EA To Include Downloadable Ads In Video Games

Dennis Faas's picture

Advertising in video games is hardly a recent development, but Electronic Arts (EA) plans to add a new wrinkle to the formula: ads that are automatically updated and downloaded into games over time. To make this happen, the gaming giant inked a deal with two major marketing companies: Massive Inc. and IGA Worldwide Inc.

Both IGA and Massive will begin streaming ads into the Xbox 360 and PC versions of upcoming EA titles. Battlefield 2142 and the next incarnation of the Need For Speed franchise will be the first recipients of this agreement.

Never noticed ads in games before? Think about your favorite baseball game, for example. More often than not, there will be banners around the stadium promoting various companies and goods. In an action game, a vending machine could possibly feature a prominent Coke logo. Take a sip and you'll get your energy back.

In the past, static advertisements were programmed into games before they were shipped. There was no way to update or alter them. Now, with the technology employed by IGA and Massive, you could potentially see a different set of ads each time you play -- with new products being introduced into the game as soon as they land on store shelves in the real world. (Source: washingtonpost.com)

"Old-fashioned" preprogrammed advertising won't be entirely abandoned though. EA will continue to use it in conjunction with the newer streaming ad technology. (Source: yahoo.com)

Of course, EA is trying to put its best spin on this development. "Some areas naturally support the advertising," said Chip Lange, EA's vice president of online commerce. "If you drive around an urban environment and there's no advertising, the space feels naked -- and if the advertising is dated, the game feels old." (Source: washingtonpost.com)

"In places like a basketball court, football stadium, or roadside in a racing game," Lange continued, "advertising is not only nice to have but it is an essential component to create the fiction of being there." (Source: yahoo.com)

Lange surprisingly raises a good point -- one that has always been the "catch-22" of advertising in games (and even movies and TV shows): the use of real-life brands does increase the believability and authenticity of the overall experience. But on the flip side of the coin, while companies like EA gain extra profits from these ad deals, consumers almost never reap the same benefits. The games are more than likely going to remain as expensive as ever.

Gamers can breathe one small sigh of relief though, because EA promises that its advertising will be "contextually relevant." In other words, don't expect to see the latest energy drink pop up in a game set during World War II. (Source: dailytech.com)

However, EA's upcoming Battlefield 2141 already poses a challenge -- the game takes place in a futuristic glacial world. It remains to be seen how the company will be able to realistically advertise current goods in that type of environment. (Source: techreport.com)

It should be noted that EA isn't the only one jumping on the streaming ad bandwagon: Microsoft has also signed a deal with Massive. (Source: dailytech.com)

PC gamers in particular have to be wary that EA or other companies will begin abusing their newfound ability to automatically download advertising updates into its products -- and into your system. Earlier this year, Left Behind: Eternal Forces came under fire for including spyware that controlled the product placements and video ads viewed during gameplay, recorded personal information about its users, and tracked a player's every move -- among other insidious violations. Hopefully EA, Microsoft, and the rest of the industry won't fall into the same unholy trap.

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