A few years ago, getting real-world billboards and Coke machines in games was the latest rage. Even Microsoft joined in, acquiring in-game advertising firm Massive Inc. for a few hundred million bucks. Today, the industry seems to be moving on. Massive will soon be history, and judging by a recent Edge Magazine story, Electronic Arts has grown disillusioned with the whole concept, as well.
Speaking to Edge, EA Free-to-Play General Manager Ben Cousins revealed the shocking truth: "We actually aren't getting much from ad revenue at all," he said. "The in-game advertising business hasn't grown as fast as people expected it to." Rather, it turns out that in-game microtransactions are where the money is, and EA will be concentrating on those in the future.
Does that mean in-game advertising will wither away completely? Cousins didn't go so far as to make that prediction, but he doesn't seem to be very hopeful about the long term:
We did a deal with Dr Pepper for Battlefield Heroes, where if you buy a bottle and scan in the code you get an exclusive outfit. That kind of deep integration will work, I think, but I'm not convinced that we'll have billboards in games and things like that. Maybe those days are over.
As a gamer, I'm a little bit saddened by this development. While ads haven't always been seamlessly blended into games (though there have been some shining examples of good integration), I'm not a big fan of the whole micro-transaction thing. I'm perfectly happy to plunk down $50 for a good PC game or a little less for a solid indie title, but I don't want to keep feeding a game money, especially if doing so is required to stay competitive in a multiplayer context. Let me just buy the thing once and have my fun. (Thanks to Shacknews for the link.)