Major Publishers Propose Specific In-Game Ads, Including One For Life-Saving Water

'Guitar Hero: World Tour' With Milk Ad

Enough with the vague statements. Here are seven specific ideas from EA, Take Two, THQ and other publishers and advertising people who want more ads in 2009's video games:

The following ideas were all presented at an event last week hosted by Microsoft-owned Massive Incorporated in a small nightclub in downtown Manhattan. All of the ad ideas offered were couched in careful terms of not ruining a gamers' pleasure of their game.

» More destructible ads as blown up in "Mercenaries 2" - Massive's national sales manager, Ian Ali showed a clip of a character in "Mercs 2" blasting a burger-selling billboard with a rocket propelled grenade and then running through the debris.

» Life-saving bottles of water - A Ubisoft representative presented an old trailer for Chicago-based natural disaster survival game "I Am Alive" (slated for the first half of 2009). He pointed out that that product placement in this game could have the added benefit of improving an advertiser's image. Hey, bottled water company, players could begin associating your water with the ability to survive a virtual natural disaster. He suggested more James Bond-style product placement could continue in the "Splinter Cell" series (yes, he confirmed, the delayed next game in the series, "Conviction," is still coming).

» Backstage WWE locker rooms - A THQ rep pointed out that any backstage brawl depicted in a "WWE Vs. Smackdown" game presents an ideal opportunity for presenting ads. Attendees were left to guess how and where the ads would show up, but maybe someone could get thrown into an officially licensed car or be knocked into a sign advertising an upcoming movie?

» Outfield signage - A 2K Sports official proposed more of the already-prevalent ads in sports games. He mentioned an impressive stat: average total playing time for owners of "MLB 2K8" is nine hours. That's a lot of time during which ads can be seen. Ali, the Massive rep, had highlighted the effectiveness of an ad in 2K's 2008 baseball game, a Subway ad placed on the outfield wall that prompted players to send a text message to the sandwich company to receive a free game hint. The publisher and advertsing folks at the conference believed that's the kind of ad that benefits everyone.

» Ads in boxing matches - EA's rep notably only talked about putting ads in next year's "Skate 2," "Fight Night Round 4," and "Madden 2010." That's not to say the company won't do ads in other games, but they're pushing sports (and hinting that the next "Madden" will be more "story-based," whatever that means.)

» "Around-game" ads - "World of Warcraft" developer Blizzard has made a deal with Massive to place ads on, part of an idea to put brands in front of gamers in game-related experiences like player-lobbies, without making those ads go into the games themselves.

» No ads in fantasy games - None of the aforementioned reps, nor the Activision rep whose presentation we covered last week, suggested that in-game ads be presented in non-realistic games. In fact, in a Q&A after the publisher presentations, new Massive chief JJ Richards said, "You're not going to go back with a sword or a dragon and have a Pepsi in your hand." He thinks "around-game" ads are better for non-realistic games. (I wonder if he's played "Pikmin" yet.)

The Massive event was the first of its kind. Organizers hope to host these presentations regularly each year, bringing publishers and potential advertisers together to find the best way to get ads into games. Many of them say these ads help defray the cost of game development, but until more numbers are shown proving that, the current ideas and proposals seem simply like some tentative means to that ultimate end.

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