Massive ad network partners with Spark

[UPDATE] Tail wags dog in deal that will see developer commit to being part of an ad-serving network, sans publisher.

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After burning its bridges with former publishing partner Activision, Call of Duty: Finest Hour developer Spark Unlimited is taking a page out of the publisher's book and embracing in-game advertising...on its own terms.

Today the developer announced it has cut a deal with in-game ad network Massive Incorporated.

In what the two parties are calling "a long-term, strategic partnership," Spark will deliver "several to-be-disclosed AAA titles" to the Massive network. The Massive network is an opt-in technology that allows ads to be streamed to PC games that are played online.

The Massive SDK is added to the game's code before release. Massive then manages the sale of in-game ad space to marketers of the ad imagery code and to billing. Ordinarily, revenues are split with the game's publisher. Today's announcement is noteworthy for the fact that the deal is between a developer and Massive, not a publisher and Massive.

Whether it foreshadows a distribution model that excludes the publisher, or one that makes Massive the de facto publisher, wasn't specified. However, with no mention of a publisher in the value chain, the implication is that there will be none.

[UPDATE] Spark Unlimited CEO Craig Allen addressed this point, saying this didn't necessarily mean that the company was trying to circumvent the traditional publishing model (there are allowances in the deal with Massive that would allow any potential publisher of Spark's games to receive a cut of the ad revenue), just that the developer is better suited to decide what will and won't sell to its target audience.

"We as Spark developing games know the gamer we're targeting that we want to provide content for," Allen told GameSpot. "Working collaboratively with Massive, we can better tailor the experience to bring in associated products, services, and like-minded partners in a way that can help the revenue model, help the business plan, and add value to the core audience."

Allen said there were artistic reasons for making the deal as well.

"From a content-creator standpoint, the more that you can try to control and shape and define the user experience, the more comfortable you're going to feel that you can reach your audience and connect with them and fulfill their expectations."

It remains to be seen how comfortable publishers will be with a developer that has that amount of control over products advertised in the game. Allen notes that in any case, the deal would open up a dialog between publisher and developer about such issues, and could even allow for deeper integration of advertising into gameplay.

Longano lent his own spin on the unconventional news. "What this also brings to the forefront is for other development teams, you don't have to be an enormous developer with limitless access to cash to develop titles," he said. "We want to be in a position to help the smaller development teams exercise their creativity."

The potential for Massive to act in ways traditional publishers do remains unclear. Longano did not disclose whether or not such deals with Massive provide funding up front for these smaller developers, or if they would only be paid after a product had shipped and Massive had begun serving ads. [END UPDATE]

The companies made no mention of games that may fall under the scope of the agreement.

Massive boasts of relationships with a number of high-profile brands, including Coca-Cola, Comcast's G4 network, GameFly, Honda, the US Navy, NBC, Nokia, Panasonic, Paramount Pictures, Sci-Fi Channel, The WB Television Network, T-Mobile, Universal Music Group, Verizon DSL, Warner Bros., and XFM Radio.

Spark made headlines in August when it brought a lawsuit against Activision, accusing the publisher of fraud, breach of contract, and stealing both employees and sequel ideas. That complaint is still pending.

Discussion

18 comments
AcolyteV1
AcolyteV1

If the ad fits in with the game, I have no real problem with it. However, as Timstuff said, we're arleady paying absorbadant prices for these games, $60 for a 360 game now; if they're going to start putting ads in, too, I think the gamers should see benefits in cut prices, too.

ardavies1
ardavies1

As others have said, MAKE IT FIT! I want to see something like this in games like PGR4, myself. They could place the ads on real-life billboards, and on the sides of London buses.

LordOfMidnight
LordOfMidnight

I have no problem with in-game ads. These products cost crazy amounts of money to make and they need more revenue. The only time I DO have problems with it are MMORPG's. You have to buy the original product PLUS pay a fee every month for the "fun" of playing it. That's where I draw the line.

Timstuff
Timstuff

Oh yeah, and I can't wait to see how they manage to fit a massive Mountain Dew billboard into Call of Duty 3. [/sarcasm]

Timstuff
Timstuff

We are already paying $50 for games, and now publishers expect us to pay $60 PLUS crappy commercials. This is outrageous. It's like if they started charging $35 for DVDs and making you watch commercials during them. The greed of mainstream publishers (and apparently now, developers too) is all the more reason that I hope we see alot more unique "independent" titles next gen, free of the conglomerance of commercialism.

winnazdaluza
winnazdaluza

yea it would be kinda of funny having something like a coke or pepsi loading screen in your games.-would ruin the atmosphere.

Poltergeist13
Poltergeist13

I got no problem with in game ads as long as its the developers who use them. Not the publishing giants such as EA or Activision, they already have a treasure chest of money. The developers will be able to put the money off of advertising into their games. Leading to better games I believe. Now I don't wanna see no Best Buy logo in a Call of Duty game or Star Wars game. That just wouldn't make sense. Here you are storming the beach of Normandy and some dude it holding a Best Buy bag while shooting at Nazis. Or playing a Star Wars game maybe the next KOTOR and you come across a Pepsi machine. That would be uncalled for. Now maybe in a open city game that is present day.

macmaster1
macmaster1

This gonna be akward. Imagine that your playing, then the game pauses for commercials. I hope it does not become that extreme, a little in-game billboard advertisement might blend in. But then again it has to be in context, you don't want to be playing a Midevel game, something like Lord of the Rings and see a cell phone ad in the middle of the battle.

vaejas
vaejas

Very snappy article summary! :thumbsup: XD

YukoAsho
YukoAsho

Depends on the RPG. If it's a sci-fi or modern RPG (Something like Shin Megami Tensei) a Nike billboard wouldn't be out of place. Personally, I don't see the problem. If ads keep smaller studios like Spark alive, I'm all for them. As long as they're not of the "Cingular man on screen at all times" type ads, anyway (I'm looking at you, EA).

umbrae
umbrae

It better fit the game. I will be pissed to see a nike commerical in my RPG...

tbonetrav18
tbonetrav18

If in game ads are used correctly(fits into the environment), I am for it, but when they are out of place, it wrecks the game

_sean_05
_sean_05

in game ads are lame. lame enough it would make me avoid buying a title. if theyre gonna keep making money off of ou even after we buy the game, screw them. get a bootleg copy. if nobody buys them theyll stop shoving ads down our throats.

LanceSummerhous
LanceSummerhous

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Donkeljohn
Donkeljohn

This might make the advertising fit in better. . . or look more natural within the environment.