I won’t lie. I can be a rather negative person. Nevertheless, I have had a certain bad premonition for years about the future of gaming that might be coming true. In a troubling turn of events, I have learned that TV ads could possibly begin showing up in our console video games! Yes, including those we pay $60 for!
There are multiple articles on the topic, but I will mainly focus on an article I found on the Wall Street Journal, which was also featured on the YouTube channel, The Quartering. To summarize, advertisers are having a more difficult time reaching their target audience on cable television, so they are doing experiments to see if video games is the next big medium for getting their ads seen by potential customers. Although they are claiming that ads will be “optional” and watching them rewards players with “in-game benefits”, something just doesn’t sit right with me. It feels too much like a way to test the waters and see how much they can get away with.
Video from YouTube User: The Quartering
I mean, how exactly will these “optional” ads be presented anyway? Can I check a box in the settings menu saying I never want to see ads and that’s the end of it? Or will my game be intermittently interrupted with the option to see an ad, along with the choice to watch it or skip it? And what exactly are these rewards? Will it be something completely silly that I won’t mind missing out on, or will it include features that I rightfully should have gotten for the simple fact that, I don’t know, I already paid $60 for the game?
To further justify their methods, according to a website called Mar Tech Series (never heard of them before, I must admit), they said that a study was done that showed that “gamers prefer games with real-world branding and advertisements as opposed to made-up ads.” Okay, so I could be wrong…but I can’t help but feel that statement is a bit…off. I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t imagine anything killing immersion in my fictional video game universe quite like an ad for a real-world company, whether you’re playing in a futuristic sci-fi environment like Ratchet & Clank or a natural, more fantasy environment seen in series like Rayman. Just take the former example, where advertising would be a tad less intrusive. If I’m running and shooting my way through some sci-fi city, and I see a billboard advertising a fictional soda, I’d be fine with that. If it parodies a real-world brand, that could even be good for a laugh. If it was actually advertising, let’s say, Coca-Cola, however…
Perish the thought.
I, like many people, use video games as a form of escapism from the stresses of the real world. This is not new. People have always needed that; in the past, it just took the form of books or TV or movies. Nowadays, a lot of people turn to video games. And I don’t want ads in my video games. I cancelled cable TV because there was nothing good to watch and because I couldn’t stand watching ads all the time. To be honest, there are few things I can’t tolerate like a long string of TV ads that I can’t skip. Furthermore, I question the effectiveness of these ads to begin with. I can guarantee you, if I’m not interested in a product within the first five seconds, forcing me to watch all 30 seconds of it is not going to change my mind.
I think these following two examples sum up my attitude towards the proper handling of ads. I pay for Netflix. I don’t have to watch any ads. I watch YouTube for free, so I have to watch ads. Sure, I don’t enjoy the ads, but it seems like a fair trade for getting a free service. (I was also horrified at learning that Hulu had the nerve to charge you AND still included ads!) With that said, I understand that free mobile games include ads to help the company earn a profit. But I should not have to pay any amount of money for a video game and still be expected to watch ads. Not only does it ruin the experience, but it’s wrong on so many levels.
Continuing with the Wall Street Journal article, there is some more info that should shed some light on the situation. Including a rather rude statement I wanted to add that says that “gamers are notorious for howling at changes they don’t like”. Okay, so if gamers are a rarity in the fact that they’ll stand up for themselves, then I say good for us. Consumers should feel less inclined to support companies that attempt to take advantage of them and all the more eager to support companies that treat their customers with respect.
In other words…thanks for insulting the very group whose money you’re after.
Anyway, moving on, they also said that, while “hardcore gamers” are going to be particularly averse to seeing ads, they think “midcore to casual-level gamers” will be more open to the idea because they are more used to playing “free games or games on subscription services”. (Wait, so gamers paying for a subscription should also have to see ads?) And I see three problems with that.
1: While I see myself more as a hardcore gamer, I am still not okay with casual gamers being taken advantage of.
2: I don’t only play so-called “hardcore” games, either. So if I choose to relax with a more casual game, that means I’m not immune to this, either. Could we see ads in Animal Crossing? Are players who are willing to watch ads going to have a far easier time earning bells than those who choose not to?
3: And lastly, if we accept ads in our casual games, it’s all too easy for advertisers to take the next step and invade all categories of games. It won’t stop at casual games. We already have proof of this because ads already exist for free mobile games.
And that’s apparently no longer good enough.
I hate that I saw this coming. But let me tell you, if this becomes a reality, I will not be supporting any games that include advertising. I hope at the very least that indie developers and particularly reputable larger companies won’t attempt something like this. But if they, too, choose to let us all down, I have a large collection of older games that I can still play, ad-free. Heck, I keep finding overlooked retro games that I’d like to add to my library. So I don’t need these new games. This will also leave me with more time to catch up on some classic literature I’ve been meaning to read.
I mean, they can’t place ads in paperback books, can they?