Some network-savvy gamers
have uncovered the inner workings of third party advertising being inserted into the popular tactical FPS game, SWAT 4. Having followed the publisher's recommendation of updating to version 1.1 to resolve security issues and fix various bugs, the readme.txt contained a line listing the addition of "Massive Streaming Ad Support". The lads then noticed some unusual network traffic:
"After updating my version of SWAT4 to the latest patch from Vivendi, I soon discovered that the game was phoning home to grab posters to place in the enviroment of the game's levels. Not only did it do this for every level that was played, but it also informed the advertisers of how long each poster was viewed, and by which gamer. Expect to see this kind of advertising and brand placement becoming standard fare in the very near future."
Armed with packet-sniffing software and other tools, they were able to dissect the code and discover that the technology is far more invasive than mere product placement.
"The client contacted madserver to tell the advertisers how long the gamer spent with each advert in their view. This is mapped to the gamer id, so they know which player in the game saw the advert, and when, for how long, and from how far away (by virtue of the size attribute). Even the average viewing angle is passed back."
Amazingly, community reaction to this move has been mixed. Some gamers actually felt it added an element of increased realism to the game, while others were prepared to tolerate the ads if the extra revenue meant the developer Irrational Games
had more cash to develop future games.
However, many more gamers are understandably against the idea of being subjected to unsolicited advertising in a game they have paid US$50 to own & play. Some suggested the possibility of two versions of the game: a traditional ad-free version sold at the normal price, and a cut-price (or even free) version containing in-game advertising and product placement.
The success of inserting real world advertising into virtual game worlds is somewhat title dependent. Sports games like FIFA are obvious candidates where accurately replicating the advertising hoardings of real stadiums certainly would add to the realism. Featuring posters advertising this week's television shows in first-person shooter games just seems totally out of context, and serve little purpose but to destroy the illusion of being inside the game universe.
Have your say on in-game advertising - is it an inevitable erosion of creative standards in a bid to generate maximum profits? Would you be in favour of customised billboards, tailored to your personal buying habits? Stand up and be counted in News Discussion