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MMORPG.COM News: Editorial: MMO Advertising

DanaDana Halifax, NSPosts: 2,415Member

In a new editorial, Lead Content Editor Dana Massey looks at the future of advertising in online gaming. Is it right? If you accept it's here to stay, how best to do it? The issue raises a lot of questions.


Over the past year, we’ve begun to see the first inroads of advertising into massively multi-player online games. First, an older version of Anarchy Online became free to anyone who does not mind ads. Second, for a time, EverQuest II introduced a ‘/pizza’ command that lets player order a real life pie without leaving their keyboard. Then, SOE announced that they have partnered with the same folks powering Anarchy Online’s advertisements to put them into Planetside and The Matrix Online.

For developers and publishers, this represents a new frontier of income that has long been established in other entertainment mediums: digital product placement. Yet, how have consumers reacted? To date the range of emotions have gone from indifference to anger. As we look to the future, I want to examine firstly whether this path is a fair one, and secondly what forms are most appropriate for players and effective for advertisers.

You can read the full editorial here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios



  • HarafnirHarafnir VikingvillePosts: 1,332Member Uncommon

    I for one will never pay my money for a game, alreayd payed by some big companies to ram bad commersials down my throat. People dream of free games and did some heavy lobbying for ads in games.. Dreamers and children all of them. This is reality people. You now pay... to be bombarded with more ad spam. Thanks a lot.


    "This is not a game to be tossed aside lightly.
    It should be thrown with great force"

  • JefchBowaJefchBowa walnut, CAPosts: 3Member

    the /pizza thing from everquest 2 was a april fool's joke... if u didnt know that...

    oh yea and WoW did something exactly like that, except it was pandaren express (panda express)

    SWG: Jefch Bowa (Bria)
    WoW: Jefch (Kil'Jaeden)
    FFXI: Jefch (Alexander)

  • PhallPhall PyongyangPosts: 54Member

    While this is quite probably the future we have to face, if it drives down subscription fees or even simply lets game companies spend a bit more on production, then so be it. It has its place.

    I think this is an illusion. In the end you'll have to pay the same plus you'll have the advertising...

    ... at least for SOE-products. :þ

  • ElbowskrapeElbowskrape Slidell, LAPosts: 51Member Uncommon

    I think its great, I cant wait for them to put in a HeroDonalds in CoV So I can rob it every single day.

    I hear a crunching cracking sound, the breaking of your bones

  • stkinkuwaitstkinkuwait Austin, TXPosts: 2Member

    I love the responses to this article, seeing as though the advertising in the game isnt "rammed" down anything as you simply cant "ram" anything digital threw a computer screen.  My advice don't stare so much, don't watch as much TV, move to a third world country, or stop whining.

    The simple fact is the advertising once in game and functioning properly is in some cases keeping a game alive, and in others allowing free gameplay.  In all of the games with advertising in them that I have played(Anarchy Online and Planetside), the signs and billboards were already there, bearing advertisements concerning the world in which the sign resided.  The change is not affecting gameplay in Planetside I know, and probably not in AO.

    Your not paying to see advertising, if you can't deal with something this simple, you should really think about the world you live in and how long left you have in it.  Because its not going to get any better, and it certainly isnt hurting anything.

  • MathadarMathadar San Diego, CAPosts: 23Member Uncommon
     So all the countless this game plays best with an nvida/ati that some games *cough* EQ2 force us to look at every time we start the game are not advertisements..the fact is games already advertise. However the first game that has a pop up anything in game will be flamed till it dies. image
  • VeviVevi Quakertown, PAPosts: 146Member
    As long as it is in a contemporary setting I don't mind.  I say this, in regards to companies that are just not after money.  I Think the folks at Cryptic would use the income to better the game or pass savings on to the players. What I mean by improving the game is; using the income to hire more developers.  I personally do not think SoE would have the same intentions, I think they are more about the money. I know Cryptic would would probably not have final say in such a matter, since NC Soft is connected with them.  


  • theanimedudetheanimedude waterloo, ONPosts: 1,610Member Uncommon

    Frankly, yes, we will see an influx in in-game advertising. Will it really work? Who knows. Bus ads are on the sides of buses. Do THEY work? some say they do, some say they dont.

    The fact is, in the fantasy genre, they wont really fit anywhere. What, are we going to have "Robin Hood Pizza" carved into the nearest redwood? Hell no.

    Sure, in sci-fi or sci-fi/fantasy hybrid games, yes, you can fit them in there... as they fit. But unless you want to so something like, and have a huge advertisement taking up a large portion of the screens real estate at all times (thus COMPLETELY taking away from all immersion) then I do not think we will see a huge influx, or any content pertaining to advertising, in the medieval/primitive fantasy genre.

    Overall, I do not feel the MMORPG genre is quite large enough to sustain such a huge advertising domain, and we might see a few IGAs from people like Sony... but I do not think it will be that much of a problem.

    Atleast theyre doing it tastefully, and placing them in the correct context, like on billboards and things in high-tech cities. Its the exact same as the fake advertisements they always had there... except now its for free products.

    I see no difference. Its a win/win for everyone as far as I can tell.


  • deggilatordeggilator AthensPosts: 520Member

    As long as advertising is not invasive (like pop-up ads, for instance), then it's fine with me. In sci-fi games, such billboards give style to the game after all, they make it more realistic.

    Such advertising methods may prove beneficial to the customers, if they lead to a reduction in subscription cost or, potentially, free subscriptions with advertising (much like Anarchy Online's free edition). However, there is no guarantee that advertisement will lead in the reduction of the cost for the customer.

    Currently playing:
    * City of Heroes: Deggial, Assault Rifle/Devices Blaster. Server: Defiant.
    * City of Villains: Snakeroot, Plant/Thorns Dominator. Server: Defiant.

  • mikomimikomi Edmonton, ABPosts: 12Member

    Ideologically, I wouldn't want advertising in my games. But Realistically, I think it's a necessary evil to keep a game afloat. Annarchy Online (AO) is the prime example, and they've proven that in-game advertising works and people will tolerate it. Money makes MMORPG Worlds go round.

    As much as some would hate to admit it, it's all about money. Although as long as they keep it as non-invasive as possible, it should be an okay aspect of a game. Therefore, no pop-ups, transition ad pages, or anything else blatantly annoying or irritating.


  • Rikimaru_XRikimaru_X Myrtle Beach, SCPosts: 11,718Member Uncommon

    Originally posted by JefchBowa

    the /pizza thing from everquest 2 was a april fool's joke... if u didnt know that...

    I thought it was, becuase you can't possibly do that, becuase you need real infomation, local, etc. Anyone can see through that as a fake. Why didn't the editor catch this?

    -In memory of Laura "Taera" Genender. Passed away on Aug/13/08-

  • WardropWardrop Plymouth, MIPosts: 462Member

    If it eliminates the overall cost im going to have to pay for the game, sure i dont mind but it had better be in step with the game. If a company is just looking for profits like SOE then im not going to waste my time paying to play. Most folks play games to escape a bit from normal day to day life or satisfy thier competitive needs. Too many titles on the market to waste my time with one that forces you to pay for spam and gives nothing back.

  • qotsaqotsa sioux city, IAPosts: 834Member Uncommon

    I don't mind it as long as it fits. Something like AO or Matrix, then yeah I can see it. I think we'll see more of it to. It isn't that much different than paying for cable and sitting through commercials. I would almost prefer it in a game like that. Games like EQ and WOW, it wouldn't realy fit. The day I'm about ready to kill a big boss in a fantasy game and I get a pop-up telling me to enter another coca cola UPC number to continue, is the day I'm gone.

  • HashmanHashman Fuck youPosts: 649Member

    85% of mmorpgs (probably more) are in a fantasy based setting. Which is odd if you ask me, make a very good sci-fi mmorpg and you have less to compete with! I'm sure there is some smart investor out there who can get a mmorpg sponsored by say Apple and have in game ads for iPod. AO can pretty much get away with it since its a futuristic setting, but try placing a Coca-Cola vending machine in Azeroth.

    I suppose it depends on exactly what is being advertised. What if it is something like Marlboro or Smirnoff, if it is an adult rated game then you can do that, *but* since you can play a mmorpg anywhere throughout the world you may have legal issues with advertising a product which is age-restricted, illegal in one country but not another.

    If it is done subtley and not IN YER FACE, then I don't see a problem.

    What if it's something that I don't mind, but another gamer might. For instance take shampoo which has been animal tested. I don't care either way, but Joey McPaladin might.

    In the making of this post no animals were harmed in anyway and all names, except Joey McPaladin, are purely fictitous.

    BTW /pizza in EQ2 wasn't a joke. Using that command opens a browser to pizza hut.

  • jezadanijezadani Minnetonka, MNPosts: 3Member

    There's an article on this over at from last month that I spotted.

    I'd link it here, but apparently this editor screws up URLS when I try to post them. Seems like a considerable oversight. Anyway, if you want to read it, go over there and look for an article called Pepsi Online, there's a pretty funny picture posted with it as well.


  • DrimliDrimli Bloomington, INPosts: 21Member

    I think many are missing a possible issue that can arise from all this – what happens when the advertisers start dictating game content and overall direction. Call me paranoid or a conspiracy nut if you want but it is not a far stretch to think that in time game design could be influenced by its ability to sell add space.

    I am not saying that Coke is going to tell SOE that while they want to advertise in their new game they are not sure because focus groups and market research show the game seems to cater more to the Pepsi drinking crowd. I am also not saying that SOE would change the game’s design to appeal more to the Coke drinking crowd if Coke was willing to put up more cash for advertising than Pepsi. I mean advertisers have no control over TV, movies or other things right;)

  • FoxlyFoxly LeicesterPosts: 78Member

    I'm personally against the legal lobbying that allows any marketing board in the world to stick down a flag on a public service, paid for or free, and call it a "market". What a perfect way to justify industrial pollution, visual pollution, and trade that weakens local economies in favor of nebulous and much larger -less immediately effectual in communities -economies. It's as rotten as offshoring. But since most people seem to eat up whatever the media spins at them and are economically ignorant, I think this will get flamed. I hate abstracting "most people", I just don't witness the evidence to the contrary often.

    So, this should be interesting to see how people vote.

    "...the enchantment of error that you put on me I must wear forever in your eyes. We are not always what we seem and hardly ever what we dream."

  • TheoTheo Detroit, MIPosts: 242Member

    The way I look at it, it's a market like any other. I'm a 33-year old man who plays video games far more than I watch television, only listens to the radio when I forget to charge my iPod and doesn't read newspapers or magazines. I'm extremely difficult for advertisers to reach, and I'm just one example of a rapidly growing demographic. If an advertiser wants to get to me, he's gonna have to get in my game. They've got the hard part done already: they've got me sitting still for several hours a day looking at the same thing. The audience is there. All they need now is the right message. They know that, and they're sitting in board rooms right now discussing how to do it.

    I wouldn't mind seeing advertisements in City of Heroes/Villains. Seeing a familiar fast food restaurant or a professionally-designed billboard would only add to the immersion and visual variety of the game world. My concern is the same as the author's: I don't want to see tongue-in-cheek product placement in fantasy MMOs, like a Ye Olde Pepsi healing elixer or a Dew of the Mountain hasten potion in Everquest.

    One way I can see adding advertising in any MMO regardless of genre is to place it on loading screens. We already have ads leading into many games, usually for the developers, publishers, retailers or hardware manufacturers. I wouldn't be surprised to see loading screens advertising soft drinks or snack foods. I only hope the load times aren't deliberately increased or capped at a minimum duration to appease advertisers.

  • DanaDana Halifax, NSPosts: 2,415Member

    Originally posted by Rikimaru_X
    Originally posted by JefchBowa
    the /pizza thing from everquest 2 was a april fool's joke... if u didnt know that...I thought it was, becuase you can't possibly do that, becuase you need real infomation, local, etc. Anyone can see through that as a fake. Why didn't the editor catch this?

    WoW did an April fool's joke in response. /pizza was very real.

    Dana Massey
    Formerly of
    Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

  • AnofalyeAnofalye Quebec, QCPosts: 7,433Member

    On the server selection menu, I doesn't mind as long as I doesn't see my computer having lag issues (crash and see more ads, I would aggro fast to lag troubles and the advertisers doesn't want me unhappy when I see their stuff anyway, it would not be fine in the loading sequence because it ruin the spirit of the game, really only at the server selection/character selection and before)


    Inside the game, they better adapt to not mess with the spirit of the game.  I wouldn't mind it as long as it respect the spirit of the game, in a game like CoH it is easy to put a McDonald advertising or Coke...but inside EQ2, maybe in the gnome quarter with a LOT of reworking or something(like having a popular spells using Celerity Off Khan Egomancer for COKE would work and be fine, the players using the COKE please is actually prolly a good advertising system), but definitely not beside the temple of Marr!  McDonald ads inside the 5th element was FUN, that type of stuff, logical and everything is fine.


    The more money the company is making, the more likely they are to give the players candies (new zones or whatever).  As long as it never interfere with the game itself...and for the peoples bashing guys are nuts, SoE is one of the most generous company when it come down to come back goodies to the players, Blizzard is deadly cheap on the other hand...they already made MORE than all other MMOs in profits...and I see very little candies given to players.  SoE even buy airplanes tickets to the most awful jerks they have as players, those who ruins EQ, they listen to their desire and fine tune the game to please them and they left!  Funny eh? image  Quality councils come free and take into account the needs of the many!

    - "If I understand you well, you are telling me until next time. " - Ren

  • JorevJorev Fenwick Island, DEPosts: 1,500Member

    It's wrong to plug in ads in a MMOG that also charges a subscription fee. Just because it happens in other media, doesn't mean it has to be tolerated in MMOGs.

    We as consumers, have the power to control and limit how far game companies will force this issue. Simply just refuse to play games that charge a fee and include advertising. SOE is the only MMOG producer that is trying this at the moment so just say no to all their product and other game companies will get the message.

    "We feel gold selling and websites that promote it damage games like Vanguard and will do everything possible to combat it."
    Brad McQuaid
    Chairman & CEO, Sigil Games Online, Inc.
    Executive Producer, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes

  • SWCeridanSWCeridan Le Gardeur, QCPosts: 1Member

    Well 2 things about mmo ads...

    1 it must be done in a way that does not destroy the game immersion(IE having pepsi ads on posters in Stormwind(WoW) would be weird...).


    2 It must not be popups or something else anoying(an ad during a loading screen would be limit)

    In the IT world, all information is important.

  • AdardowenAdardowen Gatineau, QCPosts: 69Member Common

    Advertising in games... an interesting and incredibly controversial topic. As controversial as violent video games ::::01::

    Here in Canada, it's over $20 a month for just about every MMORPG out there right now. I think that's plenty. If someone is going to place non-intrusive ads in my game, you better drop that price down. I'm not going to let some advertising company control the content in my game just like the TV shows and movies I watch and not pay me back for it. I barely watch TV or movies anymore because I'm sick of waiting to get back to what I was doing. I wanted something interactive, and video games are the answer. I can tolerate ads, but if they get in they way and/or provide no benefit to me, sorry, but I'm gone. I'm not afraid to switch games until I find one that stands for what I want. And if I can't find an MMORPG I'll play another genre. (Yes, I'm quite stubborn AND spiteful... it's a good mix ::::02::)

    The point is the advertising MUST provide a clear benefit to me, or I leave. And for the love of god, at least advertise good products... I have no need for McDonalds, Pepsi, or Nike.

    You know, back to the topic of monthly fees... within 3 months with that money I could have bought a brand new game. Are MMORPGs really worth the price we pay for them?

  • JefchBowaJefchBowa walnut, CAPosts: 3Member

    hmmm... i did not know this

    thank you for proving me wrong, i thought the /pizza thing from eq2 was a joke too since WoW had a /pandaren (i think that's wat it was). Didnt know that the command in eq2 was serious.

    SWG: Jefch Bowa (Bria)
    WoW: Jefch (Kil'Jaeden)
    FFXI: Jefch (Alexander)

  • thegowchthegowch BrisbanePosts: 18Member

    The number one response from gamers upset with in-game advertising is something akin to: we pay our fees, thus we earned the right not to be advertised at. Simply put. You’re wrong. You pay for cable. You pay for movies. You pay for sports tickets. I hate to tell you, in this culture, you pay for advertising, and the fact that you have not to date in online games is probably about to change.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


    In this case I’d have to go with the old axiom of the customer always being right – I pay my fees and I won’t be advertised at. You’re right in that the evil of advertising is everywhere, but your analogy in this case is off key. The type of advertising we’re subjected to on television and in the movies (i.e. during breaks or prior to commencement) don’t apply to MMORPGs. Ok, you might get an nvidia logo flashed at you during game startup but that’s about the best you can do without becoming intrusive.


    As for advertising in game… not going to happen for me. I pay my fees and I won’t be advertised at… because I pay my fees for a particular product – fun escapism. If advertising <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />drags the real world into a game with me, I’m no longer getting what I’m paying for… and I will stop paying for it.


    I really enjoy playing mmorpgs, but I also enjoy doing lots of other things and what I get from mmorpgs I can get elsewhere if mmorpgs stop providing it.

    Let’s face it, MMORPG gamers have been spoiled by the lack of advertising so far.

    Yeah ok I get that we live in a pseudo-democracy where the rich bastards pretty much control everything and us poor suckers don’t really have that much say in things. But, when it comes to exactly how and where we spend our money, we do. I’ve paid my hard-earned money to play the games I’ve played (without advertising). I haven’t been “spoiled” – I’ve paid for a service and received it, and the people I’ve paid for that service have profited and become even richer bastards. Granted, in our culture greed is good, the dollar is worshipped and just about anything done in the pursuit of profit is deemed good and holy, but there still exists a fine line when it comes to milking the masses.

    The real future in MMORPG-advertising is poised to come from games designed with advertising in mind. Look at console games. Racing games like Need for Speed show off real cars and have billboards around the sides of the track. In fighting games – like Def Jam –you buy Air Jordan sneakers for your characters and control some of the world’s most popular rap artists. Even sports games like NHL ‘06 paint digital advertisements on the ice and boards while playing a soundtrack of up-and-coming rock bands. The common threads? All these games were designed to offer an easy, non-intrusive form of advertising and all of them are produced by Electronic Arts.

    Again I don’t think the anology quite works. Billboards around the side of a racing track in a racing car game – smart form of advertising, no question. The game producers get the advertising money while at the same time adding to the realism of the game experience. Total win/win. To a limited extent it’s the same with being able to buy real-life products in a game set in a real-life world (though if it were realistic you’d also have the option of purchasing other brands).


    Bottom line is in most cases advertising in mmorpgs would seriously detract from the game experience. With so many games on the market, keeping that edge over your competitors is important, and risking that for a bit of advertising money doesn’t seem smart. For the mmorpgs you’ve cited as examples of games using advertising, I think in every case they’re also good examples of older games which don’t seem likely to attract many new players and to keep profits up they’ve felt the need to go the advertising route. Maybe in those cases, they can pull it off. When a game gets to the point where it’s unlikely to attract new players but still has a reasonably devoted playerbase, some limited form of advertising might be a legitimate way to keep the business afloat and the game available – which devoted players could tolerate.


    Otherwise, I pay my fees and I won’t be advertised at.

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