawn of computer gaming. It was a classic sort of evening. Much like the silver screen and the small screen, the computer gaming world has its share of classics. But unlike those counterparts, there's no Criterion Collection, TMC or TV Land, distributors dedicated to keeping the classics alive.