JJ Richards, the general manager of online advertising firm Massive, says ads in games can add to the overall experience - and that gamers actually like them.
It's kind of drivel you might expect to fall out of the mouth of a marketing guy: Advertising is a good thing and people generally like it because it provides numerous benefits to the consumer. But Richards does a good job of explaining his position. "If you ask Americans if they like paying taxes, you'll likely receive a resounding 'no.' But if you ask Americans if they like living in the U.S., where they have to pay taxes, the answer will likely be a resounding 'yes'," he told Ars Technica. "It's about the overall value proposition and whether the mix is right between what you get and what you pay."
Going even further, he claimed that gamers actually like ads, although only if they add to the experience. As an example, he described a hypothetical game set in Times Square; with zero advertising it just doesn't look real at all, while generic, fake ads improve the situation somewhat but still doesn't look right.
"Now imagine Times Square with ads you just saw on television or read in a newspaper-the latest movie release or television show or a new car model," he said. "Imagine further that it is up-to-the-minute, whether you played your game today or six months from now. That is much more realistic."
Massive takes great pains to ensure its ad campaigns add value and realism to the experience, and don't detract from gameplay. Because of that, Richards said, the company has declined to run ad campaigns in the past when brands have been "a poor fit for a game title."
"Video games are an active, engaged, 'lean-forward' entertainment experience," he explained. "Games in Massive's network contain four to five minutes of advertising or less per hour. Contrast that with an hour of television where consumers are likely to be exposed to at least 12 minutes of interruptive advertising."
The effectiveness of unobtrusive, realistically-placed advertising in games was demonstrated by a recent study showing that gamers don't have to be actively focused on in-game ads in order for them to be take root. In the end, whether you like it or hate it, you may as well get used to it; in-game advertising works and it's here to stay.