Study suggests in-game ads a win-win proposition

Activision and Nielsen find that relevant product placement increases brand awareness and makes gameplay more enjoyable for most gamers.

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In-game advertising has come a long way since Pizza Hut hit gamers over the head with falling billboards in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game for the NES, but it's never been clear exactly what impact such product placement has on gamers. A new study from game publisher Activision and media research group Nielsen Entertainment suggests that not only do in-game ads work, but ads tied in to the gameplay (as in the Ninja Turtles example) work especially well.

The study is the fourth part of an ongoing attempt by Activision and Nielsen to quantify the effect of in-game advertising with a standardized set of tools. The big finding the pair are reporting this time out is that just having a product in a game is good, but having a branded product tied in to the gameplay somehow (as in the Puma sneaker hunt in Activision's True Crime: New York City) is better. More pervasive advertising like this, the study suggests, improves brand awareness and can actually improve a gamer's perception of that brand.

The study also found that integrated advertising often improved the gameplay experience for players. Activision and Nielsen surveyed 1,350 male gamers ages 13-44, having them play MTX Motortrax, Tony Hawk's Underground 2, Need For Speed Underground 2, and NHL 2K6, some with ads enabled, and some stripped of advertising entirely. Activision and Nielsen report that "many" of the study's participants said that advertising enhanced their enjoyment of the games, and that gamers remain generally receptive to the practice.

The principal goal of the Activision-Nielsen partnership is "to demonstrate the ability of video games to build and enhance brand awareness, association, and appeal by conducting an in-depth evaluation of various levels of advertising integration within games." Previous reports from the pair have found that video games are eroding TV viewership in the 13-to-34-year-old male demographic and that in-game ads improve brand awareness, recall, and interest.

Discussion

68 comments
ANU81SS
ANU81SS

Well in-game advertising as in having licensed cars and parts or real football equip can make those games much better. Although i dont want to see Mario wearing quicksilver overalls and nike shox that wouold take away from the experience.

Sandro909
Sandro909

They obviously have no brains if they think that ads make games more enjoyable. However, I do think that ads make the game more immersive because they are ads from the real world. That's about the only positive thing about in-game ads.

TomBZ
TomBZ

Advertising does improved the game play experience but for me it just makes it more realistic. Like soda machines being fake generic ones it would be nice and more realistic to have coke machines.

Bogarona
Bogarona

The beginning of the end, mark my words: in ten years games looks just like TV. Ads with the installation, ads in the gamemenu, quests to hunt all sorts of products. Gamers like advertisement for better game enjoyment? ha, that is a good one, if I i'm gaming I don't want to be rembered to the real world, I see advertisements all day, I thought there was one save haven left, I thought wrong, Thank you EA and Activision (sarcasm). Long live the independent developers!!

Alvi_Rizwan
Alvi_Rizwan

Don't like the idea of advertising in games....somehow the game loses its value...the whole thing is an ad?...planned out by some marketing people? ...but do like the mock-up ads that kind of refer to a brand... sometimes unexpected...hilarious ( san andreas,maxpyne,)

dwmorrow
dwmorrow

I think it works in certain situations. It's cool in sports or racing games or even modern FPS's to see real-life brands in the form of billboards, advertisements playing on TV's, or whatever. As long as it isn't pushy and in your face and is used appropriately in the appropriate genres, I don't have a problem with in-game advertising. Doubtful any cost benefits would get passed on to consumers though. On the flip side, with the cost of game development rising, anything that can help game companies stay afloat is a good thing for everyone involved.

citizenskaboy
citizenskaboy

Advertising could be fantastic to the future of games. For startes if advertising is going to be used we must see a reflection in the price of the game/monthly subscription. The production cost of games today is becoming ridiculous and advertising could a be a great way to offset this. I could also see advertisement helping a game. When you take games like Grand Theft Auto, True Crime, Gran Turismo, The Matrix, any of these games set in the real world having real advertisement could help make the gameworld a bit more believable. If your running around in Miami I think it would be a bit neater to see advertisements and fliers for stuff I'm familiar with rather then make believe advertisements. Same thing with football games. You could have the commercials that everyone looks forward to seeing during super bowl halftime. Football games always have sponsors at them. My final spiel is hopefully advertising could offset the monthly subscription in MMORPG's. However, seeing pepsi in everquest 2 would be ridiculous.

Gamefanatic11
Gamefanatic11

In game adds don't bother me all that much, but it does make it difficult to truly be into a game, when it's directly connected to the things your bombarded with everyday in life. E.g. Adidas, Coke, etc.

Thanos_of_MW
Thanos_of_MW

I am completely against in-game advertising. First of all, I am paying for the full price of the game, so advertisement doesn't make it any cheaper. Ads detract from the fantasy setting of the games. While it may be OK to show ads in some sports games (if they are shooting for realism), I rather have funny game "ads" that are not based on reality. When I play a game, I am getting away from reality. I don't want to see the worst reality has to offer plastered all over the place (advertisement). I agree with everyone who has already said these things, as it shows there are still people who don't want to be "brainwashed" by ads. Why do they have to advertise in games? Because people are watching less TV? Give me a break! I refuse to buy any game that shows advertisement, even if it is heavily discounted in price. Personally, I don't watch any TV ads at all. Thank God for the skip button in my DVR. I don't watch any ads when I'm online either. Thank God for pop-up blocking and ad removers. If games don't have a way to block ads then I guess my long-time hobby will come to an end. Sad indeed.

Ontain
Ontain

my first thought is that they are totally biased in their study. both activision and nielsen open up new channels for profit if ingame ads take hold and get accepted widely by gamers. And in the examples is pretty clear. they target the companies by saying that you can better brand but does a gamer really want to collect puma sneakers like they were coins in Super Mario. please give me better game play and less blatent ads than that. oh, the games they used that gamers enjoy product placement are ones that are in real world settings where you would see a lot of ads. I don't see issues with that either but when you get scifi/fantasy games where i'm fighting to save the world, i don't want to have to drink Starbucks Coffee, eat KFC, and wield weapons by Black&Decker. also take into consideration that once this becomes mainstream, publishers are going to expect this revenue as much as they want the gamers'. They might even make changes to the game to make an advertiser happy (like tv often does).

NeoJedi
NeoJedi

Ads don't really bother me at all, I hardly notice them... so if it makes games cheaper, then I'm all for it.

killjoi
killjoi

*Luke Skywalker voice* "NOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooo" *leaps into Bespin core*

djnutty
djnutty

tv ads are, for the most part, so annoying that i mute them. at least then i have the option. ads in video games? if this is the future, then perhaps the publishers could show that they are not completely selling out by letting the consumer decide on the level of advertising presented as an option, along the lines of say choosing how many bodies are shown or level of blood, fog, detail, etc. i suspect that there are a lot of gamers that don't want a game that shoves ads down their throats without also enabling any options.

YukoAsho
YukoAsho

I agree that in-game advertisements have been handled well. With the exception of NSF:U2, none of them are overbearing or blatent, and they're often relevant and help the suspension of disbelief. For the most part, the industry got over basing games on products after disasters like Yo! Noid and Cool Spot (Domino's Pizza and 7 Up respectively). If product placement is done in the way that it is in movies, we'll have no problem. And personally, I have no problem if it doesn't lower prices in the short term. The important thing is that niche games would be able to survive by using product placement from smaller companies, similar to what happens with niche networks such as Sci-fi or the Golf Channel.

krolstone
krolstone

Some games lend themselves to advertising - like sports games where it would be weird to see fake brands on shirts and the boards around stadiums. Games where they simply replace what would have been a fake brand in game with a real one I have no problem with, but when it's done just for the sake of advertising (like in NFS:U2) I really dislike it.

Quezakolt
Quezakolt

I'm sure they won't drop the retail price beause of in-game Ads, we'll just be fooled. I'm agaisnt this, we see enough advertissement everywhere as it is, please don't let it infect our escapes/creative playgrounds.

vejkis
vejkis

In-game Adds, don't over use and don't base games on a product or shoving the product down your throat, if a game succeds doing all of this and actually containing in-game adds on realistic locations, I'm all for it.

Turkiye
Turkiye

hey man i totally agree with this. I cant imagine my Fifa 06 without the banners and the sponsors. This kinda stuff makes it seem as if, I really am in the stadium ( I KNOW IM NOT) and that im the one actually scoreing. it also brings a nice touch to the graphics, seeing such ads.

NRIAgent
NRIAgent

In games that take place in a city or something, that mirrors where we live, that would make sense. In games like WoW that are supposed to be very different from where we live it would be desperately out of place. The only kind of ads I could see that would belong would be replica craftsmen who sell replicas of swords, armor, and that sort of thing. In games like GTA you could advertise anything really and I wouldn't mind. If they'd advertise it in New York then it's not off limits... though I don't expect to see a billboard advertising the Wiggles in the middle of Los Santos! I'm sure we don't have to worry though. If they put ads in games they aren't going to put in something that doesn't belong (can you picture a black billboard in WoW?) because that has a chance of hurting them directly.

LordOfMidnight
LordOfMidnight

Hmm, I don't know if in-game brands make it a more enjoyable gaming experiance if there are a glut of them to be seen. Awareness of the products? That most certainly goes without saying.

SkarpHedin
SkarpHedin

How the hell does in-game ads relate to better gameplay? NFS would be alot more fun without that stupid cingular logo everywhere.

Sagacious_Tien
Sagacious_Tien

^^^^^ The thing is, games have a much smaller market the Television and with Internet. Games are increasingly having to rely on in game advertising to not only pay the developing costs, but all the additional costs that arise. And if it's within the context for the game, I'm ok with it. Real life cars deserve real life parts, and I'm ok to see brand name vehicles and parts in a racing game, as it helps with immersion. I believe that in game advertising in many cases can be pervasive and annoying, but the above example is just one form in which it can be beneficial to the player as well. If a game needs to buy the licence to create a real life FIFA, than having it sponsored with advertisers normally associated with the event isn't all to bad a thing, as long as the line is drawn when it comes to gameplay. Need For Speed Undergound 2 is a bad example, but there are many good examples where Advertising can enhance the game experience.

webmeister
webmeister

Advertisements in games = you fail it. We (mostly) put up with advertising on TV or the net because generally it helps keep content free. I've just paid good money for a game, what's the benefit in showing me ads? Nothing. Now, if the game was free and was advertising supported (in a realistic way, not a Bonzai Buddy way), that would be a different story! Sounds like a good business opportunity there, develop a game and give it away for free, then make your money back on the in-game advertising like Google does. And I mean a proper game, not the banner ad + flash gimmick you get on Yahoo games.

gissamuel
gissamuel

Sounds cool in a way, but does have drawbacks depending on the ingame ads. I guess it depends on what is advertised and where ingame.

Pylypow
Pylypow

I don't know. Some marketers(and company's) are really out of touch with things. They'll probably screw it up. They might think it IS a good idea to have a NIKE advertisement in a game like Warcraft.

kaito2
kaito2

I'm all for in-game adverstising, and so far, I think that they have gone about it in a sensible way. To me, it is all about making the game world more believable. How real is it to see generic names written on everyday items? It reminds of TV from 10-15 years ago, where characters drank "The Cola" and read "The Magazine". I'd rather see the character drinking Coca-Cola and reading Time, or whatever. I don't think it will ever get as obtrusive as an ad popping up right in the middle of playing a game--advertisers would be shooting themselves in the foot.

CraigH123
CraigH123

Sounds good in theory but in practice advertisers will take it too over the top like they did in NFSU 2 and not care whether the ad is relevent to the game. And on top of that I say 95% chance even if they work it in there to where it makes sense they won't drop the prices of games. They didn't in any of the ones they've put them in already, even by say $5 or so. They won't cut the prices because not all games will have them (hopefully) and because why would NFSU 4 or whatever sell for $50 on the 360 when it can sell just as many copies as it would if it sold for $60. Plus the ad money just gives them more incentive to spend more money on game development or more relevent advertising for the game. Not only will it be taken advantage of it will probably be used at first mainly in the movie to game conversions like Catwoman and Bad Boys type disasters. So they will be even worse than they would have been otherwise.

GimpYou
GimpYou

Although in-game ads prose positive results from the advertisers, the game experience would take a drastic hit. Can you imagine playing a fantasy-based MMORPG such as Guild Wars, and in the middle of the fantasy-medieval setting you see a Crest Toothpaste commercial...or a commercial for yet another Scion. Imagine playing a nice game of F.E.A.R., youre tense, your sweating, your drawn uptight so when the little girl pops out you won't jump, and then, either as an in-game billboard or an in-between level intermission, you see an ad for a cell phone, dog food, the new iPod Super Mini, or another U2 CD....is this the kind of game experience that gamers want? I think not. Not only will the quality and engagement of games be ruined, but the game-makers could suffer due to unecessary pressure from the advertisers. In-game ads are not in the best interest of gamers, on and offline both.

DemannameD
DemannameD

YAY! Maybe in the next GTA you will be able to shoot someone for their iPod! *rolls eyes* Puma Hunt ? Oh sorry I didn't waste my time playing that game.... Don't we get inundated with mindless advertisment through our TVs already? Is the kid that plays True Crimes really going to go out and grab a pair of Pumas? Will in game Advertisments make the games cheaper for developers? Consumers? Isn't that the idea of Passive Advertisment in indifferent media? To lower the costs to the consumer? Granted Going to taco bell instead of Clucking Bell would have made it Less original... No wait thats not good.... At least Clucking Bell doesn't give CJ the Runs! I'm getting off point.... So Let me finish by saying Although I'm sure nothing would have made CJ more Obese more Quickly than McDonalds, I just don't think that Making him binge 10 super sized double Half pound Bacon Cheeze oven Fried Scatter Covered Topped and Peppered Meals to see him throw up would have been any funner.... Or made me want to go eat until I get supersized, At McDonalds!

Rugby4ever
Rugby4ever

This is an incredibly bad idea. If this becomes accepted in the industry I can guarentee you that half of the companies out there would start to abuse this because they could just pocket the money. There is absolutely no incentive for them not to. Personally I play games to get away from all that C**P. There is more than enough advertising out there already being shoved in my face. I don't need or want more of the same.

DavidCK
DavidCK

Imagine if the ads show up like on TV. Like suddenly while you are playing, the ads pop up and plays for a 5 minute session every 15 minutes. God, I would hunt down and brutally murder the people responsible for it! It'll also be funny if the ads are placed during "loading" screens, hey actually that would make sense and not obstructing to the gameplay. I should get commissioned for this idea ;)

Ktulu1611
Ktulu1611

They're going to place ads in games? If this brings down the price of games for consumers then I'm for it. If prices remain the same I'll be left wondering why I'm paying a premium for something with ads. However very light stuff that is not intrusive would be ok. Like the billboards in Burnout for example.

hush404
hush404

Meh I don't mind some ads in games but like most things It's got to be done in moderation. I don't want to be playing SOCOM4 or HALO3 and find that all the structure textures have been replaced with ads for Pepsi and Walmart.

petkot1990
petkot1990

I think that the ads can actually add to the reality of the games. Like someone said earlier, in games like GTA and True Crimes this would actually improve on the games. In GTA I never liked drving these "Brand X" cars. This is why I enjoyed the Mods for the cars so I could drive around in a real Lamborghini instead of a Banshee or whatever it was. (I'm getting old and weary :D) And I don't think RockStar is making any $$$ off of these mods and add ons made by 40 year old guys living with their uncles... ;) Overall, I'm for ads and u should be too.... After all, this message is approved by me George W. Bush -----heeee heeee heee heeee------ Please don't send assasins to my house :D

namelex
namelex

truth up to comment 2, if it makes games cheaper im up for it. if it doesn't im still up for it. As long as its in a proper content and not sending me subliminal messages.

Bueller
Bueller

I think it can work as long as it is done tactfully. Even in NFSU2, some of the placement wasn't too bad, but for a few things. Namely, the Cingular Logo shouldn't have been on the screen for the entire game, and if you're going to use a logo, in the GAME ENVIRONMENT, work out the trademarks for the logos beforehand so you don't see the (R) underneath every BK logo in the game. That's ridiculous, and that intrusiveness is what brings people out of the game world, not the ad itselft.

CyphenX
CyphenX

As long as it isn't overdon or invasive, I totally want in-game advertisments due to rising development costs. They can even help to add atmosphere.

GredegHeado-san
GredegHeado-san

I'ts win-win, as in both the advertisers and and the developers win. How lovely... except for the game players :(

DeuxHero
DeuxHero

If i'm playing in a free roaming city i'm fine with billboards advetiseing things If i'm in someplace with a tv i wouldn't mind haveing it run an ad if i'm going to be sold stuff at a loading screen Oh so help you.

Swords_Rose_86
Swords_Rose_86

It could be a good idea, if they don't take it too far. Let's use the typical, Resident Evil locking-yourself-in-a-building-to-hide-from-zombies scenario as an example. Now, an acceptable form of advertising for, say, Pizza Hut, would be that the building the people barricaded just happened to be a Pizza Hut before disaster struck, But it would be going to far if, while locked up in there, the characters constantly refer to the great pizza sold at great prices that the place offered when it was up and running. I mean, one reference about how tasty a certain character thought their pizza was wouldn't be too bad, and it may even add depth to a character, if only a little. But if they praised it every other sentence you'd feel like you were playing an ad instead of a game.

Iramek
Iramek

ads are a waste in most games. over doing it doesn't make me want to buy anything more. if anything, i never want to see it again. if it had some realtion to the game, then fine. but, i don't want to see razor blade adds in my racing games (hint hint).

doomed51
doomed51

reduces price=im good with that, but too many ads....too damn casual=bad game!

LuigiLogik
LuigiLogik

Funny how they did they conducted the test.... played games with ads turned on and then turned completly off... so does that mean that billboards in the game and where ever the product names would be were replaced with just monotone textures??? seems like a rigged survey to me... of course that would take away from the experience having billboards of just one color, saying nothing... unless they replaced the billboard ads with immaginary products the results of this study shouldn't even be accepted...

tbonetrav18
tbonetrav18

I think that in game ads are great as long as the companies in the game pay to be in the game. The cost of development continues to go upward. We are going to start paying $60 for games for the ps3 and 360, so why keep letting us pay for the costs.

merlin747
merlin747

It's a scary prospect, given how determined companies are to get in front of your face (read: it'll be very easy for game companies to abuse it). However, if done properly, I can see it being acceptable. (ie. I'm walking through a building with a Coca Cola machine there.... if it's a first-person shooter, let me blow it up for grins) As for reducing prices in the games, I believe it should.... however, with companies such as EA, don't bet on it. They'll pocket it, use it to restrict your options for other games in the genre, and raise the prices.

epic_nemesis
epic_nemesis

in a game like madden or something it makes sense, like the halftime report brought to u by aflac, cause its realistic, and i dont mind seeing billboards on street racers, but i do not wanna see a doritos add in knights of the old republic, and i dont wanna do some lame get the puma quest in true crime. if it is used in a realistic game, in real settings fine by me

Vyse86
Vyse86

I prefer fake ads as it makes the game seem somewhat real but at the same time, fictional. Besides, having only one franchise represented in a game is anything but realistic. In Need for Speed Underground 2 it seemed that the only stores on the planet were Best Buy and Burger King.

Killbotblue
Killbotblue

I dont mind advertising, as long as it doesn't affect gameplay. If you are driving a car in say Grand Theft Auto and see a billboard for a product no big deal, but if in between every level, they would have some stupid ads running during loading times.