There are no “thoughtful” ads in video games, EA

There are no “thoughtful” ads in video games, EA
Amaar Chowdhury Updated on by

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“We have looked over the course of our history to be very thoughtful about advertising in our play experiences,” said EA’s CEO Andrew Wilson to investors in their latest financial report. He continues, “we have teams internally in the company right now looking at how do we do very thoughtful
implementations inside of our game experiences,” before finishing off with the kicker:

“But more importantly … how do we think about advertising as a growth driver in those types of experiences?”

Somehow, I don’t think we need to tell EA that there are no “thoughtful” ads to be found inside the games we play, especially considering they’ve gone ahead and laid out their “more important” ambition to drive growth and revenue for their, mostly, live-service experiences, reassuring us of their strategy that clearly considers the player.

The idea of ads inserted into video games is not a foreign concept for EA. I was a FIFA kid growing up – sweaty, rude, and sometimes addicted to opening packs. The concept of seeing adverts in games does not surprise me, not when each stadium is kitted out brand marketing in every nook and cranny. Perhaps this was merely a symptom of sports games–SEGA and Sports Interactive’s Football Manager has flashed native ads for years too, with Bidstack having just renewed their contract to secure in-game billboard adverts to the highest bidder.

As a football fan, adverts feel like just as much of the experience at times. It’s still the Barclays Premier League and Carling Cup in my head, despite the fact they have totally rebranded names now. This is because, in most instances, these adverts are not intrusive, interactive, and can mostly be glossed over very easily.

Issues really arise after you pay £70 for a game, or up to £120 if you include all the extra bits, and you are met with a in-game advert between the moment your Astromech fires up your X-Wing’s thrusters. There’s no thoughtful way to tear down the immersion of intergalactic space travel with an advert selling cheap flight tickets to Dublin, no matter how much research EA’s in-house team puts in.

The saddest part to all of this is the fact that recurring and chronic price hikes that AAA-games are seeing can only be solved by a few options; dramatically reducing game budgets, leading to the ‘refactoring’ of studios that aren’t generating blockbuster revenue, as happened to Tango Gameworks recently, or the likely implementation of a Netflix and Amazon Prime style advertising model. You can pre-order the Ultimate Edition of our next live service title to enjoy our new ad-free experience now, though you will still be able to enjoy the game for £60 with an advert between each death screen too. I can already see the press release.

If EA really wanted to implement “thoughtful” advertising in its video games, then they’d consider the following statistics pertaining to a report on Gen Z gamers:

50% of Gen Z gamers say ads are a bit annoying but they don’t mind
them for free games. However, 43% say advertising in games is so
disruptive it ruins the game experience.

via ZBD

These statistics reinforce something that nobody ever questioned–advertising ruins the gaming experience. I’m sitting here right now, writing for a website in which adverts generate its main source of revenue. I can’t pretend that to be clean of any involvement with advertising, though we don’t offer a paid-for product. Instead, our content is free and paid for by user interaction. The same can’t necessarily be said for EA’s AAA-game library, many of which already cost more than most are willing to spend. Even then, the likelihood is that its free-to-play titles are going to be affected most; Apex Legends and Sims 4, for example.

Without a doubt these titles are already generating wads of cash. They’re lined with DLC, microtransactions and battle passes, and despite technically being free to download, you will still end up spending just as much on their locked content as you would on a paid-for game.

EA’s recent investor call is yet another example of the current prevailing industry issues. AAA publishers are locked into a cycle of chasing growth, with advertising the next poison to follow after live-service and microtransaction implementation. Sure, rapid growth is a good thing for many, though it generally ends in heartbreak. Take recent studio acquisitions from Microsoft as an example. Arkane Austin had previously worked on Dark Messiah, Dishonored and Prey, all games that have held up through the test of time. They were, by all means, successes. Then, Microsoft brought up Zenimax, who owned Arkane. Now, after the disastrous launch of Redfall, a live-service shooter with nothing of the core Arkane DNA, the studio has shut down. This is one of the many disastrous symptoms of rapid growth, and the adverts are now set up as the next.

It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that #BoycottEA was trending the other day, either.

Sources: Eurogamer, EA