Blizzard Seek In-Game Ad Guru

By Adam Smith on January 23rd, 2012 at 9:50 am.

A poorly thrown together vision of the future!

The games journalism equivalent of binology involves scouring the job advertisements that developers post, seeking clues as to the content of future titles. Say Popcap were to exhibit a desire to hire a Masters degree wielding “actual unicorn-handler with three years experience of rainbow-wrangling” I would assume Peggle 2 was a glorious physical playground rather than a digital toy. That hasn’t happened, but a poster at NeoGAF spotted that Blizzard are looking to recruit a Franchise Development Producer for their “next-gen MMO”, with one of the main responsibilities being to “work with major consumer brands to facilitate product placement and licensing within the world of Blizzard Entertainment’s next-gen MMO”. Hmmmm.

I can’t think of many existing products that would fit into a fantasy or far-future world and, in keeping with that, the speculatrix is muttering wildly about modern day or near-future settings. Titan is already considered to be a sci-fi type of thing but perhaps this is enough to warrant belief that our own culture and its commercial products will be the focus. I wonder what the flesh of Professor Zarglebrox Pepper, Dr Pepper’s great great great great great great great grandson, tastes like when distilled into a liquid form?

It seems highly possible that this could also betoken an alternative revenue stream to the subscription models of prehistory (and SW:TOR). The full listing is here.

Let’s see: in a world where real-life products exist, in-game advertising is an aid to realism; all in-game advertising is evil; in-game advertising is a decent alternative to paying a subscription; I am unhappy and believe there will still be a subscription price; drinking Pepsi to regain health is terrible and wrong, and it is precisely what will definitely be happening; ACTIVISIOOOOOON!!!

Print that out and circle your choice or add your own thoughts below. I suppose you could even just shrug and move on. It is your life!

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48 Comments »

  1. Gozuu says:

    It does seem incredibly fishy. Though, if they can provide a free MMO with ads being placed in the world, I honestly do not think I would mind it. Wether its fictional or virtual marketing doesn’t bother me. It does give a good hint that the MMO they make will be much less fictional than World of Warcraft.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      As long as it’s done well, in a way that does not jar with the game, I don’t personally have a problem with it – the fact they are looking to hire a specialist would indicate it’s going to be a bit better than banner ads on billboards in towns and replacing potions with cola!

    • Bugamn says:

      I think that if done well, it can even help the setting feel more believable.

      I can’t really think of advertasing that would be good World of Warcraft, but I’ve played games that used it well.
      In Burnout: Paradise City there are billboards all over the city. It feels natural. And they even let me break some billboards (though not the ones with advertising, unfortunately).
      In OOlite, I saw a mod to add fake advertising.
      If those ads pay the game for me and feel natural to the setting, I don’t really care.

    • Metonymy says:

      I mean, we knew this already. Blizzard is just not a game company anymore, they are a money company. The residual quality will play out for another few games, but eventually they will be nothing.

      This is what happens when you let those kind of people into management. They’re not builders, they’re a plague of locusts.

    • nil says:

      As long as I can filter it at the border firewall, I don’t really care.

    • CoFran says:

      Block it? if they’re smart for a second they’ll proxy it through b.net

  2. Nallen says:

    Hell, it’s about time…I had a delicious ice cold Coke.

  3. Torticoli says:

    I don’t like this. Blizzard has more than enough money to go for a Guild Wars 2, not-free-to-play, no-subscription model. Then again, Blizzard’s game design and business practices in the MMO genre have been less than stellar recently ; 25$ mounts, 10$ pets, or 20$ character re-customization come to mind.

    • Caerphoto says:

      Blizzard’s game design and business practices in the MMO genre have been less than stellar recently ; 25$ mounts, 10$ pets, or 20$ character re-customization come to mind.

      None of which affect gameplay in any meaningful way. Moreover, the money from some of those goes to charity.

      I honestly don’t understand the whole “horse armour” type of complaints. A company sells a thing that is pointless, and people get upset? Nobody is being forced to buy these things in order to remain competitive, especially in single-player games like Oblivion.

      You can argue “slippery slope” if you want, I just don’t think it’s as slippery as many people seem to think.

    • Torticoli says:

      “None of which affect gameplay in any meaningful way. Moreover, the money from some of those goes to charity.”

      It does affect gameplay, actually, but indirectly. I’ll come back to it. Regarding charity, if I remember correctly, that only happen three times : the Pandaren Monk and… another pet, I can’t remember which, in which case Blizzard did give a portion (emphasis on “portion”) of the revenues from those sales to charity. And the money from the Cenarion Hatchling went to the Red Cross in Japan after the earthquake. So, the charity thing is always nice, but I don’t think that it makes the whole mounts & pets sales okay, especially when 25$ mounts are still sold without any of that money going to charity.

      “I honestly don’t understand the whole “horse armour” type of complaints. A company sells a thing that is pointless, and people get upset? Nobody is being forced to buy these things in order to remain competitive, especially in single-player games like Oblivion.”

      Ok, here’s the thing. In a single-player, it’s a problem because it’s content that should have been included in the game at launch, without requiring more money. But that’s a way bigger issue regarding paid DLCs in modern games, so I won’t go into that. Regarding the specific case of WoW : as you said, those mounts and pets are pointless. They don’t give you any in-game bonus of any kind (aside from looking cool), which would be a whole different issue. However, to say that they don’t affect gameplay is actually incorrect ; let me explain.

      The lack of solid, vast PvE content has been a problem in WoW for about three years now. Raids hold less and less bosses, are cleared very quickly, and endgame is pretty stagnant because it’s not unusual for Blizzard to wait 5 or 6 months between content patches, patches that contain one raid, generally consisting of 7 or 8 bosses (Firelands and Dragon Soul, the two most recent, consisted respectively of 7 and 8 bosses, if I remember correctly, and they’re the only new raids the game has been given since the launch of Cataclysm in December 2010). In short, Blizzard is becoming “lazy” in terms of pumping out new content, and the content that does come out isn’t even very high-quality, either (mostly because it’s way too easy).

      So what do mounts and pets have to do with this ? Here’s the thing : when Blizzard started selling the 25$ Celestial Steed on their online store, people actually had to queue for the thing, because the demand was so high the servers couldn’t handle them all at once. They had to queue for a virtual mount that cost almost as much as two months worth of subscription fee. You can imagine how much money Blizzard made from that mount, and from the subsequent pets and mounts that were sold 10 and 25$, respectively. So I ask you the question : why should Blizzard take the time and effort required to create vast raids, with a lot of challenging bosses, and release them more often, when they can get away with one, 7-bosses raid tier every 6 months, *and* they only have to release a new virtual mount on their store for 25$, knowing that hundreds of thousands of people will buy it, if they ever see a drop in subscribers ?

      Answer : they shouldn’t. WoW’s biggest problem in recent years has been the lack of serious competition, that has allowed Blizzard to do things like this and get away with it, because people didn’t have another solid MMO (until now, maybe) to play, and even if they stopped playing altogether, mounts and pets sales would make up for it financially speaking. In other words, those 10-25$ mounts and pets do affect the gameplay, because they affect the quantity, regularity and quality of the PvE content that’s released, although indirectly.

      Those mounts and pets are a symptom of a general lack of respect from Blizzard to their playerbase, and in a way, who could blame them for that lack of respect ? They’re a company, they’re here to make money, not to make a good game if it’s not necessary, and it clearly isn’t anymore, in the case of WoW. Buying those mounts encourages that attitude from Blizzard and from game developers in general, it’s a clear signal that “you don’t need to provide interesting content in your game, I will stay subscribed *and* also buy mounts for 25$ anyway”. It’s a terrible signal that Blizzard has perfectly understood, considering where WoW’s been heading in the past years.

      … Well that was a wall of text. I guess I had a lot to say about the matter.

    • Carra says:

      As long as they sell fluff items I don’t see the problem. If they were to sell $20 swords of uberness I’d be pissed.

      They sell them because people want them. I don’t want to spend $20 for a mount but as you just said, lots of people do. There’s a demand so they created a market.

      And I do agree, it’s about time that WoW gets some serious competition. SWTOR is a candidate but I’m not yet convinced that it will be real competition, the game is still lacking some important features (LFG tool, plx).

    • Torticoli says:

      I’m kinda worried for SW:TOR as well. It’s an excellent, excellent MMO, and I think it’s both similar enough to and different enough from WoW to be a serious competitor, but I must also admit that, as much as I dislike most of Blizzard’s decisions nowadays (at least regarding WoW), they’re still much more experienced and, arguably, better MMO developers than Bioware.

      It’s mind-boggling to me that TOR doesn’t include a LFG tool, more raids (even though they’ve added their first content patch less than a month after release, which is quite impressive), MODS for God’s sake, better guild options, things like that. I’m sure they’ll be added to the game in time, but with the average lifespan of MMOs in the past few years, it’d better be done quickly if they don’t want players to go “Meh, this game is good, maybe better than WoW, but it lacks all these features that have become common to me, so I guess I’ll go back to WoW”.

  4. Ba5 says:

    It’s for WoW, from now on you drink Coke to restore mana.

  5. vivlo says:

    that sucks

    what happened to the great guys behind the games that innocently lulled my childhood, with (nearly) orignal and not-so-badly scenarised and immersive fantasy and sf worlds ending with craft… they are not so lol-ish anymore

  6. thegooseking says:

    Anarchy Online subsidised its free-to-play portion with in-game ads. (In fact I think it was one of the first MMOs to do that?) But what AO did was it allowed higher-tier players (i.e. subscribers) to turn the ads off. That was fine, to be honest.

    Though I would have preferred some levels of control: e.g. being able to turn commercial ads off but keeping ads for in-game organisations. I also would have preferred it if there were more variety in the placeholders subscribers saw when turning the ads off. As it is, we saw one boring and ugly in-game-fiction billboard everywhere.

  7. Shadram says:

    If done properly in a real-ish world setting, it could be fine. Or it could be horrible. Until we see the result, we only have the speculatron to rely on, and that’s not for not being very reliable at all…

    • Torticoli says:

      That’s very true, we can only wait for the final result. We do know, however, that Blizzard doesn’t mind – as I said – selling 25$ mounts to WoW players (because said players are dumb enough to buy them, admittedly), which should give us an idea of, to put it this way, “how far they’re willing to go”. On the other hand, they tend to still be pretty mindful of the idea that “gameplay > the rest”, so I wouldn’t go as far as expecting annoying, out-of-place, all-over-the-place ads in their game.

      As an example, for those of you who play Starcraft II : you know that bar on Metalopolis that’s called “BJ’s” or something ? I could see that name replaced with an ad for Coke, for instance. What I don’t think we’d see would be something like a big “Drink Coke” in the middle of the map. Of course an RTS isn’t an MMORPG, but my point is that I think Blizzard will avoid ads that would be obnoxious and way too visible.

  8. Jody Macgregor says:

    “I suppose you could even just shrug and move on. It is your life!”

    I love you, Adam Smith. Thank you for treating this story with the weight and gravitas with which it deserves to be treated, by which I mean none at all. This is why I read RPS.

  9. Flukie says:

    And in other, much better news.

    Guild Wars 2 will launch this year, and is moving to press beta very soon, then open beta then release.

    Who’s excited? This guy, after playing it at Eurogamer I honestly believe we have a contender for GOTY in that game. Its silky smooth greatness.

  10. Furtled says:

    Maybe they’re planning a They Live style satirical commentary on corporations loosely disguised as an MM-mmm yeah, shrug and move on it is. :D

  11. NathanH says:

    The morning was going so well. After De Lijn provided a typically efficient and comfortable journey, I settled in to a morning of high-quality research at that academic powerhouse Universiteit Gent. Sipping on a refreshing glass of Coke, I browsed a fine text from Princeton University Press, who can always be relied on to publish the very best works with the most professional presentation. Taking a short break, I glanced at rockpapershotgun.com, the pinnacle of PC gaming journalism. I was horrified to see that Blizzard (normally a titanic company with the highest standards) were considering implementing in-game ads. I almost choked on my Mars bar.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Enjoying products != Enjoying advertising for said products.

      Having said that, some of the best ads have been for products I would never buy!

  12. ItalianPodge says:

    I think this is actually a good way to gain revenue from piracy. It’s already heavily used on TV shows (for instance try and spot a historical advertiser on Boardwalk Empire’s seafront that no longer exists today…). I would be amazed if the studios when negotiating the product placement fee don’t say “We have US viewing figures of 1.2m UK viewing figures of 500k and oh each episode is downloaded an average of 12m times”.

    I’m not against this move as long as it is done in the correct way as I’d rather see more money coming into the gaming industry than it remaining flat. By correct way I mean in keeping with the setting to the point of being almost subliminal, such as a Campari advert by the track side in a racing game. If it is like episodes of Chuck where every so often a character describes a Subway sandwich before a close up of said sandwich and the character biting into it then it’s appalling and pulls you completely out of the experience.

    So, basically if done correctly and means they can spend more on the development, ok. If done badly could be a game ruiner for me.

    • My2CENTS says:

      Piracy? What does piracy have to do with online advertisement? Its not like you can actually pirate a game into the Blizzard servers, you pay for it and you get stuck with ads. You pirate it and you get rid of the ads, that’s how piracy work.

    • ItalianPodge says:

      Mine wasn’t a comment specifically for an MMO, just a general statement that publishers can offset some of the cost of piracy if they can advertise in-game to both the pirates and the true user.

      I don’t see it as very likely that crackers will go in a change the textures for adverts given the race they are in to crack the games before other crackers.

    • diamondmx says:

      No, this idea can piss right off.
      In-game advertising in a full price product? No thank you, I already gave you £40-60 for the game, and I have enough of a barrage of advertising in my life.

      It is also not at all possible for this to help ‘counter’ piracy, as the pirates can *easily* block this from communicating with the servers, and at the very least would prevent the game reporting back views (no revenue), whereas a genuine customer would be stuck with this crap. A genuine customer would then, logically, want to get the pirated version because it is significantly better.

      I can understand the ‘advertising OR payment’ idea, but ‘advertising AND payment’ is pure greed, and will suffer a significant customer backlash.

      Eg. Deus Ex HR and the secretly patched in advertising, after the reviews were done with.

      RE: the question in the article – “In game advertising is an acceptable alternative to normal payment methods” or even “In game advertising is an acceptable method to provide a noticable subsidy to normal payment methods, if there is an ad-free option” are my choices.

  13. Xaromir says:

    Maybe a sign that it will be a free to play, and blizzard sees advertising as a valid form of helping to finance it, it also will play in the present or not so far away past/future. :)

  14. MichaelPalin says:

    I choose: All advertisement is evil, because it gives values to a product not based on its merits, but on the amount of money destined to the marketing department. And promotes consumerism (I think its called hyperconsumerism by now), instead of consume based on real needs or honest social interaction.

    • Josh W says:

      Well if you have proper trading standards in your country and people make factual adverts, then it does relate to the product, so I don’t think all advertising is bad. Demos are good too.

    • MichaelPalin says:

      The problem is that the other company, that sells a product of similar or higher quality, may not have the money to advertise it and is, therefore in disadvantage. The idea is that advertisement gives an advantage to companies that can spend the highest amount on advertisement, not the company with the best product. Besides, all advertisement is unwanted, if you have a need you go to the press to look for a solution, advertisement seeks you whether you want it or not (i.e., a demo is not advertisement, you are not forced to play it).

  15. Lord Byte says:

    Well this pretty much tells us their next MMO is set in the Now or Future.

  16. Josh W says:

    What a missed opportunity for casual satire of brands via their stand ins!

  17. Bhazor says:

    Milk milk milk your loyal customers.

  18. Brun says:

    There’s nothing wrong with in-game advertising if it’s done properly. If your game is set in the real world (past, present, or future), in-game advertising with real brands can actually enhance the realism/immersion rather than destroy it.

  19. Tei says:

    In-game advertisement don’t seems to make decent money, so seems more something “extra” that you can do on top your main bussines model.

    Say, a Fremium game (lets forget the words “free to play”) could complete his budget with a few banners here and there.

    On most games you can’t place ads in the world. Only in these based on a chat lobby system, or on these with a simulated real world (current). Having billboard in a medieval game, or one with future buildings would look out of place.

    I think all we can say about this is that some games tried it, and was not very powerfull, but it was somewhat intrusive.

    Perhaps Blizzard can make it run better, or turn in WoW into a hybrid pay to play for one players / fremium game for others.

  20. Skabooga says:

    If done right, the caveat mentioned numerous times already, in-game advertisements could have a less negative impact on the game design than many free-to-play models do.

  21. Arcanon says:

    So…Blizzard hired Adam Sandler.

  22. Froibo says:

    I could go for a coke right now..

  23. Beelzebud says:

    Yeah because Blizzard isn’t swimming in enough money yet…

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