Advertising in Software Games

I saw Episode III of Star Wars last Thursday. It was so-so, or at least the best of a bad lot but, here is the interesting thing that occurred to me: there was no way to have “prominent product placement” in the film. It takes place long ago in a galaxy far away. It’s therefore unreachable by Sony, GM, BASF or WalMart. The same thing applies to the Lord of the Rings, Middle-earth is unsullied by Coke ads. No ads in the Matrix trilogy that I can recall. Neo is not even using a Apple PowerBook or G*. (Contrary to what the marketing weasels at Apple would have you believe, not all the heros or hip guys use Apple.) Plenty of ads before the movies, plenty of ads in the theater lobby but, no ads in the films themselves.

There were ads in 2001 and in Bladerunner. This added some realism to the science fiction but it also dated the movies rather quickly. Pan Am doesn’t exist anymore. The Bell System doesn’t exist anymore. Atari ceased to exist and then was revived as a brand name by a totally different company. When you see the scenes I’m talking about, with the ads in them, you’ll wince.

This is really old news but now the marketroids are lathering up about putting ads in software games. Many of the sports games (auto racing, tennis, football, etc.) render stadiums, fields, arenas and tracks in photorealistic splendor–sweat, dust, ads and all. I’m sure the marketing departments at the big game companies are patting themselves on the back about that but, for me, that’s another reason not to buy sports games. The Sims is rife with advertising opportunities. Why get your sim just any ol’ vacuum cleaner, when they can get a Hoover (with a hidden neatness bonus to encourage players to by it.)? But I think if I stick with the fantasy and science fiction genres, I’ll be pretty safe from ads in the wire frames. I’ve busted the ads out of so many areas of my life; this is just one more.

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