Lock up your Playstation, hide your xBox, it’s the attack of the giant sponsor!
Once upon a time, the only advertising messages in computer games were ‘Easter eggs’, or hidden signatures of game designers who received little credit for their work.
But now, as 18 to 35’s spend more time playing with their joysticks and less with the TV remote, major advertisers plotting to capture these elusive bloodshot eyeballs, much to the delight of game publishers.
“The new games cost up to $10 million to develop”, says Darren MacBeth, Managing Director of Ubisoft Australia. “We used to pay major companies to use their ads on our racing circuits and sports stadiums, but now they are throwing money our way to get their brands seen. There’s no governing body for game advertising, but publishers need to have a level of responsibility and we would never promote gambling or tobacco products.”
In Splinter Cell Chaos Theory game, the sweaty hero wanders past Ace deodorant cans in a steamy Japanese bathhouse, while CSI’s ever-reliable Gil Grissom uncovers a thumbprint on a Nokia phone. Online players are now being fed dynamic advertising, so posters and billboards change each time their character walks past.
So does this mean that Lara Croft will be using Revlon repair kits when she breaks a nail knocking out bad guys? We won’t include anything that interferes with the experience of the game, and I doubt even Lara’s biggest groupies would let her get away with that”, says MacBeth.
One avid online multiplayer gamer, Scott Gorman, says he’s not worried about the men in black polo’s as long as their ads are realistic and don’t interfere with the game, “but in a tense shootout, when everyone has an itchy trigger finger, I don’t want a couple of smiling M & M’s jumping out of a dark alley into my firing line.”
One game that did feel the wrath of gamers was boxing game, Fight Night 3, when developers inserted a huge Burger King logo on ring canvas. Gamers complained that it wasn’t appropriate. Perhaps they just didn’t want to think about hamburgers when their opponent’s faces looked like mince patty.