The advertising arms race

Google wants to get into the in-game advertising space. And while Don Reisinger understands the business side of the deal, he's worried that business will overtake enjoyment.

In a statement released to reporters yesterday, Google explained that the company is currently "in tests to determine the best approach to in-game advertising." According to the search giant, it believes video games have become the "perfect medium to deliver relevant, targeted advertising that ultimately benefits the user, the video game publisher and the advertiser."

Does Google honestly believe this garbage? After it bought AdScape for $23 million earlier this year, I think most of us knew this day was coming, but why? This relatively new medium of in-game advertising, when done poorly, ruins any good game.

EA is one of the worst developers when it comes to in-game advertising. How many times have you sat through a Need for Speed or even a Madden game, only to notice that advertisements that don't even exist in real life, are everywhere? Am I the only person who finds this to be utterly annoying?

And to make matters worse, this is just the beginning.

If Google enters the in-game advertising space, Microsoft, a company that already owns an in-game Ad firm called Massive, will double its efforts to match Google and within a few short months, we will be inundated with advertisements in each and every game we play.

Can you imagine running around in Halo only to find a Coca-Cola ad while the Covenant is attacking? How about a Google ad during the final boss battle in Metal Gear Solid 4? Would you like that?

Gaming has become the next logical front for advertisers. While the battle still wages online, Google has found a way to extend its advertising opportunity to the world of video games. And while I can understand its reasoning for doing so, I simply don't believe it has any place in video games.

I realize the video game industry is increasingly becoming a business instead of an entertainment platform, but must it happen so quickly? Can't we hold off on advertising and go back to the days where gaming was really gaming?

Advertising will ruin video games if it becomes too overbearing. And unfortunately, I honestly believe that if Google gets into the game, Microsoft must respond to combat Google. And once that happens, an arms race like nothing we have seen will start to build up until every game has some form of advertising in it.

And while it's possible that it won't be overbearing and we'll still be able to work our way through a game without even noticing an advertisement, I seriously doubt it.

We're living in the advertising age and unfortunately, there is no stopping it.

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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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