In-game advertising has always sat uneasily with gamers and developers alike. Some point out that the increased revenue generated from such sales allows developers more freedom in the content they're able to put out. It would allow them to take greater risks. Some have said in-game advertising takes the gamer out of the experience, thus negating any better game content. Estimates on the revenue generated from these sales vary wildly. In 2005, spending on in-game advertising was $56 million, and this figure is estimated to grow to $1.0 billion by 2014 according to Massive Incorporated (which was reduced from their 2006 estimate of $1.8 billion by 2010 according to Massive Incorporated, although Yankee Group gives a lower estimate at $732 million.
Speaking to Edge, EA’s general manager of free-to-play titles, Ben Cousins had this to say about their own in-game advertising:
“We actually aren’t getting much from [in - game] ad revenue at all. The in-game advertising business hasn’t grown as fast as people expected it to. If you think about how fast the virtual goods business has grown in the last year or so, it’s been much quicker and become a much more reliable source of revenue. We hedged our bets. We thought we’d do in-game advertising and virtual goods sales, and one of those took off really fast and the other hasn’t really taken off at all."
March of this year saw EA moving their in-game advertising completely in-house. Cousins has recently changed his mind.
“I think it’s more about specific deals where you can tie the content in,” he said. “We did a deal with Dr Pepper for Battlefield Heroes, where if you buy a bottle and scan in the code you get an exclusive outfit. That kind of deep integration will work, I think, but I’m not convinced that we’ll have billboards in games and things like that. Maybe those days are over."
I'd expect a lot more 'freemium' content from EA in the months ahead. "Freemium" content is when the user get content for 'free' like in the previous example with the Dr. Pepper label. But, as mentioned, the user has to buy a Dr. Pepper first.
What do you guys think? Has an in-game ad ever inspired you to buy something? What if you were able to get additional costumes or color swatches for buying a Happy Meal? Would that persuade you?