In the late ‘80s, the movie Top Gun was released on video (VHS). Critics were upset because the video contained a commercial for Pepsi before the movie began. You may remember the F-14 Tomcat with the Pepsi bottle dispenser (it was a glass bottle as well). While the advertising may have been a problem for some, I did not mind it at all. In fact, I was glad for it because it allowed for the movie to be sold for a much cheaper price than other videos so I could afford to buy it. Before that time, videos were expensive and move people just rented them rather than pay the steep price for a single movie. By having Pepsi sponsor the video release, Paramount (I believe) was able to sell the video cheaper. It sold so well, that other videos dropped in price as well as studios realized that cheaper price means more sales as well as a greater profit.
The purpose of advertising is to sell a product. Companies pay media outlets to run or print their ads and that is where media makes a lot of their money. Television and radio shows are free (not counting some satellite and cable channels) because advertisers are footing the bill for you to watch and listen. Magazines and newspapers are about 60%-75% ads. Comic books used to be full of ads. When they dropped outside advertising, the cost of comic books went up. Therefore, according to this economic model, advertising makes media cheaper for the consumer.
Over the weekend my wife and I were watching Vantage Point (a great movie, by the way). Forrest Whittaker’s character uses a video camera during many scenes in the movie. Right away I noticed that from several different angles, I could see the Sony logo. I then remembered that the movie was by Columbia, a Sony Pictures studio. It is no coincidence that the video camera in the movie was a Sony. As you watch TV or movies, you will notice lots of product placements throughout.
Advertisements have been appearing in video games for a while as well. Atari used billboards in the arcade version of Pole Position, a racing game, to advertise their other games. So this is not new. What brought up the top of this blog was that I recently learned that some upcoming games will have dynamic advertising throughout. From what I have read, these might be billboards with real ads. If that were not enough, one of the goals is to destroy as many of these billboards as you can. Of course, if you are going to destroy a billboard, you will have to aim and look at it. This is taking in-game advertising a bit too far in my opinion, by rewarding players for looking at ads with points or achievements.
However, if the publishers of these games with advertising are including ads to make the game less expensive for the players rather than just pocketing the extra profits, I am willing to let it slide. Maybe advertising will make brand new next-gen games more affordable.