Poll Question 071 – Should mods consider in game advertising?

24th February 2008

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

Back in March 2007 I asked Would you pay for a mod? A similar question was raised just yesterday when Chris Fox asked in a comment: How much ad revenue do you think a mod could potentially generate, Phillip?

Let me address something similar before I talk about ad revenue.

Going back to paying for mods for a moment. I truly believe that some mods should be allowed to receive revenue for the work. The logistics and legality are not the point of this piece, just the general concept. I also feel that Valve could easily use Steam for this purpose.

Ad Revenue

So, onto the question of whether mods should consider in game advertising? This really depends on exactly what type of advertising is used and for what products. Let’s assume that all the advertising we are discussing is controlled by the mod themselves and therefore suitable and potentially interesting for the player.

I am not an expert but there seem to be a few possibilities. Please feel free to add your own ideas as a comment below.

Intro Screens
When a mod loads, either first time or after each save load, an ad could be displayed. These would need to be fixed, i.e. the escape key will not skip them. They would need to be fairly brief and probably limited to just a few. We have to suffer them when we load out game, why not a mod?

Product Placement
This could be a cool way to get your product noticed by the playing public but is very dependent on the product. I could easily see a can of energy drink being used in a game without ruining the atmosphere. There must be plenty of other products that would lend itself to this type of publicity.

Bill Boards
For non-native English speakers, these are large metal or wooden boards that have printed advertisements on them. Of course the modern in-game version could be large monitors that display TV-type adverts.

Posters
Imagine my surprise when I first played The Citizen and saw the PlanetPhillip.com logo sprayed on the walls. The smile on my face was like a 6-year-old on Christmas day! (Thanks guys! – I have already thanked them privately. At least I think I have!) Anyway, this could easily be another possible area for advertising.

Voice Acting/ Story Inclusion
It may be possible for certain products to be added to a mod via voice acting or storyline inclusions. Perhaps the simplest implementation would be to name a location after a product. This happens in real life with many arenas and stadium named after sponsors, why not mods?

Any method used would need to ensure that the gameplay and general mood and atmosphere of the mod was not lost through a products inclusion. A mod should also be required to state that advertising is included.

Logistics

How exactly would a publisher pay for this? Would it be a set fee, per download, per minute in view or gameplay? To be honest I have no idea and that is why somebody like Valve should be involved just to ensure everything stays on a professional level. I am sure you could comment on many, many possible problems with the implementation and unless somebody actuals starts to do it, I’d rather we didn’t discuss them here.

Back To The Question

So far I haven’t answered Chris’s question and the reason is because I really don’t know. If I were an advertiser how much would I pay to get my product into? The Citizen has a current combined download (Via my servers) of nearly 2,500 (Which is a shame because it deserves much, much more!) IS one Dollar to much? Probably. how about 50 Cents or maybe 25 Cents. What about legal torrent downloads? Would a system need to be implemented where details of how many times the game has been played would be sent via Steam. Now we are really opening up some problems!

Reason?

Zeroth404 said If a team charged for their mod, I would hope it was because they intend to use the profits to support their creative endeavors, and not simply for greed.. Now the same argument could be made for ad revenue. Would this stop people downloading and therefore playing the mods?

Whilst I understand the point of view we all know that Valve makes a lot of money, but that doesn’t stop us buying their games. Probably becasue we know (Or hope) they do it not for the money but because they love making games. The same has to be true for modders.

Of course receiving income may help the next mod be even better by allowing modders to use the money for out-sourcing services to professionals – voice acting, music etc.

Conclusions

As a concept I am open to the idea of ad revenue for mods, but and it’s a serious but, the product and implementation MUST NOT change the mod itself. I suppose one guideline would be it should be very easy for the advertising to be removed and the player enjoys the mod exactly as if there were advertising included.

Perhaps you feel that mods and fansites should be ad-free, if so please take the time to voice your opinion.

The Poll

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17 Comments

  1. firba1

    I think this would be an interesting concept and possibly able to be done. I personally think this would be good, as long as the ads didn’t really interrupt the gameplay. You may remember a while ago when FarCry was released for free with ad support (for a short time as it turned out). However, during the time I played it I was thoroughly annoyed by the singular McDonald’s ad that was played at nearly every loading screen and whenever you started the game up, as well as when you were merely sitting in the main menu. Now I think that if the ads in the mod were fairly unobtrusive, on billboards or something like that, like you said, they would not be nearly as annoying. So I do think this is a good idea as long as it is not so annoying for the player.

  2. Chris Fox

    Unfortunately, it’s probably not legal for us modders to sell advertising space inside our mods.

    Not without buying a licence from Valve, anyway.

  3. firba1

    Hmmm… that may be true, but I’m not quite sure on the legality of it.

  4. Unfortunately, it’s probably not legal for us modders to sell advertising space inside our mods.

    Hmmm… that may be true, but I’m not quite sure on the legality of it.

    Yes, I’m sure you are right, this poll is more about the general concept rather than is it allowed.

  5. Ade

    I stopped watching TV mainly because of the commercials. I have an ad-blocker on my mozilla. Why on earth would I want to see ads in my games?!

  6. Chris Fox

    I agree that the majority of in-game advertising in games is simply offensive, and seeing an ad in a game (unless it was EXTREMELY well placed and actually made sense the game) would put me off playing that game anymore.

    Unfortunately, the people in charge are greedy, and they don’t see games, they see dollar signs.

    They may be the architects of their own destruction, in the end.

  7. I stopped watching TV mainly because of the commercials. I have an ad-blocker on my mozilla. Why on earth would I want to see ads in my games?!

    I understand what you are saying but I do think there is a difference. DId you become upset with product placements? Probably not, although I am sick and tired of seeing Apple computers in EVERY TV show.

    One possible difference is that the adverts interrupt what you are watching whereas ad in-game may (If done properly) be part of the flow and therefore not so annoying.

    OF course they can’t be to unobtrusive otherwise we might not notice them and then they would have failed.

    To answer your questions. Because the revenue generated may make the next mod made by the authros even better and longer.

    Unfortunately, the people in charge are greedy, and they don’t see games, they see dollar signs.

    They may be the architects of their own destruction, in the end.

    Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

    1. DON’t give them any ideas. I think in game advertizing would spoil it unless you are talking billboards like you would see on any freeway or side of a building, That would be OK, but cut scenes and actual commercials. NO, NO and NO

  8. Berrie

    If handled appropiatly, I think it could be great.

    It would depend on the type of game, but many games take place in modern or future settings, which would allow billboard, posters and product placement adds without detracting from the game.
    An add during the load screen would be okay, but for sanity reasons I would prefer a collection of adds so you wouldn’t see the same add again and again.

  9. Kasperg

    Product placement inside the actual game is probably the best idea. I never really liked those ads in the Steam CS and HL1 loading screens.
    In The Citizen, we made sure that the signs about TWHL, PlanetPhillip etc looked as worn as the rest of the HL2 posters. In a game world related to ours, it’s possible to do this. I’d find hard to do in mods with other themes. I can’t see an ad sign in Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, not in loading screens and not ingame. At least not without looking too comical and out of place.
    Ads in the form of voice would be interesting, and if they are too obvious, it would be humorous in a positive way, sort of like the way product placement took place in the film “The Truman Show”.
    On the other hand, things like the Nokia machines, the Xbox virtual reality fighting etc seen in the film “The Island” are way too intrusive and detract from the experience a lot.

  10. If handled appropiatly, I think it could be great.

    It would depend on the type of game, but many games take place in modern or future settings, which would allow billboard, posters and product placement adds without detracting from the game.
    An add during the load screen would be okay, but for sanity reasons I would prefer a collection of adds so you wouldn’t see the same add again and again.

    I totally agree with Berrie but without the ads on

  11. Coudal

    Another business model, of course, could be franchised mods. Same as Sony’s Underworld and Black Widow Games (Manke of They Hunger) creating the Underworld Bloodlines HL mod. (http://manke.planethalflife.gamespy.com/uw_bloodline.htm)

  12. AI

    Ahhh, I can just invision Gordon Freeman driving on the Coast Hwy on his way to the prision and seeing a billboard for “Burger King”, with the words “Get 2 Quarter Pound HeadCrab sandwiches for 5 bucks(fries extra)” In other words I know adds pay the bills, but on tv and radio, they get very offensive! Why ruine good games? I don’t eat at BK,McD, or KFC too much fat! 🙁

  13. Ade

    It’s really hard not to blow it with the in-game ads. Even if handled appropriately, I don’t think it would do that much good. I think we should just leave the modding as it has been for.. decades. They’re free and they’re made out of free time and creativity and pleasure and should state one (team) ‘s mind and nothing else besides that. If they want to thank someone through mapping (like writing this site on the walls), I’m ok with that and that alone 🙂 IMHO

  14. Zeroth404

    This is something I’ve never thought about. It might be a good way to get paid for the work you’re doing, but because most mods never get released, and because even more mods never get played, I don’t think advertisers would pay much at all. In game advertising could be used if it weren’t obtrusive, but we all know that it typically is.

    Zeroth – Coder, Hexen: Edge of Chaos.
    http://edgeofchaos.planetdoom.gamespy.com/

  15. I like the idea of having them in billboards, TV advertisements, that type of thing. The only problem is that content for a mod can be… well, MODIFIED. It would be entirely possible for any user to dump the ads and make an “underground” release of the mod in question. free version WITH ads vs free version WITHOUT ads. hrmmm….

    Still if they’re done well, I could see them being accepted. It was certainly done with USS Darkstar, though they appeared more like easter eggs.

    I don’t like the ads inbetween loading screens. These shouldn’t be videos, but only single picture ads that display during the loading screens. That way they don’t even NEED to be skippable.

    One qualification for this is that in game ads shouldn’t even be CONSIDERED until the mod is already complete. You try designing your mod around the ads and you will BOMB miserably.

  16. Maypax the official tampon of HL…lol…(stole that from Taladega nights)lol

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