Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Will Advertisers Influence The Quality Of Video Games?

I like video games. They’re a release for me. I really enjoy sports game. Be it Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, or Golf (no Soccer) – I play sports games. Over the past 3 years I’ve noticed two trends:

  1.  Sports games are getting worse
  2. Advertisers are spending more money on in-game advertising

I picked up MLB 2K9 this year, despite a sub par review from IGN. My choices were limited because 2K Sports, the manufacturer of the game, has an exclusive agreement with Major League Baseball. Essentially, if you wanted to play a baseball game this year on the XBOX 360, they were the only choice.

To put it mildly, the game is a disappointment. It doesn’t even meet the basic expectations I had. The one thing that did impress me was the amount of integration Pepsi had in the game. As you can see from this screen shot they are, well, everywhere.

This got me thinking. Television networks price costs for 15/30/60/etc. second spots based on the show. Better shows, that attract more viewers, cost more. This chart does a nice job of showing how this has played out over time.

In some way, the advertiser (in this case Pepsi) is banking on the show being good. If the show explodes, they make out ahead. If the show tanks they lose. So that all makes sense. Let’s take it a step further. When a brand does a sponsorship of a show they are taking a larger risk and on some level engaging in a partnership with the show. The show now has an obligation to the advertiser to deliver the goods. On many levels this is exactly what it’s like for in-game advertising. Pepsi’s sponsorship of the game (that’s really what it is) is a partnership between some combination of Pepsi, Microsoft (XBOX manufacturer), and 2K Sports.

If you’re Pepsi, do you really want to be associated with a game as bad as MLB 2K9? A game that even die hard fans are saying sucks. There words, not mine. Of course not. You want to be associated with with things that are analogous to your company, image, and audience. If I’m Pepsi, I’d be asking for a make good on the ad space. I don’t even know if that exists in the in-game advertising space.

Thanks for hanging in this long. So what’s the point? Simple. Will advertisers have a say in the final quality of video games? Will they be able to demand, on some level, a game that meets the expectations of the fan base? After all if the games continue to be garbage, no one will buy them, which screws up the whole in-game advertising circle of love. No one makes money. No one connects with their consumer. Nobody wins.

If in-game advertising continues to increase (eMarketer says it’s on the massive upswing) game manufacturers will have even more pressure to deliver and quality product. That spells good news to the consumer. The real question, is how long it will take for this to happen. My guess is within the next 3 years.