EA Considering In-Game Ads

It was probably inevitable, but that doesn’t mean gamers are going to like it. In a recent quarterly earnings call, Andrew Wilson, the Chairman and CEO of video game company Electronic Arts, answered a question from an internet analyst from Goldman Sachs, who asked about advertising as a source of revenue. Specifically, the analyst asked about “more dynamic ad insertion across more traditional AAA games across different formats.” Wilson’s answer, while including a proposal to seek ad revenue through “the community beyond the bounds of our games” and even saying this is more important, suggests that in-game ads are at least being discussed:

“To answer your question on advertising broadly, again, I think it’s still early on that front. And we have looked over the course of our history to be very thoughtful about advertising in the context of our play experiences. But again, as we think about the many, many billions of hours spent, both playing, creating, watching and connecting and where much of that engagement happens to be on the bounds of a traditional game experience, our expectation is that advertising has an opportunity to be a meaningful driver of growth for us.

We’ll be very thoughtful as we move into that, but we have teams internally in the company right now looking at how do we do very thoughtful implementations inside of our game experiences.”

Don’t worry, guys; it’s gonna be so thoughtful! Like, super-duper-no-takebacks thoughtful! You won’t even know you’re looking at a Starbucks logo while you’re trying to kill Stormtroopers invading a Wal-Mart in the next Star Wars game! I’m being facetious, but really, is there a way to make in-game ads feel like anything but an impediment to a game? In his video about this, Yellowflash talks about them breaking your immersion in a game’s world, and he’s right. This is the main problem with woke stuff – it interferes with your engagement and takes you out of the story. But advertising dollars are too tempting to be looked over forever, and EA, while qualifying its interest over and over, is looking into implementing in-game ads.

Now, playing devil’s advocate for a moment, how could a game company make in-game ads work? Despite my earlier joke, I think product placement is probably the best way. You couldn’t do it in Star Wars games, of course, but maybe a Battlefield level that takes place in an urban environment could feature a McDonald’s or TJ Maxx or some such as a location, or even have a Coke machine in the background. But I doubt that’s what they’ll do (and if they did, it would be somewhere completely out of place to draw your attention to it even more). First of all, games already use product placement and have for some time. The ads EA is talking about will probably pop up while you’re trying to play, or, at the very least, during load screens (the latter of which would be preferable; at least it’s not while you’re playing). I don’t buy that “thoughtful” promise for a second. Nobody likes this, not least because it’s a way for game companies to avoid the real problems with their products and business, but I think in-game ads are coming, one way or another. Whether they stick around is up to the people who just got Sony to back off their PSN requirement for Helldivers 2.

Comments (1)

May 17, 2024 at 11:42 pm

Can you turn your comments on for Assassin’s Creed Shadows?

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