The Shame of EA Games, IGN Worldwide, and BF2142

http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=11300
The levee has been breached. In-game advertising is now a reality, thanks to EA Games and advertising firms like IGA Worldwide.

My primary concerns are outlined as follows:

1) Quailty. This can get out of hand quickly and the next thing we know the primary focus of games will be advertising content delivery and not game content delivery. Creative effort will be focused on advertising content and how it can be delivered, not on the creative content of the game itself.

2) Performance. The mechanics of the game will suffer, there’s no way to argue against that. Then, god forbid they move off of static images and want to have an animated gif or even worse than that a full blown audio or video clip. Think of how bad your game will lag while you’re in a urban firefight and the ambient background sounds change to a coke commercial as you run past a building that has a radio in it. Those exist now in BF2 – like when you’re at the market fountain in jalalabad you can hear music in the background. They could easily stream that background music to be a commercial for something instead of the canned background ambient music with this new IGN engine. Of course, I’m sure nVidia, ATI, Intel, and AMD are, I’m sure, all in favor of this, as they’re all in favor of the performance envelope being pushed out because they’ll sell more upgrades to us if the minimum or recommended system requirements go through the roof. I’m not buying a new vid card or another 2G of memory so that my rig can support advertising in the games I play. I buy upgrades so the primary content will look and play better.

3) Gameplay. Can you imagine how distracting this has the possibility of becoming? The beauty of first person shooter games lies in reaction. You’re tense, on edge, and totally lit up from a audio visual sensory perspective. Our reaction to a noise, a visual cue, etc. produces the adrenaline response, which makes a good game great. Inject into that experience the traditional advertising tactic of grabbing your attention. Next thing you know, your K:D is 0:1 because your attention was diverted while you stopped to read a one-liner on a billboard.

4) Ethics. Since you’re focused 100% on something else, this technically falls into the realm of subliminal advertising, which in the past has been frowned upon. Hopefully they screw up the placement so bad that this becomes a viable weapon against this trend.
5) Economics. IGA says that this is justified because the cost of producing a quailty title is so astronomically expensive, that in-game advertising is necessary in order to cover costs. That’s just crap. The reason the costs are so high is because EA is a massive company, and the $50 you pay for the game has to be spread out to cover more and more costs inherent in a behemoth organization like EA. The problem is EA’s cost structure, not the cost of production. In effect, we’re subsidizing this inefficient corporate organization by playing games that give them this additional revenue stream, instead of them running a streamlined, focused company based on traditional revenues.

I just can’t see how anyone can look at this situation – who’s on our end as a consumer of game content – and think this doesn’t set an absolutely horrible precedent for the industry.

The only way I wouldn’t have a problem with it in BF2 is they don’t mix gameplay with ad placement. for example, if they put the advertising content in the sky shot while you’re dead and laying on your back looking at the “You have been critically wounded” screen, that might be ok. nothing else is going on then other than you laying around waiting to be revived. “This moment of contemplation was brought to you by Bawls”. You know, I can’t even joke around about this…
It makes me both sad and sick that the industry is evolving in this direction. It honestly does. I can only hope that the consumer backlash from this will be so strong that it’ll be a couple of years before anyone else tries this again. But you know, even if 2142 were to only sell eighteen copies, they’ll definitely try again down the road.