Wednesday, October 18, 2006

EA goofs up with ads embedded in a game

The idea of embedding advertisements in software is not a new one. For quite some time it was used by developers of shareware programs to help them getting paid for their work while keeping the product "free" (at least, with no payments required from the user). Somehow for a long time the idea was not introduced into the world of computer games; but recently the topic of "embedded ads" became a hot one. Many factors made the idea of putting ads on vacant places in the game world a lucrative one: growing time people are spending playing games, growth of gamers’ population, expanding demographics of players, availability of internet connectivity… The interest to this topic is constantly growing, especially in the area of casual games. For example, on GDC 2006 WildTangent introduced their own platform for embedding advertisements, oriented on downloadable games.

So, I’m not surprised that Electronic Arts decided to join the fun and released two games with built-in ads: Battlefield 2142 and Need for Speed: Carbon. But I’m still surprised at the total lack of market understanding which EA demonstrated with this launch. EA decided to get the best of both worlds – they’re charging a regular price for the game and make you watch their ads. It’s no wonder people become frustrated with this: usually it’s one or another: I can pay for the game; I also can support a developer of a free game by watching ads instead of paying cash. But I really don’t understand why do I have to do both?!

"Joystiq" (from which I’ve got the information) in two posts (post1 and post2) provides a transcript of the letter, which, as I understand, comes with the game. Here is the most interesting part from this letter:

IF YOU DO NOT WANT IGA TO COLLECT, USE, STORE OR TRANSMIT THE DATA DESCRIBED IN THIS SECTION, DO NOT INSTALL OR PLAY THE SOFTWARE ON ANY PLATFORM THAT IS USED TO CONNECT TO THE INTERNET.


Basically, love it – or leave it. I am speechless…

I hope that EA will listen to the voice of the gamers and will reconsider its policy. Basically, it has to do a very simple thing: let the users choose, whether they want a free game (or, at least, deeply discounted) with ads, or a fully priced one – but with no ads.

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2 comments:

Dmitriy Kropivnitskiy said...

I think you overestimate social awareness of the gaming crowd. If 90% of gamers will say "I don't care about all this advertizement vs. price, I just want to play the new game" and buy the game EA can safely tell the other 10% to love it or leave it.

Aleksey Linetskiy said...

On one hand, you are right. I have no illusions about level of gamers' social awareness. On the other hand, though, the angry 10% are, probably, the ones which create the most buzz. So, if those 10% are unhappy, the reviews might be worse, and the game will get all sorts of negative publicity, which, in turn, might affect sales. Current gaming market is highly competitive, and, even with EA being almost a monopolyst, it doesn't need lost sales.

And, another thing, is that the negative publicity might affect the whole idea of embedded ads. For many game developers the new ads system might become a blessing - why spoil it from the very beginning?