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January 9, 2011 / Brandon Raper

Video Game Diapers

You’re strutting down a city alley at night. You’re hearts beating and you know at any moment a vial creature from the depths of hell could pounce and tear away at your flesh.  Your sawed off shotgun is ready to fire at the slightest movement.  Your surroundings seem so real, you can see the heat rising from the manhole covers, cars are screeching past, and you look to the left and see a giant billboard for Pampers Snuggies.  So much for the anticipation in that video game.

Are advertisements in video games invasive and greedy?  If you’re about to blast the head off of a two headed hell demon do you really pay attention to the billboard or poster on the wall?  These questions have been asked for years with hundreds of different answers.  There are two schools of thought for in-game advertising (IGA) which both directly affect you as a consumer and gamer.  How exactly does IGA affect you as a consumer now and as one in the future?

Video games are always evolving whether it be graphics, sound, length of playability or even involvement like the new Xbox Kinect.  The problem with consumers always wanting more out of their video games is that the cost to produce award winning games is becoming a burden for most creators.  A recent interview with Bigpoint CEO Heiko Hubertz really shows the impact of how expensive it can be to develop a game that consumers will not just enjoy for the first 30 hours of game play, but for years ahead.  According to Hubertz, a new video game in development called “Star Wars The Old Republic” has been rumored to cost over 100 million to develop.  He states that for EA to break even on production costs, it would require over one million subscribers for an extended period of time.  The real big hit for consumers is that not only will this highly anticipated game have an initial cost, but it will also have a subscription cost.  This business model has proven successful for very few companies, one being Blizzard with their creation of World of Warcraft.  What if there was a way that could lower the cost for the consumer?

Let’s be fair here, for EA to compete with Blizzard in the Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game genre (MMORPG), there has to be something to pull the heavily addicted players of World of Warcraft over.  Cost could be one of those X-factors that bring more consumers into Star Wars than World of Warcraft and bring in a new market of gamers that couldn’t afford the monthly subscription price of WoW.  Let’s first look into the overwhelming numbers of WoW players and they’re outtake on in-game advertising to see if introducing it to big ticket games like Star Wars would even be a viable option to lower costs.

World of Warcraft has over 11.5 million subscribers Worldwide.  That’s an absurd amount of people that are consistently playing one video game for lengthy periods of time.  Include into that number the cost for monthly subscription is $14.99 and that ends up with Blizzard pulling in a monthly profit of $172,385,000.  I believe since the game was introduced in November 2004 that they have easily made back the cost of development.  Now Blizzard’s emotional and attached fan base have different opinions on in-game advertising but it seems everyone agrees if it became obtrusive there would be a huge problem.  A forum post on www.mmo-champion.com brought to fruition that Blizzard changed their Terms of Service agreement to “allow” in-game advertising which stirred up a bunch of anger and regret from the most loyal of customers.  Here are some quotes from members of the forums on in-game advertising and how it would affect their decision to continue playing or not.

“I have to agree that advertising in a game we already pay for is just obvious money grabbing from Blizzard/Activision, and I can see some heavy opposition if this went live. If the game was free-to-play, then I can understand this concept.”

“If this game does the whole in game ads, like popping up over UI etc. I’m gone. “

“When I start seeing advertising in-game it’s /quit time.”

“The only real way I could see advertising with wow is how they did it before, out of game for the most part, like the mountain dew’s. It is a fantasy world with no logical place for quick non-intrusive advertising.”

As you can see opinions are mostly on the same page.  If in-game advertising ever did hit World of Warcraft most of their customers would feel like they are greedy, obtrusive, and taken advantage of.  But the last quote tells a completely different story.  This consumer would be ok with out of game advertisements and promotions that translated into the fantasy world.  This is the overwhelming feeling for most video game players.

Blizzard has done an incredibly good job of promoting and advertising in-game without impeding on their consumers video game.  Here’s three great examples of how in-game advertising can be used to actually fuel an increase in subscriptions and keep your current purchasers happy, if not happier.

-Mountain Dew Game Fuel: WoW and Mountain Dew introduced two new flavors and created an unnatural need for mountain dew by most WoW players.  The reason behind the giant increase of sales is strictly due to the ability to acquire a new “pet” in the World of Warcraft with the purchase of these new flavors.  This was a limited time offer with limited usage in game as well.  Not only did these new robot pets advertise for Mountain Dew on Television, but it seemed that everyone in game was asking how to get one.

-Make a wish foundation Pet: a “Pandaren Monk” pet was offered by Blizzard for purchase.  The pet was strictly micro-transaction on their website and was never pushed on any of the players.  Half of the proceeds went to Make A Wish Foundation which ended up around $1.1 million.

-Mohawk Grenade: A slew of WoW television advertisements hit the air waves hard.  Every half hour seemed like there was another big star endorsing World of Warcraft.  There was mini-me, Ozzy Osbourne, William Shatner, and then an A-team favorite…Mr. T.  Mr. T. introduced a new product to the WoW by the name of the “Mohawk Grenade”.  New purchasers of WoW were given a batch of Mohawk Grenades, that when thrown at other in-game characters would create a Mr. T. Mohawk on their head.

Now looking back at reactions of current World of Warcraft players and past WoW advertisements, there’s a few arguments we can begin to make for in-game advertising.  First, we can tell that the general majority of consumers would lose all loyalty to any video game if advertising were to be implemented in an obtrusive way such as popups.  Second, we can establish that consumers are completely ok with in-game advertisements if they are unobtrusive while creating a more realistic environment.  Also, IGA is accepted if the consumer is either given a discount for monthly subscriptions or prices on the initial purchase.  Last, establishing a promotional item that can be used in game, even if branded, is accepted and highly sought after.

In-game advertising in the future could become a real staple for video game creators as the market for video games starts to open up to a larger community.  Much like traditional media, companies should be able to differentiate target markets for different game genres and platforms.  Consumers generally are accepting of advertisements as long as it’s not obtrusive and especially if there is an added in-game bonus.  My opinion is that advertising could really help out the average consumer.  Allowing certain in-game advertisements that don’t create popups or take away from the fantasy world itself could help lower the price per game or monthly subscription.  It’s a giant burden for video game creators to pump out hundreds of millions of dollars to create the next World of Warcraft.

If you were playing a video game and saw a billboard for Snuggies would you be upset?  Now what if you were given an in-game item you could throw at other people that would put a Snuggies diaper on them?

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5 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. ptz ip camera / Jan 11 2011 1:04 PM

    I find myself coming back to your web-site only because you have lots of awesome insights and also you happen to be at this a while, which is very impressive and tells me you know your stuff.

    • Brandon Raper / Jan 11 2011 8:40 PM

      Thanks for the comment, I really appreciate it. It’s hard being a marketing graduate trying to make my online brand grow so it’s good to see someone enjoys reading my work.

  2. ptz ip camera / Jan 13 2011 7:41 AM

    Impressive article post on the blog, I share the same views. I wonder why this particular country totally does not think like me and additionally the web publication master 🙂

  3. effective article marketing / Jan 19 2011 2:45 AM

    What has been expressed here fits the general frame of mind that mostly everyone is used to. And maybe is best to keep it that way. At least for the time being.

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