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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Welcome to the Future! Enjoy the Commercials!

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I was browsing the forums Monday night (always a dangerous occupation) and I ran across this thread. It shows a screenshot of Planetside with, get this, an in-game billboard for the movie Deuce Bigalow, Euoropean Gigolo. Now, as much as I have ranted against SOE for trying to find revenue stream after revenue stream rather than focusing on gameplay, I have to admit I thought this thread was a clever joke. I figured it had to be fake.

But, I did a little research and found this thread on the Planetside forums with a SOE dev stating that the revenue from the in-game ads will be used to "help the entire Planetside community."

And if you don't believe that link, here's a link to a Massive Incorporated press release, proudly proclaiming their unholy allegiance with SOE.

I shouldn't have been shocked, but I was. After all, Planetside is not a free game, it has subscribers.

And sure, they make the argument that these heinous billboards will help them pay for more gameplay features. But that's a slippery slope. Once you let this type of advertising in the door, it just becomes a fact of life. It saddens me that SOE would choose to embark on this route. And if I was playing Planetside, my number one most requested gameplay feature would be to not see a picture of Rob Schneider. Ever. There's some real immersion for you. Wow, I am in an alien world, but they still have really bad movies here!

So can we expect this to come to EQ2? Well, let's be honest, in my estimation, EQ2 has not been a knockout for SOE economically. Based on the subscription numbers, I'm thinking the profits are not that great. So don't think it is out of the question until I hear a definitive statement from SOE otherwise.

I shudder in fear of the day I log on to EQII and see Jet Blue ads on the Griffon towers and Ace Hardware billboards in the Tradeskill area. "Thank you for casting Ice Comet - sponsored by Dairy Queen!"

Update: Between the time I first wrote this and posted it, Blackguard stated on the official forums: "There are no current plans to add in-game advertisements to any of our titles other than PlanetSide. That includes EverQuest II, of course."

I'm sorry, but that doesn't mean much. It's not Blackguard's fault, obviously, but saying "no current plans" is vague enough to leave the door open for anything down the road.

Even putting aside my personal dislike for in-game advertising, I wonder if the revenues these ads pull in will be enough to make up for the damage to SOE's already tarnished brand image.

12 Comments:

Anonymous flashman said...

Shameless. /pizza, Quest for Antonia, Station Exchange, Duece Bigalow ads...

SoE does not make games anymore, they realize revenue streams from their exsisting IP to maximize profit share.

In other news, WoW has 3.5 million subscribers. Amazingly enough, done the "old fashioned" way by making a game that people like to play

12:20 AM  
Anonymous Ynoga said...

Anarchy Online also has this and made this http://www.anarchyonline.com/content/news/articles/8606L statement about it recently.

It is not too bad in a space game them I think (ok Deuce is way over the line). Don't think we have too worry too much about these things coming to fantasy themed games. Would just be too out of place I think. Sims online however would be a perfect platform for this kind of MMAdvertising.

12:41 AM  
Anonymous Ethic said...

I really don't care about in-gmae advertising as long as it falls into the following rules:

1. Ads make sense in the setting. A current movie ad does not make sense in most any game.

2. Reduced subscription fees with option to pay full fee for no ads.

9:44 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

This is no great surprise. Planetside has always been treated like SOE's red-headed stepchild. The thing about Planetside is that it has so few subscribers, and those that it does have are proven to continue making monthly payments regardless of how SOE treats them so they're pretty fertile ground for something like this.

This also isn't completely unforeseen. When an Intel logo was added to every splash screen, one of the regulars posted a well done Paintshop picture showing a tower in game with "Intel Inside" pasted on one of the outside walls. Of course, this was about 3 years ago. The surprise is that it took them this long.

Also, I wouldn't be surprised if SOE is just gauging reaction to this before allowing it to spread to other games. Planetside is fertile ground for that kind of thing, low numbers of hardcore subscribers.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Twodragons said...

Billboards in EQ2 would be the death-blow for the struggling game.

Instead of declining into more mire, SOE should attempt to stave off such things.

Oh, wait, they're SOE...what was I thinking.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Mr.X said...

What could they possibly advertise that would make any sense in a fantasy setting ? Not something to worry about.

Now having to sit through commercials DURING login, like the intel and nvidia screens, is a real worry. Imagine if you couldn't click past those things!

12:18 PM  
Blogger Anskiere said...

http://www.gucomics.com/archives/view.php?cdate=20050810

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Rand 'al Thor said...

Yeah this has been in Anarchy Online for a little while now. However if you are a paying customer you have the option to turn the ads off and the space that would have had a real world ad is taken up by an ad for an in game product of some sort (weapons/armor and the like). If you are on the 1 year fr00b accounts however you are stuck with ads since they have to make money off you somehow (you didn't buy the game and you aren't paying a monthly fee...so I see nothing wrong with the ads always being on in that case).

Planteside however seems to be without the option to turn off the ads if you are a paying customer...which totally blows. Maybe SOE should think about doing to Planetside what Funcom did with AO and offer the base game free for an extended period of time and get ad revenue off the fr00bs.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Tovin said...

One should remember that there were no plans for offline selling, or for PvP!

As you said, it's a slippery slope!

1:34 AM  
Anonymous Gnume Awldewe said...

Personally, as long as it doesn't detract from the game, I don't see a problem with it. I am continually amazed at the people who are always upset over the fact that someone is trying to make a profit! I mean duh. That is what it is about. As long as it isn't done at the expense of the consumer or in a illegal way, why is it so bad?

If game companies never made a profit,what do you think the game scene would look like? Why begrudge a company for making money? It leads to newer development of new games (aka, new ways to keep the money coming in). I could rant on about this in regards to software priacy and movie priacy too :p

It just seems so odd. People are ok about doing things to make themselves money or a profit but woe to someone else who is also trying to make a profit :P

1:50 PM  
Blogger Aggro Me said...

I agree, Gnume, that game companies are a business like any other.

However, I would argue that some of the ploys SOE has introduced like "/pizza" may actually cost them more potential customers than the advertising brings in. Brand and customer loyalty strike me as very important factors in MMO subscription numbers.

And also, just because there is advertising now in games, before movies, on dvd's, etc. doesn't mean I have to like it.

I mean, pop-up ads on webpages probably increase profits but I can still say they are annoying.

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well yeah, that is what I meant by as long as it doesn't detract from the game. For example, I personally think City of Heroes is a prime example of a place they could sell real advertising in a game environement. There are billboards and other cityscape type advertisements already all over the place in the game. I think it would actually ADD to the immersion factor of the game to see a "Got Milk" ad on one of those billboards for example. ;)

9:56 AM  

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