Advertising in Games; Good?
Tom Chick on The Firing Line
...and now for a game from our sponsors.
Everyone says they hate advertising, but what they mean is that they hate advertising done wrong. You hate those friggin' twenty minutes of commercials before a movie, especially the one where the guy lassos the car. You even hate the clever Nike and Sprint commercials because they're before a movie. On TV, where you can always TiVo them away, they'd be fine. You might even appreciate them for being clever. But you hate them for being in front of a movie.
However, you don't mind trailers. Everyone loves trailers. Yet they're advertising just like those commercials. Put them up as an interstitial before you can move on to the next page of this column and you'd hate them again. But before a movie, they're fine.
So I'm not ready to say I hate advertising in games. I don't. In fact, in many games, I kind of dig it. I remember being pleasantly surprised back in 1996 to see Mountain Dew and Butterfinger billboards in Jet Moto, a sci-fi racing game for the Playstation. That same year there were Red Bull logos featured in Wipeout (this was before Red Bull was hip enough for people to notice).
Sometimes, I even miss advertising in a game. In Midnight Club II, I'd rather drive a Dodge Viper than that Jersey XS, which we all know is supposed to be a Dodge Viper. In Flight Simulator Version Whatever Whatever, I wouldn't mind real world Wal-Marts, Safeways, and Burger Kings in the high detail areas. I might never actually see my own house in a Flight Simulator game, but maybe one day I can see the Best Buy I bought it from. And in Half-Life, how I wish there were actual Coca Cola machines in the Black Mesa Research Facility (based on the phenomenal success of Half-Life, I wouldn't be surprised if the Coca Cola Company felt the same way).
Then there are borderline cases. In The Sims Online, there are McDonalds burger stands. In principle, fine. In terms of actual execution, weak. Basically, they put a McDonald's logo on a buffet table. If you're going to get McDonalds in The Sims, take advantage of it. Make it a career path. Let my Sim start as a burger flipper and work his way up through manager to VP of marketing and all the way to Ray Crock's job, or whoever runs McDonald's these days. In fact, when my Sim goes shopping, get some Ikea furniture in there. Let me buy some Amana appliances for my kitchen, maybe a Krups coffeemaker. How about my choice of a Sony, Panasonic, or Sanyo TV? Whore it up, EA! The Sims is all about consumerism. What better place for advertising?