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  A Smart Way to Handle In-Game Ads, For Once  
Posted 2008-04-17 by Tony Walsh
Long-time readers of this blog will know how I loathe in-game advertising and how it is often rammed into games with ham-fisted clumsiness. This being said, I'm pleased to discover that in-game ads are coming to massively-multiplayer superhero games City of Heroes / City of Villiains (known as CoX in combination). Why am I pleased? Because those responsible for the move have obviously learned from past advertisers' mistakes and are being considerate of the players and the world they inhabit:
  • CoX world is a contemporary, urban setting. Perfectly suitable for contemporary, urban advertising (unlike far-future sci-fi settings, for example)
  • Ads will only be displayed in areas that had already featured fictional ads--not a major impact on the aesthetic of the game, and, arguably a method of increasing the world's "realism"
  • Most importantly, players can turn the ads off.
  • Players have been invited to submit their own advertisements for inclusion in the world. Great move, getting the players involved and feeling ownership over their environment--players are probably less likely to turn off ads this way
  • Ad revenue will bankroll further development of the subscription-based game rather than simply make the publisher richer.
  Ad-Creep In Kiddie-Worlds  
Posted 2007-12-15 by Tony Walsh
American watchdog group Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood isn't happy with how popular kiddie-world Webkinz has begun running external ads atop its already-commercial service. According to, "A current Webkinz campaign is promoting the film Alvin and the Chipmunks (screen shot at left), while similar ads ran for the recent Bee Movie." Virtual Worlds News reports that Ganz, maker of Webkinz has since pulled one of the ads, although it's not clear to me if this is a response to public pressure.

The ethics of advertising to children aside, Ganz's choice to blast ads at kids whose parents are already paying for Webkinz access comes off like a crass cash-grab . It's the same story with in-game ads found in many of today's video games--the consumer isn't sharing in the publisher's increased cash-flow. A more reasonable approach to advertising via Webkinz (again, irrespective of the ethical issues) would be to offer a discounted or free service in exchange for client-side ads.

Continue reading: Ad-Creep In Kiddie-Worlds
  In-Game Advertising Data A Double-Edged Design Tool  
Posted 2007-11-26 by Tony Walsh
Next Generation reports that in-game advertising firm Double Fusion believes player behavior data collected by in-game advertising systems can help the level-design process. Such systems monitor player location, gaze, time spent in a given 3D area, and other such details used to measure the effectiveness of an ad placement. The idea is that this data could be leveraged to tweak, tune, and build better game levels. I agree that aggregated in-game ad data could be considered in the level design process, but I don't anticipate games would necessarily be improved as a result.

As in-game advertiser Massive (now owned by Microsoft) has shown over the years [1, 2, 3, 4], game play and narrative is often ruined by ad-placement rather than supported by it. I believe that level design will ultimately be constrained if collected advertising data is used as a design tool. Will level designers be given the freedom to design what suits a game the best, or will they be forced to design levels using templates or methods proven to maximize advertising effectiveness? If anything, I can see levels becoming homogenized across a variety of games (due to adoption of ad-biased design strategies), rather than game levels becoming more interesting or artistic.
  Quick Links for 2007-11-11  
Posted 2007-11-11 by Tony Walsh
  ‘Electric Sheep’ Plan Virtual-World Ad Network  
Posted 2007-10-03 by Tony Walsh
The Electric Sheep Company, a third-party developer of tools, services, content and experiences primarily for Second Life, plans to launch an in-world advertising network. Aimed at residents looking to earn money by publishing ads on their land, at individual advertisers, and at ad agencies, the yet-untitled network is currently under construction, with the network's (likely interim) web page offering a means to sign up to become a beta-tester. Officially described as "for Second Life and other Virtual Worlds," I wonder what other worlds the network could reasonably be inserted into.

As with in-game advertising, context is king. Fortunately, most virtual world--as opposed to game world--environments are set in contemporary or otherwise ad-friendly settings. This makes advertising Coke in Second Life a reasonable venture, whereas in-game advertisers haven't historically understood that billboards for Deuce Bigalow: European Gigalow don't belong on an alien fortress.

Continue reading: ‘Electric Sheep’ Plan Virtual-World Ad Network
  links for 2007-10-01  
Posted 2007-10-01 by Tony Walsh
  links for 2007-09-21  
Posted 2007-09-21 by Tony Walsh
  Ignoring Spammers in ‘City of Heroes’  
Posted 2007-09-12 by Tony Walsh
A software update to the massively-multiplayer game City of Heroes yesterday included a chat command ("/ignore_spammer") intended to give players the ability to mute and report spammers sending out "tells" (personal chat messages) advertising gray-market services such as real-money trading web sites.

This sounds like it could be a good idea at first, but I think the maintainers of the game are ultimately in for some headaches. First of all, the /ignore_spammer command is meant to be followed up with a /petition command--so that's doubled the number of potential customer service calls where spammers are concerned. Secondly, what's to stop players from maliciously applying /ignore_spammer to those they wish to incriminate? If each case has to be reviewed individually--perhaps involving digging into chat records, or mediating disputes--that's a hell of a lot of work. Not to mention that /ignore_spammer won't stop the City of Heroes equivalent of raining gnomes or other non-chat-related spamming. I have to assume spamming in City of Heroes is problematic enough that adding a spam-specific new chat command was worth it, but the system doesn't seem very well planned.
  links for 2007-08-24  
Posted 2007-08-24 by Tony Walsh
  Lower Standards Permit Virtual-World Advertising to Kids  
Posted 2007-08-10 by Tony Walsh
Last month I wondered how virtual-world advertising aimed at kids too young to chat responsibly could be justified. The answer is simple: lower advertising standards so that the behavior becomes "acceptable." NewMediaAge reports that the Advertising Standards Authority (UK) will allow snack food brands to target kids, provided the brands operate "within their own paid-for space." Ads in the virtual equivalent of "public space" would reportedly still fall within ASA regulations. I don't think much of the relaxed standards, as I don't believe that young children can distinguish between branded and non-branded content.

I am not familiar with the Advertising Standards Authority and to whom the organization might answer to, but I find the lowering of standards here analogous to the move to broaden the definition of "organic" food or change the definition of chocolate in order to satisfy industry greed.

Continue reading: Lower Standards Permit Virtual-World Advertising to Kids
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... Hope it helps someone... Dino...
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