By: Steven Granieri
The amount of time people spend playing video games has grown exponentially over the years, subsequently resulting in new monetary opportunities for the Advertising Industry.
According to research from the Pew Internet Project, 53% of adults are playing video games through some medium, whether it may be a gaming console, a computer, or a handheld device.
Noticeably, 81% of those between the age of 18-29 report playing video games.
When sized up against those watching television, keep in mind the myriad of mediums in which you can play games. This gives advertisers options on what platforms they want to focus their ads.
Advertisers are spending millions of dollars each year to have their branding in games, but this new way of reaching out to the younger demographic hasn’t come without its share of ethical controversy. There are those that argue that In-Game Advertisement (IGA) compromises the integrity of the gaming experience, and on the opposite spectrum there are those that defend IGA for its ability to help fund the production of the game, thus resulting in a lower cost of the product itself. In the end, the matter becomes subjective, varying from individual to individual based off of their tolerance for these ads.
Regardless, numbers don’t lie. The amount of money spent on IGA is growing at a staggering rate.
eMarketer has forecasted IGA to grow from roughly $400 million in 2008 to close to $700 in 2013. This is excluding advertising in mobile games.
So if IGA is causing such a controversy within the gaming community, why are companies pouring more and more money into this method of advertisement?
The answer is simple: Because it works.
While Console and PC-based advertisements have seen a marginal gain over the years, Web-based ads are projected to almost double by 2013. This correlates with the fact that there are a plethora of Web-based games that are available to play for free due to IGA. Nothing else puts morals and ethics to bed quicker than the word free. Gamers are willing to endure exposure to IGA as long as they don’t have to pay to play, and really, can you blame them?
Through video games, advertisers have a gateway to reach out to the increasingly elusive youth, but are there standards for what is appropriate IGA? Allow me to draw the lines.
Advertisements that naturally fit into the gaming world without breaking the lore. For instance: the advertisements that appear in a sports game that are spread out across the perimeter of the stadium. These banners and ads often reflect the ones used in real life and even go as far as adding to the authenticity of the game.
Or even a couple soda machines spread out across an open world, sandbox game. Once again, not taking away from the immersive experience that the game offers, and even adding a layer of realism.
Advertisements that fail to mesh with the universe of the game or even flat out contradict the universe of the game.
A giant billboard about a sub-par movie is hardly relevant to the experience of a first person shooter. Tasteless ads such as these take away from the potential that IGA has to seamlessly integrate itself into games, and inevitable save the consumer money.
Free-to-play games online have done a lot for the reputation of IGA. They have showcased the endearing potential ads have to bring you free gaming experiences, and because of this, IGA has become a less sensitive subject for the time being.
“But, let me be clear…”
I live in a generation where the current president of the United States used video game advertisement to help boost his presidential campaign. That speaks volumes over the power of this market. Now, every time I pop in a copy of Burnout: Paradise, I remember those who desire change, and those who oppose it.