Players TKO In-Game Ads

In-game ads are a relatively new online ad option, and so the best practices are still being determined. Much in the same way that the early abuse of e-mail marketing caused a downtick in consumer trust for the medium, in-game ads are vulnerable to the same phenomenon if they frustrate consumers while they're getting acclimated to their presence.

A perfect example of this frustration came up early this month, when Sony was forced to pull in-game ads from its exclusive futuristic racing title "Wipeout HD." Gamers were outraged that the embedded video ads were lengthening load times during game play.

Sony move swiftly to curb the gamer ire, which was directed both at them as the publisher, and also at Double Fusion, which was serving the ads through their platform.

Given the amount of anger directed at the two companies, once might think players were waiting interminably for their games to load -- but the increase in load time totaled to about 9 seconds (to 19 seconds in all). One player posted a video illustrating the difference, garnering thousands of views.



While the difference might seem trivial, gamers are extremely wary of any sort of ad that disrupts the play experience, even in the most minor of ways.

But the bottom line is that in-game ads are here to stay. Few advertisers are going to pay a premium for a 9-second ad during a load time. My question for the veterans of this industry is this: Do you think players can be acclimated to longer load times to make room for these sorts of video ads? Or is making room for advertising in these environments, over the objections of the target audience, only asking for trouble?

7 comments about "Players TKO In-Game Ads".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Jim Kiszka from Kellogg company, August 14, 2009 at 7:32 p.m.

    In game ads are here to stay HOWEVER they should add to the game experience and not take away from it. This is Gaming/advertising 101. This is what we talked about 5 years ago. Testing is important for any new message/advertising opportunities. Everyone was diligent in the beginning about how to get it right and tread cautiously. Let's not turn a blind eye to what we have already learned. Being a gamer myself, in this example, the need for immediate connection and play is crucial. Everyone knows that. If we are going to increase load time, offer some additional value for their patience. "If you sit through this ad, you get cheat codes, unlockables, free content, etc." Why should gamers have to sacrfice. That is just asking for a world of trouble.

  2. Christopher Graber from Pepperidge Farm, August 16, 2009 at 9:28 a.m.

    Give consumers an option with benefits, and they will sign up. i.e. In-game adds w/sponsored content. Gamers who don't want ads will pay for the extra content. . .(i.e. new levels, extra colors, map upgrades, etc).

    Yet charging 59.99 for wipeout PLUS an extra 10 second loading time for ads offers 0 benefit to the consumer.

  3. Aaron Huston from 360i, August 17, 2009 at 9:19 a.m.

    Christopher Graber hit a hole in one. there's no benefit to the consumer so far with in game ads. The price of games are still the same, which is still too high for most games.

  4. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, August 17, 2009 at 12:48 p.m.

    Once again for some reason Brands and Advertisers think it is ok to intrude everywhere people are. And that is not the right view. People like advertising in measured doses that are relevant. But if someone figured out how to graft mini video screens under our eyelids brands would jump on that too. The problem with Advertising is it is everywhere and brands think the only way to break through the clutter is by adding to the clutter. But that just turns ALL advertising into ignored white noise vs. valued informational content.

  5. Aatish Salvi from QuickHit Inc., August 17, 2009 at 1:08 p.m.

    In-game advertising is an integral part of Quick Hit's business model so we've done a lot of thinking about it. There is definitely a right and a wrong way to implement them. Here are some rules of thumb we use:

    - Don't charge users for a game that contains advertising.

    To Christopher's point above, it's just plain rude to ask someone to pay you for your product and then subject them to ads on top of it. In Quick Hit's opinion, having in-game advertising should mean delivering a free-to-play experience.

    - Don't force the ads into the game experience.

    If you're making a First Person Shooter and you force ads into the game at critical moments, you're going to ruin your product. At Quick Hit we present ads only during "natural" wait times - when you're waiting for your opponent to make a move, looking at stats between quarters or at half-time, etc. Since we always knew we wanted to be free-to-play we designed the game such that ads could be included rather than shoving them in as an after-thought.

    - Get cool advertisers that your users care about.

    To some extent, running "remenant" advertising is inevitable. But you *can* make a conscious decision to spare your users from certain ad categories that you know they won't resonate with. It sounds odd but the right ads from the right products will actually enhance your own product and brand.

  6. Christopher Cook from Oktane Micro Media, August 18, 2009 at 12:18 p.m.

    Interesting debate...since extending load times for the sake of advertising exposure is an idea no one will ever be satisfied with, why hasn't there been a bigger push to feature advertising in MMO's? I mean we're talking about a real world scenario where players walk around and literally interact in a virtual world, it would make sense that the landscape could start really looking like the real world...BILLBOARDS!

  7. Aatish Salvi from QuickHit Inc., August 20, 2009 at 1:27 p.m.


    I think that's an excellent question. One possible answer is that most MMOs don't have a universe conducive to real-world advertising. I can imagine an ad for Nike in a futuristic Sci-Fi game but not in say, Worlds of Warcraft. I think the Fantasy/RPG genre is severely limiting in this respect.

    Another issue is that getting advertisers to custom-create ads for your product is hard. The games would need to incorporate standard IAB ad units. They would also need to allow a user clicking on those ads to leave the world (most advertisers today have gone from caring about impressions to clicks). That might become a sore point for the MMO developer.

    Aatish Salvi,
    V.P. Product Dev.
    Quick Hit, Inc.

Next story loading loading..