Ads In Video Games: Annoying Intrusion, Or Welcome Dose Of Reality?

Advertisers are expected to quintuple the amount spent placing ads in video games over the next five years. Beyond mere brand placement, consoles with an internet connection are capable of displaying dynamic billboards that can advertise The Simpsons Movie today, and The Simpsons Movie Sequel: The Return Of Spider Pig, in two years. From the LA Times:

The player’s ability to don, kick, toss or use products is part of the appeal. In “Super Monkey Ball,” players try to get their monkey characters to collect Dole-branded bananas. And in “Tony Hawk’s Project 8,” players use Nokia phones.

After the jump, tell us whether you greet ads in video games with skepticism and disdain, or appreciate them as a dose of reality in an otherwise virtual world.

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For advertisers, they’re not just games [LA Times]

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  1. polarogak says:

    Welcome dose of reality, of course.

  2. SurrenderMonkey says:

    It really depends on the situation. If the ad is on the side of the road of a racing game, ie: highway billboard, then it’s not so intrusive so I don’t mind. However, if it’s obvious that the developers made a deal to place ads that obviously don’t belong, ie: a scifi game, fps, rts, then it’s obnoxious and unnecessary

  3. Asvetic says:

    Ads are annoying in any medium, fantasy or reality!

  4. B says:

    Ads are becoming so commonplace in the games that I rarely notice them anymore. I just don’t like it when the presense of an ad take me otu of the reality of a game. I wouldn’t want to see ads for Nike in a WW2 sim or a fantasy role-playing game, but I expect to see them in games with modern settings. I enjoyed how the remake of Doom had ads for fictional products, I thought that was a nice touch of realism. Would have been better if the ads were destructible, though

  5. DeeJayQueue says:

    I’m with surrendermonkey.

    if the ads are there to enhance the realism of the game, like seeing real ads in times square while walking or driving through it, that’s fine. If they’re obvious and boorish, then leave them out.

  6. SaveMeJeebus says:

    I don’t mind them if they don’t do the jingles that you see on commercials. I hated the Applebee’s entire commercial placement in Talladega Nights too. Guess it was unavoidable.

  7. Jozef says:

    I’ve been playing Anarchy Online, a multiplayer on-line game, which has a ad-supported but otherwise free mode. For about a year I endured the ads; then I switched to the paid mode that offered more content and no ads. For the most part, I didn’t mind the ads, but in some cases they had small movies and sound. Given that they played on a 10 to 15 second loop, they got really annoying really quickly.

    For an advertiser, though, the ads may be a gold mine. Even after over a year I still remember the products the ads were featuring – a movie called “Slither” (which I’ve never heard of anywhere else but in those ads) and the US Army.

  8. Phuturephunk says:

    Surrendermonkey hit it on the head. Its all about the context. Say in sandbox type games like the GTA series where you can enter residences and buildings. In that case, you’d expect to see brand name products sitting around, makes sense.

    Not so much in a game franchise like The Elder Scrolls or a game like say Bioshock.

    its all about the context.

  9. rbb says:

    No problem, as long as they use a separate ad-server with an identifiable IP that I can block in my LMHOST table.

  10. dbeahn says:

    I wouldn’t mind ads in games if it meant the cost of games comes down. Since it seems like they want to continue to charge me the same amount for a game I will now be stuck seeing ads in, I’m thinking maybe I’ll stop buying games from companies that make me look at ads in their games.

    Piratebay.org seems more and more like the right thing to do.

  11. Kryndis says:

    What dbeahn said. If they’re putting revenue generating ads in the game, the price should come down. Otherwise I want my game ad free.

  12. Steel_Pelican says:

    I don’t mind in-game ads, if they don’t feel out of place, and they’re not distracting.

    I can remember one of the original TMNT games on NES was one of the first games to feature in-game ads- a single Pizza Hut logo repeated over and over again throughout the game environment.

    Games today use that same model- they get one digital billboard, and repeat it ad infinitum throughout the game.

    It’s all about variety. Sadly, game designers don’t have the resources to create thousands of different in-game ads for fictional products, so you see the same poster for the same fake movie over and over and over and over and over again, and the fourth wall shatters. Selling the space to advertisers can (ideally) keep some variety, and prevent the distraction that you get from repeated (real or fake) in-game ads.

  13. ReccaSquirrel says:

    I shouldn’t have to see ads for things I have paid money to own.

  14. bluemeep says:

    The only time I think it’s acceptable is in free to play titles such as Anarchy Online. In cases like that I do believe they can try to make up for the server costs somehow, whether via advertising or the “cash shop” item sales model. But if I’ve already plunked down my $49.99 plus tax, there’s absolutely no justification for me having to see ads in my game if it doesn’t benefit me in some way.

  15. Hanke says:

    @SaveMeJeebus:
    Talledega Nights was a complete product-placement bonanza. I mean, it’s NASCAR, and those cars are COVERED in ads.

    What gets me, though, are the NASCAR jackets. It’s one thing to buy a jersey with Pedro Martinez’ number on it. Quite another to buy a jacket with Jeff Gordon’s number on it, when the DuPont logo is plastered all over it. Why pay $200 to be a walking billboard?

  16. If I actually thought that subsidizing production costs with ads would somehow lower the retail price of the game, I wouldn’t mind too much. That’s not likely to happen though. I don’t like to be loaded with ads for something I already paid for. Especially live-loading ads that update every time you play. I don’t want to waste my time and bandwidth on ads for a game on a system I already own and paid full price for.

  17. @Hanke: The Abercrombie & Fitch kids do it all the time!

  18. iMike says:

    There’s an article about this in the most recent issue of Wired IIRC. Conclusion was that no one pays attention to the ads anyway.

  19. voodoodle says:

    if the game is going for realism, then there should be advertising – i see ads everywhere in real life.

    of course, the ads should play by the rules of the game – if there are destructive environments, let me destroy the ads

    should the games cost less? meh – maybe that money has made the game BETTER at the SAME price point…

  20. badlydrawnjeff says:

    I’m not bothered by ads, assuming they’re not out-of-character. If I’m playing Dead Rising, I want ads all over the place, because it’s a mall. Not so much if I’m playing Blue Dragon.

    I’m really not anti-ad. They don’t bug me in the least.

  21. Marce says:

    I’ll wait for someone to come up with a real-world version of Adblock (a Firefox extension) I can put on my glasses.

  22. supra606 says:

    On one hand, I agree with some posters who have said that the ads can enhance the realism. On the other, there’s something very unsettling to me about ads being shoved in my face no matter what I’m doing.

  23. Cowboys_fan says:

    I could care less as long as the game is not interrupted by an ad. I am one of those people who don’t pay for games until I download it free, try it and like it, so you can all hate me but I’m not paying $80 for a game I finish in a weekend, or don’t like at all. So I guess for those of us who do this, they want to make money off us somewhere, though I don’t pay much attention anyways.

  24. Kaien says:

    Ads vary greatly. Context is something that must hold true when it comes to ads. However, I hate internet ads via online games since they can impair your game by installing content to direct the right kind of ads to you. Sure, they claim the installation is just for ads, but it can get really ugly when you want to remove it along with the game and it can just linger there unused… it bcomse problematic.

    However, when it comes to games, many ads won’t be noticed unless you put it in a place they shouldn’t exist (medieval time-esque games, etc).

    I will miss the GTA themed products though if they start putting in real ads in the games. (Zip, blotos, glory hole themepark, etc.)

  25. theblackdog says:

    @Juice Box Hero I doubt it will lower the price of the game. I remember there was an article a few months ago that video game programmers say it’s becoming so expensive and complex to program new games for consoles like XBox360 and PS3 because of the processors and graphics engines that they have to hope a multi-console release will recoup all the money because they can’t just program to one console. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the real reason they want to put the ads in.

  26. create says:

    i am all for the ads… if it makes it so i play less for games, but i don’t see that happening

    no ads for games!

  27. clash42 says:

    It really depends on a few things. I feel that there should be some incentive for me to play a game with advertising. For instance, currently on gametap you can play several brand new games for free in their ad zone. or Planetside, where the game was otherwise free, and that if you wanted to be rid of the ads, you could pay the subscription fee.

  28. bglav says:

    Ads in games are fine, as long as you’re passing some of you ad revenue onto the consumers by making games cheaper.

  29. Anitra says:

    I don’t mind non-intrusive ads (billboards in a realistic game, the Dole logo on the Super Monkey Ball bananas). As Steel_Pelican says, in some games it serves to make it more realistic. The sports games my husband plays are a great example. The real-life baseball stadiums are plastered with ads, and the game makers have tried to come up with fake ads to mimic the real look without breaking copyright. It’s dumb. They should just solicit the advertising from the same companies.

    Now, if you start putting ads into the medieval-style fantasy games I play, I’d be upset. They don’t belong there.

  30. mac-phisto says:

    for awhile, i was playing rainbow six vegas for the 360 pretty regularly. they sent thru an update which, among other things, allowed the utilization of bandwidth for real-time ad placement. normally, i wouldn’t care b/c the ads were generally non-existent, but it bogged down online gameplay terribly. rooms that repeatedly hosted 12 players lagged horribly with more than 6 in the room. even dedicated server matches were running slow. disconnects skyrocketed – the last time i played (shortly after the update), i played 7 or 8 games & every one disconnected before it ended.

    when the allure of ad revenue begins to impact ppl’s ability to enjoy a game, that’s when it becomes a problem.

  31. MostNutsEver says:

    Yes to ads in sports games, driving games, or anywhere where it doesn’t make you immediately question what a corporate sponsor is doing in the game. If it enhances the realism, then I say good on the video game companies for making more money and making the game more realistic.

  32. @dbeahn: Thirded. If the ads bring down the price of the game, fine.

  33. Hawaiisumer says:

    I dont mind ad’s as long as I am not paying and still seeing them. If I am paying for a game and seeing ad’s I would be very unhappy.

  34. axiomatic says:

    Anything that pulls you out of the fantasy and out of the game back to the real world is bad. In fact, I actively avoid brands advertised in my games.

  35. SaraAB87 says:

    This doesn’t affect me too much since I do not yet own any of the “big 3″ consoles of this generation yet. I would be OK with ads if they were appropriate for the situation, you cannot have a Nascar game without ads because the ads are part of the cars. However I don’t agree with having to watch banner ads or anything like that before playing a game each time you start it up, especially when you are paying $50-60 plus tax for games. If companies are plastering games with unecessary ads it will only reinforce the need that I do not NEED to buy one of the big 3 consoles and that I am perfectly happy sticking with the games I already own.

  36. bbbici says:

    if the game is cheaper or free, OK. if i paid, no way.

  37. hoosier45678 says:

    @Hanke:
    I agree… and it kills me. My wife paid good money for a jersey from her hometown (Wolverhampton) soccer team. It has the team logo the size of a fist above the heart, but has a Doritos logo the size of a basketball dead center. I’d like to get an Arsenal strip, but there’s no way I’m walking around with a foot-high “Fly Emirates” on my chest. She’s English, so she’s used to it.

  38. JPropaganda says:

    DISCLAIMER – I WRITE INTERACTIVE ADVERTISING AND AS A RESULT SOMETIMES DEAL WITH VIDEO GAME ADVERTISING.

    Yes, video game advertising can be a monster – the GOOD kind! (JK, BofA mocking FTW).

    In my honest opinion (and this isn’t some boilerplate, this is probably just why i went into advertising) but inserting brands into a game or tv show or whatever can be extremely beneficial for the reality of the game. But they have to be authentic. Meaning dole bananas in super monkey ball? F’n hilarious (and BRILLIANT) and very much within the realm of the game. A Rainbow Six operation that involves saving the secret Coca Cola Recipe? Not appropriate.

    And games dedicated to advertising like the old sega 7-up spot game, or the BK Xbox games? Amazing.

  39. royal72 says:

    if this isn’t an invite to a useless bitch session that will not make any difference, than i don’t know what is.

  40. silenuswise says:

    @dbeahn: To add to the common refrain, good comment! I agree that this ad-placement trend is an irritating one that will clearly not result in savings to the consumer. I treat advertisements as any other business exchange: if I allow you to invade my personal space/consciousness/time, what am I getting in return? Free television programs? Possibly worth it. A deeply discounted video game? Ditto. Oh, wait, the price of the game will remain the same? Uh, no thanks.

    That is also exactly why I will never pay for cable television. How insane is it that millions of customers are paying for television and still being subjected to ads? Effectively they are paying twice for a single service. Ludicrous.

  41. rdldr1 says:

    I woudnt mind any in-game ads as long as that financial impact reaches the consumer – make the damn game cheaper!

  42. TechnoDestructo says:

    I’d rather have humorous fake ads, like on the radio in Grand Theft Auto.

  43. synergy says:

    I haven’t really played video games since 1993? 94?, so excuse my ignorance, but why would you want to be hooked up to the internet? If it’s for “multi-player” gaming, call me a misanthrope, but I don’t want people in my gamez shooting my zombieeeez.

    No to ads. I’m sick of seeing them everywhere.

  44. gtr225 says:

    I think if I pay $40-$70 for a game, there should be no advertisements in it.

  45. Buran says:

    I’d like to see ads that fit the game. City of Heroes already has fake ads (my favorite is the “Infront Steakhouse”) — if advertisers could make real-world-product ads that actually fit into the context of the game world (“real heroes drink Coke!” and such), it’d make it more realistic. Especially if the in-game ads had the same slightly-comic-book style that the existing fake in-game ads have.

    Especially if you could lower your monthly subscription fee by allowing the ads to be shown, or keep your existing subscription fee by sticking with only the fake ads.

  46. G1ZM0 says:

    GameTap just announced they will have Codemasters 2007 games for free via ad support, including DIRT, Overlord, and Turning Pointâ„¢: Fall of Liberty.
    [www.gametap.com]

    Quake Wars Enemy Territory will use ad support to pay for updates and expansions.
    [community.enemyterritory.com]

    I think it all comes down to how it’s implemented and where the proceeds go.

  47. BII says:

    @ReccaSquirrel:

    agreed, i’m shelling out $50+ dollars to be marketed to? forget that!

  48. nardo218 says:

    Meh. When Maxis pimps its stuff in The Sims, hackers just skin cooler stuff. However, I do refuse to dress my sims in any product-labled clothing, or put actual cans of Coke or something anywhere in my game. It’s intrusive on the fantasy world and annoying to make my sims an advertisement. Even when the company puts its own adverts in its games, it reeks of skeezyness and desperation.

  49. saikofish says:

    I remember back in the 90’s, when Sierra games advertised Sprint.

    Imagine what it would be like if every time Captain Picard tried to communicate with an alien species he saw a giant AT&T logo on the bridge’s viewscreen. Well, that’s Space Quest V and Sprint for you. A fantasy sci-fi parody universe where the real-world version of Sprint is alive and well.

  50. Moosehawk says:

    Depends.

    Example where it is allowed without intrusion: Racing game billboards. Or if it’s one of those games where you run around in a city and they have a KFC on the corner of a street or something.

    Exmaple where it’s annoying as hell: CS 1.6. There are ads scattered all over that game and it’s annoying as hell. When you die, there’s a big advertisement in your face. Battlefield 2 even. It’s a war game, you don’t need to see ads.

  51. miborovsky says:

    If, instead of paying for the game, I can see ads instead, I’d go for that.

  52. Erik_the_Awful says:

    If I’ve paid for the game, the ads had better be really really good. But the vast majority of the time, ads suck.

    So I’ll play my games, sniff my network connections, and make some new firewall rules to block some more gawddamned advertising.

    I wonder if anyone will figure out how to replace the vendor intended ads with graphcs from the users system (the internet is for p0rn!) Maybe we could go for a few ads after all.

    As other posters have said, if the ads bring down the price of the game in a meaningful way (IE its free or we get some kind of credit ect ect) then great. But watch what happens, the price of the games goes up, and then they shove a bunch of ads in your face.

    Kinda makes ya wanna pirate some games, huh?

  53. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Spider-pig, Spider-pig..does whatever a spider-pig does…Oh, and no, I’ve had enough of seeing ads everywhere, especially if it’s in something I’ve bought. I don’t want to pay good money for something only to find out I have to watch an annoying barrage of ads/previews/whatever. If it was free or ad-supported, that’s different..but otherwise forget it.

  54. randomizer9 says:

    I don’t mind brand placement being used in games as long as it makes sense. In Crazy Taxi, the fares might ask you to take them to KFC or Taco Bell or other real-life businesses. Okay, fine, that makes sense. As long as they appear where one would expect to see them (billboards, sports fields, ect) I’m fine with that.

    Most games branded with actual products usually aren’t very good, so that takes care of itself.

    But COMMERCIALS being put into games? That dog won’t hunt.

  55. night_sky says:

    I like Fight Night on PS3, but the sheer amount of shameless advertising bothers the hell outta me! I mean this is a $60 freaking dollar game we’re talking about here, not some discounted $14.99 game! It is freaking annoying to have to hear “This knockout brought to you by Burger King” every time I knock out someone (which is a lot). I can knock someone out 5 times in one fight and I’m playing career mode of for the second time now (add that up in your head and tell me if you wouldn’t be annoyed as hell after hearing that that many times disrupting your gameplay). They also have the BK guy as a trainer (WTF?), ads placed EVERYWHERE (boxing ring floor, light shows in audience, banners every which way), and did I mention some of the REQUIRED fights are sponsered fights where they have digital representations of a stupid Chevy car or some EA Sports crap?

    What has all this made me decide? I’m not buying the next game of Fight Night even though I love the game. The advertising is just BEYOND intrusive. It disrupts my gameplay, takes away from my enjoyment of the game, and it’s just flat out annoying. Fight Night Round 3 will be the last Fight Night I buy unless they get their act together. If other games do similar things to this game, I’m just not going to buy them, plain and simple. I don’t care how good the game is, especially if they think they can get away with selling it to me full price. A-holes.

  56. Something tells me that the ads won’t make the video games cheaper. So no, I don’t like the idea at all.

  57. n/a says:

    I think Ad’s are a eventual happening to video games and pc games, but personally i dont support them nor care to think what some company spews out during a ingame session to some lame product, i may be above the much “valued” age range demographic (just turned 32 today), but i know how much an annoyance inbased web ads become with ones that follow you when you scroll a screen or launch audio the minute you on accident scroll a tenth of a pixel of the banner etc, i just know they are an intrusion and just a lamer way of companies jumping on the bandwagon of video games and youth when they had their chance years and decades ago to do something, and i know for a fact that free games or free download stuff that are sponsered by an ad does not translate into better quality games or applications etc, because most companies have that mentality that if they do the project half or quarter assed for the free stuff that they dont “Really” have to give the customer squat for what they get, i could name tons of apps and games that really are trash bin material when they are ported to the free realm with those 30 minute uninterruptable non scroll the message ad for something i dont intend to buy or even remotely care about ever.

    dont mind my rant about this from a old man but ive played video games since atari 2600 and ive seen alot in my years haha, but i guess its the truth that even when you get to the next generation of gaming that will be online for even the single player, that to sadly expect that advertisement for wal-mart, lets just hope to any god out there that they dont by accident advertise those nazi t-shirts that they were “supposed” to ban.

  58. Wubbytoes says:

    In a sports game, ads are okay. Any other game, probably not. If companies are going to be making a lot of money off of thee ads though, I don’t want to keep paying $60 for a new 360 or PS3 game.

  59. ZonzoMaster says:

    Heh, all this talking reminds me of a rumor i heard about the Duff beer (i know, it’s from the Simpsons cartoon, but it’s fictional, and it has fictional advertising). Well apparently, Mr. Groening didn’t copyright the beer, so someone in Jalisco (México), actually made the real life version of the Duff, freaking genius, it’s still selling or so i heard, the guy is gonna get rich with the freaking free advertising of the simpsons MOVIE.

    Ok confirmed, just google for it, it will appear on spanish tho.

  60. KillingGranny says:

    @SurrenderMonkey: Agreed. =)

  61. You hate your job but you're still working there? says:

    What about Sneak King and Pocket Bike Racer?