Monday, March 19, 2012

Product Placement in Games can Benefit the Player

Movies have being doing this for a long time ago. TV too. Only games, for now, seem immune to ads inserted in them. Of course, many people despise the notion of big corporations using entertainment media to sell us their products. There is the fear that by allowing them to inset their products in the movie/series, they will steal creative control in order to boost their products' advertising.

That is a bit of unjustified fear. First, because advertisers already have a certain control over what we see. TV survives on selling ad space between their shows. So, if a show fail to catch enough viewers to attract enough advertisers to their time slot, the show will be cancelled. So, a bad show with low ratings will die, while a good show with high ratings will thrive.

Of course good shows with low ratings will die too, and bad shows with high ratings will continue. But that is hardly the influence of the advertisers. Even if they have 100% control over the show, if the show is bad, nobody will see it anyway. But this is hardly fault of the advertisers, but it lies with the viewers. If a show is cancelled due low ratings, it is not because it have a pizza box in it. It is because the show failed to be good enough to people watch it.

Movies don't have this problem as much as TV. They don't need advertisers to be profitable. But movies are expensive. Movie stars wants big payments to do a movie. So, movies try to attract investors, many of them interested in use product placements in it. Like Martin Mcfly drinking Pepsi in Back to the Future. If done right and in a subtle way, people may not even notice this. Overdone, like in I, Robot with Will Smith, people will hate it and the product placement can backfire against the advertiser.

Many games can in fact benefit of this. Using real products in them can help to the realism of them. It will never be weird to see a character drinking a famous brand of beer in it, as it is something we see in real life. Or to see him driving a car that is a real car and not a made up brand. Of course, only realistic games set in relatively modern times will benefit from it. It will be weird to see people in a fantastic world drinking Pepsi, for example.

And of course, this can only be done if this does interfere with the gameplay, like bigger loading times to show ads or the characters talking non-stop about a certain brand. The subtle way it is done the better, more like Back to the Future and less I, robot.

The developers can benefit from it by being less dependent on the publishers for money. If they can combine initiatives like Kickstarter with sponsorship from famous brands, they can make a game without a single dime from a publisher. Of course, good developers with successful games on their catalog will benefit more from this, as nobody will pour money in projects they don't believe will sell.

And if they are able to do it and have a success, they can them use any profits (as most profits will come back to the developers), they then can use the money to make games without strings attached. Like how many famous actors and director do commercial movies in order to fund personal projects unlikely to be picked by big studios.

Not only that, if this proves to be a reasonable way to gain money, it means that instead of passing all the increasing costs of games to the game's price and hurting the gamer, developers can share the costs with their advertisers, keeping the costs of games at bay for longer. They can even use this as ways to cover the costs of DLC, using it as a marketing tool, by delivering free DLC through their advertisers' products.

Gamers dislike this possibility, fearing that their games will become just big ads. This fear is not entirely unjustifiable, but we already live this reality. Games will only see the light of the day if publishers believe it will sell. Having more ways to fund games can only benefit the industry at long term, by allowing developers with potential good games having more than one way to fund themselves. At least, this is how I see it.

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