Brand Theft Auto: In-Game Ads

Gamers may welcome an in-game ad revolution according to a panel of ad executives at the GDC session, Selling Ads Without Selling Out

With in-game advertising deals on the rise, advertisers are beginning to see the benefits of taking advantage of the interactivity of videogames, when compared to the passive TV ad experience.

"TV advertising is increasingly viewed with concern because of commercial skipping and lack of engagement. Games are the most powerful advertising medium that exists today," said John Epstein of Double Fusion, an in-game ad provider.

The panel acknowledged concerns amongst gamers regarding the potential intrusiveness of in-game ads, stating that the concern has been taken into consideration.

"If it's set in the 20th century or beyond, you expect to see advertising," said Nicholas Longano, chief marketing officer of Massive, another in-game ad provider. "Advertising enhances the sense of realism. There's no way we could do this if it alienated gamers."

He added, "Don't tell me you'd stop playing Grand Theft Auto if you saw a Gap ad instead of some generic fake brand."

Brandon Berger from Ogilvy Interactive warned that in-game ads have to be handled carefully. "If you get it wrong, gamers will scream. They will blog like crazy. You have to be very careful."

Perhaps of most interest to consumers, the panel talked about how advertising income could have an impact on games' prices. Some of the panelists predicted that mid-priced online download games could come down in price if they were advertiser-funded. Some publishers might also seek to increase game sales by cutting retail prices for games funded by in-game ads.

All signs are suggesting that this is the growth area over the next three years. Longano said, "This represents a profit lift of 20-30 percent, which is significant."

Berger added, "This is an environment where consumers are sitting and playing for hours. That is incredibly powerful."