Interesting facts about video games – in-game advertising

Kids and video games – a match made in heaven? As dads we’re often faced with having to decide whether to:

1) Get our kids a video console in the first place (and if yes – which one!)
2) How long they get to play on it
3) Which games are appropriate

There is an ongoing debate about the first two – see our article and comments about video games and stats. To answer the 3rd question most parents check the rating of a game (if the game has one). But apart from the actual game related content we are now dealing with another component – advertisement.

in game ads Interesting facts about video games – in game advertising

Did you know that in-game advertising is expected to become a $1bn dollar industry by 2014? Ads displayed in games are not there by accident and one of the industry’s leading in-game advertising companies “Massive” was specifically set-up to target the segment of young gamers who spend large amounts of their time playing games and are therefore difficult to target through other advertising channels.

Are you happy with your kids being exposed to an ever increasing amount of advertising in games? There are strict rules around advertising across other public channels but who checks in-game advertising? As a parent if you really want to find out what’s happening with a particular issue it’s always useful to read a “sales pitch” from one of the companies that highly benefit from the issue. Check out this article by JJ Richards (Microsoft) … quote: “Gaming connects brands to valuable audiences” … yup, I bet. Kids (and adults) are actively being targeted by ads in games because, as industry experts like Richards tell us, it is very effective. So ads are not only included in games because they add authenticity – I’d argue it is done primarily because they get their advertising messages across. The amount of money being spent on in-game advertising is a good measure of its effectiveness.

Obviously the ads are targeting all gamers (not just kids or teens) but the appropriateness of this practice is particularly relevant for under age audiences (as their critical thinking is still developing and they are therefore easier to influence). Ads are placed dynamically so it’s difficult to keep track on what ad actually shows up in games. The annoying thing from a parent’s perspective is that there are no “ad-free” version of popular games and it’s not like the ad version is cheaper either. There is really no consumer benefit to in-game advertising other than the perceived improvement of “authenticity”.

What can you do?
You can obviously switch off gaming altogether and go native but it’s unlikely to be met with much enthusiasm by the kids. Other alternatives include:

* ditch any game you spot an ad in
* get your hands on some vintage video games which don’t have ads
* use online gaming environments that have been created specifically for kids / teens

Let us know if you have other ideas of how to get round the in-game advertising dilemma.

-Stef

6 Responses to Interesting facts about video games – in-game advertising

  1. charles young says:

    Nice one … I have been playing video games from my childhood and this is really interesting article about games.

  2. Keith Wilcox says:

    This is really disturbing to me. Our family loves video games but hates advertising that is aimed at kids. I am not aware of any strict guidlines for advertising to kids in media. As a matter of fact I sorta think there are very few. Europe has a law against specifically advertising to kids (I want to say under 10 but it might be 8). The US should have a similar standard. As far as advertising to teens? I guess I don’t really have too much of a problem with that since with any hope their parent will have taught them to ignore it. But for younger kids? Yeah, I have a problem with it. I’m going to have to keep a look out now. Thanks for the article!

  3. OM says:

    In the picture above, the ads won’t be the deal-breakers. I think the zombies that try to break through the TV screen to eat your insides and make you one of them will be enough of a deterrent for a father of 2-year-old.

    But then you have a racing game, and you know, if it’s realistic, you will have ads everywhere. So it’s not easy…

    I agree about the target age. I hate ads that create demand in young kids and make the parent look evil by not buying the latest craze, and I try to avoid them when I watch TV with my kid.

    But I can’t talk from experience. My kid is too young for video games. Maybe when he’s three we’ll get those zombies? You know the zombies aren’t going to kill themselves.

  4. stefan says:

    Thanks for comments Keith and OM. I was wondering how we can tell as parents when our kids are with it enough to be able to differentiate between ads and game, and critically analyse the marketing tactics of in-game brands. I’m not even sure all adults can do that.

    It’s borderline subliminal advertising because many ads would only show for split seconds or would be in the background (like “product placement campaigns”). So probably after playing 6h straight a quick snack at McDonald’s seems like a really good idea.

    I think many adults are suscepticle to this kind of advertising and are effectively being manipulated (but hey – that’s fine … they are old enough to make their choices in life). But kids?

    -Stef

  5. cus says:

    Nice Content

  6. jonline says:

    I would like to say thank you to the authors of the article and comments!

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