NakeyJakey: Ads in Video Games


NeoGAFs Kent Brockman
In-game advertising is similar to product placement in films and television, where the advertising content exists within the universe of the characters. These forms of product placement are common, which led to the advertisement technique being applied to video games to match evolving media consumption habits.[6][7] According to the Entertainment Software Association in 2010, 42% of gamers said they play online games one or more hours per week.[8] Game playing is considered active media consumption, which provides a unique opportunity for advertisers. The principal advantages of product placement in gaming are visibility and notoriety. A single in-game advertisement may be encountered by the player multiple times, and advertisers have an opportunity to ally a brand's image with that of a well-received game.

Billboards, storefronts, posters, apparel, vehicles, weapons, fliers, sponsored product placement, and the interplay between the player and these elements in the game allow for a great degree of virtual advertisement.[9] Examples of marketing in video games include brand integration, embedded marketing, recruitment tools, edutainment, and traditional in-game advertising.

According to Forbes, in-game advertising is expected to reach $7.2 billion in 2016.[10] Unlike television commercials and digital ads, which can be avoided by using DVRs and ad-blocking software, advertisements embedded within video games cannot be bypassed. A more recent example of in-game advertising is Google's placement of video ads between levels of games. These ads are usually branded inline, and TechCrunch reports that they have the potential to gain fast traction in Google's AdMob Service.[11]

Static in-game advertising[edit]​

Static in-game advertisements are embedded into the video game program.[12] Static ads can be used in the story-line of the game and players can interact with them.[12] The creation of the ads can take from a month or years to reach the public.[12] These ads do not require players to have access to an Internet connection in order to display the campaigns.[12] Limitations include ads becoming outdated or irrelevant as consumer habits change.[12] Because these ads cannot change once released to the public, they also lack the ability to be customized based on player demographics.[12] Examples include billboards advertising for (and product placement of) Bawls energy drink in Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, and billboards for Adidas sportswear in FIFA International Soccer.

Dynamic in-game advertising[edit]​

Dynamic in-game advertisements are embedded in online video games that can be changed at any time by the game programmers.[12][13] Examples of this type of advertisement would be virtual billboards and updates that introduce new items into the game like clothing brands to dress characters or different cars.[13] Dynamics ads are different from static games because companies can provide ads for specific audiences or demographics after the video game has been purchased by the consumer.[13] This way companies can follow the consumer habits and provide ads that can address a certain context.[13] Game developers then can dynamically change the virtual ads spaces embedded into the game to display the ads.[14] Players have a limited interaction with these ads compared to static in-game ads.[12] These ads required active Internet connection for the game company to showcase the ads.[12] Dynamic ads can accommodate time sensitive campaigns and can be shown immediately.[12] These ads can also provide data to show how well campaigns are doing unlike static in-game ads.[12]


Main article: Advergame
Video games that are expressly commissioned to promote a product or service are referred to as "advergames", a portmanteau of "advertising" and "gaming". This term was coined in January 2000 by Anthony Giallourakis and later mentioned by Wired's "Jargon Watch" column in 2001.[15] Advergames have been developed for different platforms including company websites, gaming consoles, and more recently, mobile applications and social media platforms.[16] With the growth of the Internet, advergames have proliferated, often becoming the most visited aspect of brand websites and becoming an integrated part of brand media planning. The advergames sector reached $207 million in 2007.[17]

The earliest custom video games featuring integrated brand messages were developed and distributed on floppy disk.[18] These games were distributed for free, often bundled with other products from the company advertised for. The first floppy disk advergames were developed to serve dual purposes—as promotional incentives that drive response and as media that deliver awareness. American Home Foods Chef Boyardee issued one of the earliest floppy-disk advergames.[19] Some brands, like Kool-Aid and Pepsi, created early advergames on gaming platforms. They created advergames for the Atari 2600 and gave out promotional copies.[18] The first in-box CD-ROM cereal box advergames are General Mills's Chex Quest (promoting the Chex brand) and General Mills's All-Star baseball (starring Trix Rabbit and his friends playing baseball against Major League teams and stars).

Commercial examples include advergames funded by Pepsi, 7 Up, NFL, Formula One, and Burger King. Political and military examples of below-the-line (BTL) advergames include recruitment tools like America's Army, intended to boost recruitment for the United States Army, and Special Force, intended to promote Muslim resistance to the state of Israel. Educational advergaming is closely related to the Serious games initiative and falls under either Edumarket gaming or edutainment. Examples include Food Force (made by the United Nations's World Food Program) and Urban Jungle, an educational traffic simulation.

Through-the-line advertising[edit]​

TTL marketing is a form of advertising in video games that involve the use of URL hyperlinks within the game designed to induce the player to visit a web page which then contains BTL advertisements. The technique used to tempt the player into visiting the intended URL varies from game to game.[20] In games like Pikmin 2, the player is given a cryptic message with an accompanying URL designed to pique their curiosity. In games such as Enter the Matrix, Year Zero, I Love Bees, and Lost Experience, URLs make up a part of the background of the game such that certain plot details can only be learned by following the link. The knowledge of such plot details are typically not required to complete the game, but deepen the game story-line for players who follow the links. Websites of this nature often lead players on to other links which again lead to further links, thus earning these games the label "link-chases". Although TTL advertising can be an enjoyable experience for players, excessive "link-chasing" can feel obstructive and discourage them from diving deeper into a game's story-line. In another form, the URL might be part of a stage where a player can see it but it does not affect the plot. For example, in Super Monkey Ball 2, there is a stage where you can see clearly written on an obstacle a URL and the stage's name is even the word URL.
I miss when advertisements in games were for in game brands like burger shot and cluckin bell.
Yup, I could go for the twins from Freckle Bitch's about now.
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