"No one learned from your mistakes,
we let our prophets go to waste.
All that's left, in any case,
is advertising space."
- Robbie Williams, "Advertising Space"
I remember the first time I encountered advertising in a video game. This was many moons ago, in the NES era, and the game in question was the console adaptation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game. It featured Pizza Hut logos in various spots throughout the adventure, and if memory serves, there was even a Pizza Hut coupon in the manual. I was relatively young at the time, but even then, something felt strange about the whole thing. My buddies and I were geeks - too smart for our own good - and we could already sense the disturbance in the Force. Dirty deeds were transpiring!
I've always had a black-and-white view of advertising - you can either have commercials, OR a fee. You cannot have both. I don't have cable for this reason alone, and I've stopped going to movie theaters You hear a lot of talk about how advertising or product placement will be used to lower the cost of the product, but it never seems to materialize. Most of the biggest blockbuster films feature rampant product placement, despite having bottomless budgets and making billions of dollars worldwide. And since we've accepted it, by and large, the practice is now more or less inescapable. (Case in point - car commercials with 'The Lone Ranger' tie-ins. Wait, what?)
I bring this up because the topic has become hot in gaming again due to - surprise! - the debacle-in-a-box known as the X-Box One. Figuring that their buzz was already so positive, Microsoft let it leak that their new console would be advertising-intensive, including the use of their wacky spy technology to better target the ads at consumers. It's hard to imagine a more inept launch than we're seeing here, folks - it's almost like some kind of satirical performance art. What features will we see next? Combustible chipsets? The console emits some kind of poisonous vapor? Army Men as a launch title?
Advertising and games have never made a good pair. I still remember the Wipeout HD debacle, where they patched commercials IN to the game after it had already launched. They appeared during load screens, and increased said load times considerably, all of which went over about as well as you'd expect. We've learned to tolerate commercials during television shows because they've always been there, and at least on basic television, the content is free. But ads in a $15-$60 product? Now we've got problems.
Even if the advertisements are "just" part of the console U.I., it's ridiculous. I paid for X-Box Live and was livid when potato chip and deodorant ads started popping up. Again, if Microsoft wishes to make Live an ad-based service and drop the fees, go nuts - but they can't have it both ways.
Of course, they can, and probably will - but I'm still going to complain about it. So take THAT, Microsoft!
So what do you think? Am I overreacting? This is one of my pet peeves, so I'm liable to rant.