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  ‘Massive’ Ruins ‘Planetside’  
Posted 2005-08-13 by Tony Walsh
‘Massive’ Ruins ‘Planetside’
In-game advertising firm Massive Incorporated has opened up a whole new world of suck in the online game Planetside, rendering the game's sci-fi environment thematically useless. In Planetside, "thousands of players wage war on a planetary scale." Note that Earth is not the planet in question here.

Planetside is the second large-scale sci-fi game that Massive has degraded--the first was Anarchy Online, where ads for Sprite and Motley Crue polluted the alien landscape. Massive brazenly claims to increase the realism of games by placing tasteful dynamic advertisements in appropriate locations, but as we can see from both Planetside and Anarchy Online, those claims fall flat.

For the sad evidence, read on. "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigalow" awaits. Thanks to Clickable Culture reader Titus for the tip, and to these camera-happy Planetside players for the screenshots.

Nothing says "science fiction" like an ad for a modern movie, replete with URL. How this contributes the realism in the context of Planetside is beyond me. Not only do the game's wars not take place on Earth, I'm pretty sure we're beyond movie theatres and the World Wide Web in the far future.

Just in case you weren't paying attention, the advertisements are dynamic--so if you missed it the first time, there's a new visual distraction the second and subsequent time around. Here's the same location as the above billboard, but featuring a Coca Cola product instead. Made you look!

Let's see here... we've got a bay of control panels and... a billboard advertising Fanta soda. That sure is a serene beach scene behind those Fanta bottles. The imagery clearly compliments the bloodthirsty, gritty world of Planetside.

Why look--more Fanta! This time conveniently located near an in-game data display.

Few things make a utilitarian outpost look more legitimate than a big fat billboard advertising a bad movie.
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Comment posted by csven
August 15, 2005 @ 12:36 pm
I'd read about this, but the screenshots confirm my worst suspicians. I have to believe that Massive may be ruining their own business model. I can imagine these companies aren't willing to change their ads, but if they don't want a gamer backlash, they'd be well-advised imo to meet the needs/wants of their consumers. Otherwise, why even bother if all they intend to do is irritate the people to whom they wish to sell? If Massive can't walk away from a deal because some corporate head demands something stupid, it certainly seems to me that they're betting their future for short term games.
Comment posted by csven
August 15, 2005 @ 12:37 pm
whoops. should be "short term gains".
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
August 15, 2005 @ 12:59 pm
Sadly, I'm not sure we're going to see much of a gamer backlash. A very small percentage of those irked by the ads will actually be bothered to do something about it, let alone boycott a product.

An example that keeps popping up in relation to this is the spread of pre-movie advertisements in film, from placards to slides, to powerpoint projections to full-motion video. I think most of us hate these ads (or at least would expect ticket prices to go down). But prices stay the same, and consumers merely grumble to themselves rather than write the theatres, post to their blogs, or boycott the movie industry.

We are being bred to accept excessive advertising on every available surface (even thin air) to the extent that few people even think to criticize the state of the marketing nation. That's ideal for advertisers, but I think it leaves culture in the lurch.
Comment posted by csven
August 15, 2005 @ 2:31 pm
I hear what you're saying, but "backlash" doesn't necessarily mean vocal opposition. On the contrary, someone may simply decide not to buy into a product because they perceived it as something that ruined their gaming experience.

Considering that some car companies have already documented the success of their other (admittedly simple) virtual efforts, I'm wondering if we'll see companies collecting some negative data when they go about the task of coallating and classifying what they've gathered. That's actually what's on my mind, because if companies find that the payoff is insubstantial to the effort, Massive might open the door to competition (I believe another company will soon be rolling out their own version of this technology). And companies hesitant to cater to the gaming community may find a different dynamic than what exists in the passive, non-immersive mediums of the past.

In any event, I look forward to seeing how this plays out. Thanks for the screens.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
August 15, 2005 @ 2:48 pm
csven wrote:
I hear what you're saying, but "backlash" doesn't necessarily mean vocal opposition. On the contrary, someone may simply decide not to buy into a product because they perceived it as something that ruined their gaming experience.

I think we're talking about the same thing here--I'm including all forms of activity in "backlash," such as published or boycotting. I don't think there's going to be a backlash, the same as moviegoers merely grumble passively about pre-movie ads but still buy movie tickets a few times a month. I agree that the nature of the games medium might change the consumer dynamic here. Gamers are already publishing methods to block Massive's ads, for example.

Massive, by the way, is only one player in the in-game ad market. They are the most-publicized firm and have some of the strongest partners. Unfortunately I don't see them going away any time soon.
Comment posted by csven
August 15, 2005 @ 4:23 pm
[quote=Tony wrote]the same as moviegoers merely grumble passively about pre-movie ads but still buy movie tickets a few times a month... Massive, by the way, is only one player in the in-game ad market.

Movies like television are passive mediums, so comparing them to online games may not be appropriate imo. Consequently I have to disagree that this will be no different.

There's two big differences between passive and interactive imo:

1) The experience is inherently different. Movies integrate their advertising more effectively so it's just not that bad. People going to a movie watch the blatant commercials before the immersion begins. And those subliminal ads integrated into the movie are... well... mostly subliminal. Furthermore, when a car company gets representation in a science fiction flick set 50 years in the future, they don't plunk this year's model in the "hero-mobile" role; they put a Lexus concept ("Minority Report") in there for example. From your images it's apparent that the game ads are streamed in-world without the same kind of attention to integration. Not surprising. I'd venture corporations still see the online crowd in a particular (and particularly unflattering) light.

2) The feedback is different. Advertisers really don't know what the viewers thought of their pre-movie ads. They also don't really know what impact their sublminal product placement effort made on the viewer. The best they can do is make educated guesses using surveys and statistics (which admittedly can be fairly accurate).

But with online games and realtime data collection, they get unprecedented feedback. If a gamer hates a product, he may not say a thing; may not even properly respond to a survey (see recent articles on how P&G;develops products to understand similar issues wrt consumer feedback). But with Massive's technology, there will be some indication (e.g. insufficient "eyes" on the ad determined by vector analysis and duration checks) that gamers - or even a particular gamer - is not interested. Now give some gamer a customized survey that asks why he/she didn't look at the ad, instead of the more generic "Would you be interested in purchasing this product blah blah blah". Confronted with the fact that they didn't look at the ad and someone measured this, a person might just say "Because the damn thing sucks".

Also, wrt to players in the game ad biz, is anyone else streaming ads and collecting the kind of data Massive collects? As far as I know Massive is currently the only company doing it this way, which is why they get so much press. And I'm aware of only one other company (sorry, name forgotten) preparing to roll out a similar RT game ad/data collection technology like this. That's a key difference here. The other companies are just sticking ads in games like they do with movies (and there might be integration advantages to that method).

Personally, I think advertising is going to be learning an awful lot from this streaming ad/data collection technology. And we don't have to say a thing for them to know what we think. In some ways, that concerns me even more!
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
August 15, 2005 @ 5:00 pm
Hey csven, I'm about to trip out of town for a few days, but I'll try and reply while I'm away. We are on the same page on most things--in fact I've touched on points you raise here in previous postings. For a good backgrounder, I invite you to browse my Advergaming category where I write not only about Massive, but other players in the industry. Most online in-game advertising networks are offering a variety of metrics for publishers. I'll formulate a more detailed reply as soon as I'm able.
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