In-game advertising will ruin the video game industry

Don Reisinger thinks in-game advertising will ruin the video game industry and wonders why Sony is leading the charge even though its CEO has said he doesn't approve of it.

As the cost of developing video games rises, developers are forced to find new ways to increase revenue. And although sales are still a major piece of that pie, advertising is quickly becoming the key to the future. But unfortunately, I just don't see how any of us would benefit.

According to Sony, it will introduce dynamic in-game advertising to its titles in an attempt "to bolster the already rapidly growing worldwide in-game advertising industry, which is expected to grow 1,150 percent to $971.3 million between 2006 and 2011 according to the Yankee Group."

No word was given regarding what titles would be included in that deal, but anyone with half a brain knows that just about every single title you want to play in the foreseeable future will feature some form of dynamic in-game advertising. And to make matters worse, some people in the industry thinks it's a good move.

"The PS3 platform is primed to leverage the high growth potential of the in-game advertising market," said Phil Rosenberg, Senior Vice President, SCEA. "Ads that are organic to the environment not only benefit developers and advertisers, but also create a richer experience for gamers."

As much as I disagree with Rosenberg and his company, I'm wondering why it's changing its tune so soon after its own CEO said that in-game advertising isn't good for the industry.

At the World Economic Forum, Sony Group CEO Howard Stringer said he doesn't think in-game advertising will really solve monetary gaming issues and although some want us to believe that it might work, there's currently no indication that anything coming down the pike in the next few years will actually prove that notion.

"The [supposed] solution to everything at the moment in the digital space is ad-supported," Stringer said in an interview with the Financial Times. "While advertisers are happy to talk that up, there is a limit to the amount of money available."

And although he believed that business models were changing in favor of in-game advertising, Stringer (correctly) told the reporter that "young people don't like advertising very much."

So why the change of heart? If just five months ago, in-game advertising was wrong for all parties involved and the company's chief believed it wasn't all it's cracked up to be, why has Sony suddenly decided to do the exact opposite of what it claimed?

Surely the answer is cash, but Stringer's opposition went far beyond the notion of money. Stringer seemed convinced that in-game advertising wouldn't behoove his company and made it quite clear that he thought it was a bad move for any company to make.

Of course, I agree with Stringer. In-game advertising not only ruins the experience of playing games, but it makes for a title that "sells out."

Think about it -- how many times have you played through Guitar Hero III and the entire Tony Hawk franchise wondering where the developers went wrong? Was it really necessary to drop the name of another product? Did we really need that extra banner behind the artist's head?

Of course the answer is no, but we're still being annoyed with in-game advertising for no real reason. Sony wants us to believe that we will benefit from it because it'll not only provide us with knowledge on a slew of new products, it'll increase developer revenue, helping create better games.

Although its justification may sound rational at first, what if it's wrong? What if people say they don't want to play games with too much advertising and show that by not buying those titles at the store? What if the vast majority of people see through the advertising rhetoric and view it as it really is: a ploy to line the pockets of execs? What if it all backfires and the video game industry is shaken by the ridiculous use of advertising?

Sure, these may be "what if's", but I've yet to find people who actually like in-game advertising and know too many folks who are wary of what it could mean to beauty and value of in-game environments. Suffice it to say that in-game advertising may work for the developers, but there's currently no indication that it'll work for us.

And yet, advertising in video games is quickly becoming the next frontier in the industry and not even the gamers can stop the onslaught. But if it continues down this path and we do become inundated with advertising that detracts from the experience of playing a game, the effect could have major ramifications for all of us. And I, for one, don't want to see that happen.

For more on what Don is up to, follow him on Twitter by clicking here!

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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