Maybe SimCity’s Balance-Breaking Ad DLC Isn’t All Bad

By Nathan Grayson on April 3rd, 2013 at 9:00 am.

I did not, however, say it isn't mostly bad.

Good news! SimCity‘s gotten a potentially substantial piece of DLC, and it’s totally free. Bad news! It’s a gigantic ad for car company Nissan. Worse news! Its in-game functionality seems to make your city planning decisions even less consequential than before, which is quite a feat. Worst news! SimCity isn’t a very good game at all, even with its online issues mostly cleared up. Contrary opinion! This is one seemingly asinine move I think we should only partially leap down EA’s throat for. So maybe, like, just put in one leg. And do it kind of gently. Avoid the teeth, if you can.

First off, here’s how the Nissan Charge Station works:

“Plopping down the Nissan Leaf Charging Station will add happiness to nearby buildings. Adding the Charging Station will not take power, water or workers away from your city. Zoom in to the streets of cities and players will start seeing a percentage of their Sims from all wealth classes driving the electric vehicles. The Charging Station produces no garbage or sewage as well making it pollution free.”

That’s right: pure happiness with no consequences. Would that green living in the real world was so easy. Or living, for that matter. As is, the latest science calculates that ten puppies are required for every one unit of human happiness. And scientists can’t even study the phenomenon without breaching a certain puppy-induced happiness threshold. It’s a vicious cycle.

Anyway, this doesn’t exactly seem like the best bandaid for an already broken game, and honestly, it sounds like it could stomp the remaining pieces of Maxis’ once-fine series into a fine powder.

I do not, however, like the idea of damning this move completely. Because the fact is, ads (at least, where appropriate in the context of their respective games) could make heftier pieces of DLC completely free. We don’t see the idea in practice all that often these days, but it is worth considering – especially in light of the fact that DLC costs money to produce, and not everyone can afford to pull a Valve and drop it on our doorsteps without asking for even a dime. Admittedly, SimCity’s is pretty much a textbook example of how not to do this, but ads are not inherently bad.

Further, this type of practice could maybe extricate important chunks of content from the countless, Hydra-like jaws of pre-order schemes, which is something I think would be pretty wonderful. Then again: big, obvious ads or pre-orders. At that point, you’re kind of picking your poison.

But then, I suppose that’s triple-A gaming these days. Rarely (if ever) do we get to have our cake and eat it too, because the cake can’t make back its development costs even if it sells 3.4 million units – er, slices; whatever – in its first few weeks. In a ideal world, we’d get everything upfront with a nice bow and a cake and reassurance that, no, your childhood pet fish didn’t die; it really did just up and decide to move to Disneyland. But that’s not the world we live in, so concessions are a painful, oftentimes annoying necessity.

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150 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

    “Adding the Charging Station will not take power”

    Burn the witch!

  2. Erinduck says:

    So… we’re supposed to think this is okay because there’s the slim possibility in the future at some point that we may get bigger DLC for free? Even though it has direct consequences now that we can see in the game? And that in-game advertising has existed in games for ages now and we’ve never been on the receiving end of these potential benefits?

    • Rian Snuff says:

      Annoys me they’d even expect more cash after all that nonsense.
      Glad I stopped pre-ordering / day one-in’ from 90% of developers.

    • Bhazor says:

      A game sells 3.4million units and fails to make a profit.
      A game sees revenue of 3,400,000 x £25.00 and fails to make a profit.
      A game sees £84,000,000 in revenue and fails to make a profit.

      I don’t think it’s sales that’s the problem. It’s the fact your game cost more than £80,000,000 to reach shelves. This in an industry where the average AAA game can be made for <£20,000,000

      Perhaps RPS should look at how much advertising *costs* a developer before claiming it's a good thing.

      • trjp says:

        Where did you get that £25 figure from?

        The absolute most a game ‘earns from it’s sale is about 40% of retail price – most games will earn quite a bit less than that tho.

        50% of the sale price goes to the retailer instantly – even if it’s EA/Origin, it goes into their coffers, to promote and run the store, and not the developer/creators.

        Then there’s the ‘publisher’ cut – even if it’s also EA, a cut will be taken for all the PR, promotion, packaging and stuff – this is typically anything between 20% and 60% of the remainder (so 10%-30% of the whole)

        The rest is ‘income’ for the people who created the game – the people who spent the money making it.

        Except in this case, they’ve given away a metric tonne of freebies for all the problems – almost everyone who bought the game has been given at least 1 ‘free’ game – some of which cost almost as much as this game did – and that will have wiped-out most of the income from the game itself anyway!

        Oh – and this game has an ongoing infrastructure requirement for it’s online stuff and doesn’t charge a subscription for it so that will be a ‘cost’ being taken from all income too.

        They’ve not made anything like your figures – in-fact I can see a situation where they’ve made almost nothing at all just from the ‘free game’ thing alone…

        It’s entirely possible that without significant spend on DLC they will reach a point of removing the online stuff out of “lack of money” rather than “popular demand” :)

        • Ergates_Antius says:

          The 3.4 million figure refers to Tomb Raider, not SimCity.

        • jalf says:

          Er, I believe you’re missing a key point. Or five of them.

          This question of whether it is profitable is from the point of view of EA (since all the key business decisions are up to EA, and in any case, Maxis is owned by EA and so it is meaningless to talk about how much of the money “goes to the developer”.. So yes, EA may take at least 70% of the pie, which means that the people who decide if the game is profitable get at least 70% of the pie.

          The rest is ‘income’ for the people who created the game – the people who spent the money making it.

          As above, “the people who spent the money making it” == EA. EA spent the money making the game.

          Except in this case, they’ve given away a metric tonne of freebies for all the problems – almost everyone who bought the game has been given at least 1 ‘free’ game – some of which cost almost as much as this game did – and that will have wiped-out most of the income from the game itself anyway!

          Er, what.

          No, none of their freebies cost them a single cent. They already had the games in their store, and giving away a few licenses to *play* them costs litrally nothing.

          You could argue that it might cost them a few sales, but it’s fairly well known that once you get past the initial release rush, very few sales are made (the long tail). How many people who got a free Mass Effect 3 would have bought it otherwise? If they cared about the game they’d have bought it a year ago.

          So no, those “freebies” are effectively free.

          Oh – and this game has an ongoing infrastructure requirement for it’s online stuff and doesn’t charge a subscription for it so that will be a ‘cost’ being taken from all income too.

          This cost is not enormous. It doesn’t cost them millions to run those handfuls of servers. (And in any case, this actually supports the argument that “if you can sell this many copies and not be profitable, then you’re doing it wrong”. If you needlessly throw money out the window to support a server farm you didn’t need, and that costs you your profitability, then you are doing it wrong.

          So short version:
          you are wrong, and you appear to be operating under some severe misconceptions.

          :)

          • Vandelay says:

            “You could argue that it might cost them a few sales, but it’s fairly well known that once you get past the initial release rush, very few sales are made (the long tail). How many people who got a free Mass Effect 3 would have bought it otherwise? If they cared about the game they’d have bought it a year ago.”

            I can’t believe this is true. I imagine the sales of Sim City 4 saw a nice spike during the SimCity release (probably would even without the disaster of a launch.) It would also mean that Steam sales are not viable, which I expect Valve would like to dispute. GoG must also be a site that sells very few games.

            Thinking like this is why the bricks and mortar stores don’t bother stocking games past the first few months (do they not look at DVD stores that sell films from decades ago, let alone years?) but it is a myth that is destroyed by the success of the digital market on PC.

        • KDR_11k says:

          25 GBP is significantly lower than the average price of these games in other territories. E.g. continental Europe pays about 2x as much. Since these games are by major publishers they won’t be paying too many other parties. Retailer, distributor, that’s about it. The developers are salaried and got their money when the game was developed (that’s what most of the development cost was spent on), the profits stay with the company and that’s where they are measured (because the publisher fronted the costs of development in the hope of getting a game that makes more money back than invested).

          The example netted about 120 million US dollars (using the 25 GBP figure as the publisher’s cut). Is it really sane to blow that much money on a game and then expect a good ROI?

          Also for a comparison CoD games cost about 250 M$, with 50M$ for development and 200M$ as the advertising budget. But these games sell over 20 million copies which only the absolute biggest hitters in gaming do. Assuming a 120M$ budget you’d need 10M sales for the same ROI which is roughly GTA level. Did Square Enix expect Tomb Raider to sell as well as Grand Theft Auto???

      • MentatYP says:

        I believe the game you refer to “failed to meet expectations” instead of failed to make a profit. If anything the problem is in unrealistic expectations. This is a problem shared by all publicly traded companies where it’s never enough to earn a steady profit but instead the goal is to always grow in order to increase share prices.

      • Shuck says:

        Two things:
        At 3.4 million sales, Tomb Raider didn’t necessarily fail to turn a profit (though it certainly could have, since the publisher+developer cut was more like £16 per game sold at best, as mentioned). It failed to turn the expected profit. Obviously they were expecting a return to the days of selling seven million copies of the game. And given that most games don’t make a profit, a successful flagship game franchise like Tomb Raider has to generate enough profits to keep a company afloat despite all those failures.
        Also that the “average AAA game” can be made for under £20M is both questionable and irrelevant (it also ignores the £15M+ that would be spent on marketing). A “AAA game” could have fairly limited art assets, relatively simple animations, enclosed environments, use an existing engine with no attempt at technical innovation, limited voice acting and a general lack of polish, and it might come in under £20M. But the fact is that Tomb Raider isn’t that game. $100M games aren’t as rare as you’d think these days. Many studios don’t disclose budgets, so the average cost of development isn’t known. Games of the most successful franchises are costing publishers as much as a quarter of a billion dollars. Thanks to player expectations in terms of graphics, voice acting, features and expansive content, AAA game development costs have exploded to the point where they’re barely sustainable over all.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I honestly don’t know what the hell Nathan is thinking when he thinks this in any way leads to good things.

      Nobody is going to sponsor advertising DLC which is actually balanced, because that would mean acknowledging that their product or service had negative aspects, and the whole point of advertising and marketing is to downplay those.

      • mondomau says:

        I don’t buy for a second that Nathan believes a word of what he’s written in the second half of that article.

      • Ergates_Antius says:

        Ad-DLC wouldn’t necessarily have to include the actual product, you could just have billboards etc.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      I’m failing to see how this is a bad thing. You can download this for free. You are also free to not download it and ignore its very existence.

  3. Rewold says:

    So the station has no negative effects because that would make nissan and their awesome car look bad?

    • Umbert says:

      This. This is what is wrong with ad-DLC. Companies want to convey a positve, flawless image. Nothing negative should be associated with the brand name. So it is likely for ad-DLC to be overpowered/game-breaking ridiculous.
      (Always hated brand driven driving games with invulnerable cars, god formid it is possible for a car to get a dent if it hits another car at 200km/h)

      • BobbyDylan says:

        EA’s not interested in keeping the game going, they only want all the monies.

      • Premium User Badge Llewyn says:

        (Always hated brand driven driving games with invulnerable cars, god formid it is possible for a car to get a dent if it hits another car at 200km/h)

        You can blame game developers for that one, not car companies. For all that certain developers want us to believe that a lack of damage is an inevitable part of licensing, the same car companies also license their brands to games which do include damage models (including cars taking enough damage that they simply stop working, as they should do).

        It’s just easier not to have to bother with it and blame it on external forces.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Indeed! There was one rather famous case in it’s day, one of the first licences Ferrari ever granted (The original Project Gotham, perhaps – do correct me if I’m wrong) and they granted it on the condition that a certain level of damage was not applied to their cars – which meant the devs actually removed a lot of the damage they had in the game not only for Ferrari but everyone. I have never heard of a single other case with actual statements or evidence to suggest this has happened, it seems to come from the fans.

          • Axess Denyd says:

            I recall reading around the time Test Drive: Off Road was in development that it took a LOT of convincing (which may have had dollar signs on it) to get Jeep to allow Wranglers to roll over in the game.

        • KDR_11k says:

          I think that has softened up over time, just like other restrictions on gaming (gun licenses, age ratings, …).

      • battles_atlas says:

        Absolutely. If Nathan wants to adopt a contrary position he should probably think it through for, say, thirty seconds first. The problem with this DLC is blinding obvious: Nissan’s commercial interest which has funded the DLC is the same interest which makes the DLC completely unbalanced. I struggle to see how an advert (for that is what this is) DLC can ever be a functional one. The moment an ad becomes an interactional aspect of the game, as opposed to a billboard within it, it’s imperitive contradict’s with the game’s.

        • Shuck says:

          The problem isn’t that it’s an advertisement-funded DLC. The problem is that the DLC content that was funded by the advertisement is itself all advertisement. Had there been actual content beyond that ad in the DLC, this wouldn’t be the same issue. But unfortunately it appears that what advertisers are willing to pay for in-game ads isn’t enough to pay for anything beyond the production of the ad content itself.

        • transientmind says:

          I think we’re looking at it the wrong way. Rather than looking at DLC as an enriching exercise, enhancing the flavour and complexity of a complex game-world, we should be looking at them as free cheat codes.

          “This cheat proudly brought to you by…”

          I can see it now: Gatorade power plants. Brazzers convention centre. Fed-Ex postal upgrade.

    • Chalky says:

      It doesn’t even consume electricity. It’s an electric car charge point and it doesn’t consume electricity.

      They could so easily have made this a functional game feature and made it balanced against other forms of transport, but instead it’s just a shitty cash grab at the expense of what little balance remains in your 100% residential zero tax rate joke-city.

      • Sheng-ji says:

        Maybe if they break the balance badly enough, it will become properly balanced twice a day.

      • jeffcapeshop says:

        pfft, it has 5 small solar panels on the roof, which are clearly more than enough to power everything. really, it should be feeding back into the grid.

      • Banana_Republic says:

        Environmentally friendly programs and services NEVER have downsides. They never cost money, they never consume resources and they never put frowns on the faces of little children. They are all about sunshine, fairies and pretty white unicorns, who are magical and don’t eat grass, but subsist on good intentions and cheesy folk music absorbed through their horns (which are made from recycled paper products), thus leaving them with a zero carbon footprint.

        This is the gospel according our new green god. Dispute it at you peril.

  4. Tams80 says:

    This was meant to be a reply damn it!

    Ah well, I guess I should make this relevant.

    Are there really no downsides to having a charging station at all? Forget that in reality that’s ridiculous, but even in terms of gameplay that’s as the article states, rather removing you from actually playing the game.

    In terms of advertisement funded DLC, then yes, if it is in the context of the game and is well done, then I would prefer it to preorder DLC that isn’t released later.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      The last time I was mayor of a 2 mile square trailer park and oil refinery, my citizens were all begging for a charging point for their electric powered cars. In fact, I installed 20 in that area, just to make sure everyone could see one! It worked a charm, everyone could suddenly afford to build mansions and instantly retrained as highly skilled electronic engineers.

      That’s the true story of silicone valley.

      • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

        I think you are thinking of Caulkdale.

      • Shuck says:

        I fail to see what Southern California’s San Fernando Valley has to do with this story.*

        *San Fernando Valley produces the majority of the United States’ commercial pornography.
        /pedantically killing the original joke

    • Dark Nexus says:

      It takes up space, I guess? And it probably has a Simolean cost to place.

      Pretty small for downsides.

  5. ChrisGWaine says:

    (pardon for this, since it’s not really related to the main point of the article, but…)

    “because the cake can’t make back its development costs even if it sells 3.4 million units”

    Failing to meet targets is different from not making back development costs.

    • DClark says:

      When I run a game publishing company I’m going to set all my games’ sales expectations to twenty-five million units – that way only one game has to meet expectations for the company to be profitable…

      It really annoys me that The Square Enix CEO said Tomb Raider selling 3.4 million units in less than a month (and excluding digital sales) was less than expectations. It’s obscene that they expected 14.9 million retail units largely on the backs of Tomb Raider, Hitman Absolution, and Sleeping Dogs.

      Tomb Raider and Sleeping Dogs are excellent games, and Absolution is a very good game (I own them all) and to lay blame on those titles is insulting especially when Square Enix Japan is still making FFXIV for the second time and has much less than a million sales out of that title. That’s not to mention that Tomb Raider and Hitman Absolution have each outsold FFXIII-2 (which is just shy of 3 million units).

  6. GeminiathXL says:

    Ads like this in Simcity actually feel like they belong. Makes the city look more real.

    But then again……atleast balance the stuff out, considering there’s no downside in placing one of these. In fact, I’m imagining Nissan cities erecting everywhere! Away with the penis, embrace Nissan!

    • Drake Sigar says:

      Even from a purely aesthetical standpoint, the Nissan logo is a collection of giant blinding bright red letters strategically positioned to be seen by the player in the sky above.

      And there’s the fact that branded buildings like McDonalds used to be provided by modders. This is what we’ve arrived at – companies cutting out competition FROM THEIR OWN FANS and making a fat sack of cash in advertisement. It’s sickening how unwilling they are to compete.

      • KDR_11k says:

        Hell, they should stick McD’s into Chou Soujuu Mecha MG. That’s a mech combat game where one mission tasks you with helping out a friendly restaurant owner by turning a nearby fast food chain into collateral damage (and this game is published by Nintendo!).

  7. Grargh says:

    I think it is more than a stretch to welcome ad-financed DLC as an opportunity for our games. Advertising has generally reached disgusting levels in our culture, and companies basically putting cheats with their brand name into a game must be a new pinnacle of ridiculousness. It’s bad eough as it is with money-grabbing DLC, and with advertising in f2p games. What this precedent signals to me is only one thing: in the future, the publishers will not only withold parts of my game to sell to me later, they will withhold additional parts to sell them as advertising space. In my opinion, this practice should be more sharply criticised.

    • TheApologist says:

      Pretty much this. I mean, when it comes decisions about design or what content to include, I personally wouldn’t call it ‘my’ game, but otherwise, yep, there seems little doubt those decisions are being made worse by the nature of the incentives advertising creates.

    • Umbert says:

      Yes, my thougths exactly. I hate what advertising has done to the audiovisual mediums. Especially since the F2P, microtransaction fad started. I would really like to just purchase a game with good gameplay and immersive story and own it. Not worrying about in-game purchases or tacked on story DLC. A well-rounded, immersive (ad-free) experience in one pack. Maybe I should buy more books.

    • MondSemmel says:

      Nathan tends to unfortunate “balanced reporting”, “listening to both sides of the story”, and similar. From time to time, this results in this kind of post. I frankly don’t understand the attitude that leads to this. “Surely, there must be a silver lining to being treated like an imbecile. Right? Right?”
      (See his previous comment on the launch of the new Sim City, too.)

      • mondomau says:

        It’s not balanced reporting, it’s deliberately provocative, ‘after school debate club’ level comment-bait.

        “We all know X is true, but what if I were to say Y is also true?! Gasp! Discuss, while I mark some homework and pretend to listen.”

    • Sic says:

      Indeed.

      … and with games like SimCity it’s even worse than any F2P or Facebook game. I’m actually buying a vehicle for advertisement. It’s beyond ridiculous.

  8. Seiniyta says:

    First of all, it does has a drawback: Space. Second of all, parks are much more effective as providing happiness. The happiness amount you gain from the Nissan Leaf equals to placing a school bus stop. So yeah, it’s a little bit but you could have had another house or factory or commercial which are much more valuable.

    Gameplaywise, this thing is utterly useless to plop down. However, visually it does look kinda nice and I disagree this is a wrong implementation. It just looks a bit out of place to the rest now because it’s the only real brand in the game. I wouldn’t mind having other car companies having like car shops you can plop down and sims can buy those cars and you seee them driving around.

    Not to mention that the NIssan Leaf ain’t really cheap irl, I’m not sure why Nissan thinks SimCity owners have a billion lying around but hey.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      *** EA fanboy alert *** EA fanboy alert ****

      • Toberoth_Syn says:

        How do you figure?

      • sirflimflam says:

        Tell me; what about his post makes him a fanboy? That he didn’t instantly condemn it based on facts about how it actually functions in game?

    • Premium User Badge darkChozo says:

      Honestly, I’m not sure why all the articles about this are saying “and all it takes up is space, pshaw”, when the scarcity of space is like one of the three biggest complaints about the game.

      I don’t know if it’s balanced, and given that I have no plans to buy the game, I don’t particularly care, but you can make pretty much anything sound OP if you don’t mention numbers and gloss over negatives.

  9. Lyton Darque says:

    When I first noticed this DLC I was sure it was an April Fool’s joke. The fact that it’s legit seems like further evidence of EA’s ever increasingly detrimental influence on our beloved franchises. It’s just so blatant – giant red Nissan letters… couldn’t they have at the very least had some tact?

  10. DeanLearner says:

    Why is productivity in my commercial region down?! Hmm it seems no one is there, but why? Let me just trace the route back to my resid… ooooooh I see! T-Mobile have set up a quirky funny flash mob based on a classic mid to late 80′s track at the local rail station! Hahaha! Look! Now everyone has stopped to take brilliant HD videos and photos using their crazy neato cool Motorola Z1′s with their unique T-mobile The Sims Card!

    Productivity may be down but network coverage and fun and sharing and fun is up!

  11. rustybroomhandle says:

    Product placement is prolly ok in racing games or something like Euro Truck Sim 2. Might be ok in this orrible game too, but not when tied to actual features.

  12. Schmudley says:

    I’m actually surprised that there isn’t much more product placement in games. It would seem an obvious way for big games to help cover their budgets, and thus be less reliant on massive sales figures.

    I do agree that, when done right, there’s nothing really wrong with it. But usually it isn’t done right.

    This article has given me an urge to watch ‘The Greatest Movie Ever Sold’ again.

    • thegooseking says:

      This certainly isn’t done right. But it’s closer to being done right than we’ve really seen in games before.

      (My benchmark for product-placement-done-right is Back to the Future. Your mileage may vary.)

      I was not aware of that documentary, though. I’ll have to see it.

      • LionsPhil says:

        “Marty, he’s in a ’46 Ford; we’re in a DeLorean. He’d rip through us like we were tin foil!”

      • Bhazor says:

        The Delorean was a commercial bomb that had already stopped production three years before the film was released. The fact its the Doc’s car is a joke.

        • HothMonster says:

          I thought it stopped production because the owner was arrested for trafficking cocaine to America in the cars.

        • thegooseking says:

          I was talking about Pepsi (and to a lesser extent Toyota I guess), not the DeLorean.

          • LionsPhil says:

            And yet neither of those really stuck, but the cool silver car (that was notoriously unreliable and ended up smashed to bits by a train) is firmly wedged into the minds of a generation.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Fun fact: in early drafts of the script, the time machine was actually a refrigerator powered by Coca-Cola.

          • Brun says:

            Indeed, and it was changed because of fears that children would climb in refrigerators to try and re-enact the movie, and become stuck.

    • Bhazor says:

      Except it involves hideous PR “people” receiving money.

      Did you know that Paris Hilton is paid $500,000 to go to a party? One day when the alien masters arrive we will be expected to justify this in the galactic court of law.

      • Triplanetary says:

        Yes, I’m sure when weighed against the genocide, wealth inequality, warmongering, fraud, and mass murder, what will truly be of gravest concern to them is that someone was a celebrity for the wrong reasons.

    • engion3 says:

      jet moto 2

    • KDR_11k says:

      I remember big ads for trading games in at GameStop in Prototype. Sure goes well with all the “used sales are killing gaming” rhetoric.

  13. Swanny says:

    I love you guys at RPS, but i have to disagree with Nathan here. I don’t want ads. Anywhere. Ever. I’ve got a little more money then time now, and i’d be willing to shell out big if it meant no ads waste my time. I’m more then happy to pay for a game developer’s time as long as the original game is complete, and the price is worth the content (as in Borderlands 2 season pass) Which reminds me, i need to subscribe to RPS. That’s beside the point.

    • captainparty says:

      Well then this wont effect you, this isn’t an ad as such, its product placement, would you pay extra to watch a TV show where all the charcters used generic computers rather than Apple Macs? Or a movie where the hero didn’t drink an ice cold Coca Cola?

      • Somerled says:

        This is product placement on the scale of the big garish billboards that I can see from my window, dirtying the skyline. Not to mention the line of them down every major road. I would pay extra to get rid of those, just as I would this if I owned this train wreck of a game.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        How is it not an ad? It’s advertising a product.

      • Bhazor says:

        You must have loved this film I take it.

      • Josh W says:

        I do, I’m in the uk, and that’s exactly how the bbc works.

        Fictional brands give you total freedom, there’s no-one breathing down your neck to make sure they are represented well. It’s the same as unauthorised biographies or films of other people’s lives, you don’t have reputation protection getting in the way of interesting stories. (Of course, sometimes facts get in the way too, but a requirement to have a basic level of responcibility can push against that.)

        Edit: As another example, there used to be a problem of holywood stars being too invested in their personal brands to take interesting stories, and british actors had to be brought in to play the challenging parts. That’s mostly fallen away now thank goodness, but it’s part of the same attitude, that this film is not simply a film, it’s a way for the actors and various corporations to posture.

        I have a tiny sliver of interest in that in films, but not in games, if anyone’s posturing there, it’s me!

  14. evilsooty999 says:

    I don’t know about all of you, but I’m going out right now to buy a Nissan.

    • Umbert says:

      Which is a really good idea, because there seems to be no downside to it.

  15. Monkeh says:

    “This is one seemingly asinine move I think we should only partially leap down EA’s throat for. So maybe, like, just put in one leg. And do it kind of gently. Avoid the teeth, if you can.”

    Thank you, sir! My day has only just started, but you’ve already made it a better one for writing this. xD

  16. BooleanBob says:

    “concessions are a painful, oftentimes annoying necessity”

    You are the enemy.

  17. 8bitbeard says:

    Weren’t in-game ads supposed to be some kind of thing? I remember reading about “The Future” back in the early ‘oughts suggesting that games would implement relevant and non-immersion breaking advertising in spaces where it makes sense to have advertising. For example, an in game Coca Cola machine. Or billboards along roads in racing games where billboards might be found in reality.

    Of course, we don’t want blatant advertising. I don’t want to see Doritos and Mountain Dew floating powerups in my first person shooters. But a little subtle ad placement wouldn’t really be a bad thing, especially if it assists the revenue stream for developers.

    • Unruly says:

      One of the big non-sports, non-racing games to have in-game advertisements was Battlefield 2. Billboards on the maps would have ads for Intel and nVidia products. Battlefield 2142 also had ads that way. In BF2 I thought it was nice, because BF2 took place in a “20 minutes into the future” world. I never played BF2142, but I figure that ads for mid-00′s era products were a bit out of place in the hyper-future. I remember there being talk about the ads having a basis in your browser cookies or something, and Penny Arcade even did a comic about it – http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2006/10/20

      Other than that, though, I don’t remember there being too many games that actually grabbed real product ads. Off the top of my head aside from BF2/2142, there was Metal Gear Solid 4, which has Doritos and Mountain Dew as in-game items as well as a few real Japanese food products, Counterstrike 1.6, which only advertises other Valve products but does it pretty garishly, and pretty much all sports/racing games now have real advertisements from a lot of the same companies you’ll see advertising at their real events, but I don’t know of many others. At the same time, this idea was just cropping up at the end of the last console generation and the very start of the current console generation. I think that advertising agencies and other companies still didn’t quite understand what a force gaming is and just how big of an audience that games have. I think they’ve now got a better grasp on the size of the audience and are more likely to seek out in-game advertising space in big games as much as they try to get tie-ins with games on their real-world products.

      I’m actually kind of surprised that the Battlefield Bad Company games and BF3 didn’t have in-game ads like that. I didn’t mind them in BF2, and I don’t think I would mind them in BF3 either so long as they were done the same way. Billboards and posters on walls, like you’d see in a real city, work so long as they’re not overdone. In fact, the map Metro in BF3 would be perfect for real ads. They’ve got fake ones on the walls inside the subway station that could have easily been replaced with real product ads without looking all that out of place so long as they were static images that could still be distorted by explosions/bullet holes.

      • Baines says:

        In the case of the absence of “realistic” and appropriate product placement and advertising, I wonder how much it is a case of both sides wanting to be paid.

        Blatant inappropriate product placement is one thing. If your FPS has health and damage boost items in the form of giant glowing floating Doritos, then the game developer was probably paid to add Doritos to the game. Doritos benefits from the advertising, but the game doesn’t benefit from the presence of Doritos (and said presence might actually be a detriment.)

        On the other hand, if your sports game has real professional teams and real player names, then the developer probably paid substantial amounts of money and made various concessions for the privileged. Sports games benefit majorly from having real names and real appearances, while whatever bodies/people hold those rights have multiple publishers willing to buy those rights.

        Appropriate product placement falls in the middle ground. Both sides benefit, and both sides probably see dollar signs, wanting the other side to pay for the privileged.

        There is probably also the general issue of seeking out the other parties. It is troublesome for developers to go to the various product owners and try to sell them on the idea of subtle representation. The product owners aren’t going around saying stuff like “We’d really like it if every fourth background vending machine was Pepsi”. If the product owners are talking to the developers, then they are probably saying “We’ll pay you X if all your vending machines are Pepsi, half your billboards are Pepsi, and you don’t make a placement deal with any other beverage company.” And the publisher is probably going “Monies! Modern Warfare 4 will be sponsored by Nerf, so replace all those real-world weapons with Nerf guns!”

  18. mrmalodor says:

    People still play that game?

  19. Windward says:

    EA are just testing the waters. If people don’t hate this they will just start adding game breaking adverts to full price DLC and rake in some more cash. But EA DLC is always game breaking, so what is new?

    • terry says:

      In the Sims 3 your sims can already zoom around in a Toyota Prius, so this sort of shoehorning isn’t anything new for EA. Perhaps using it as a bandage for a part of the game that is flat out broken possibly is, though.

  20. Vorphalack says:

    I am neither supprised nor pleased by this news. Personally, I don’t game to have little reminders of reality trying to surreptitiously grab my attention and draw me out of the game. There is absolutely no compromise good enough for me to accept advertising in games, potential part funding of DLC included. If I can’t afford something, I don’t buy it, and I don’t lose any sleep over it.

  21. beltsu says:

    Look, I don’t mind adds only game, as long as they don’t break the game rules, don’t pop up on my face and interrupt the game, and have its presence reflect (lower) the game price.

    But this… No.

    Sim City, what a disappointment, really. :/

  22. Nallen says:

    This is disgusting. There is no upside, who are you trying to kid?

  23. c-Row says:

    - “Sir?”
    - “Hmm…”
    - “There have been… reports. It seems like people slowly start to forget how awful the base game was.”
    - “Time for the next step then.”
    - “I-I don’t think I…”
    - “UNLEASH THE DLC!”

  24. Premium User Badge basilisk says:

    This game has got to be one giant social experiment. One that’s pretty hilarious to watch from afar.

    • bstard says:

      Think it has some todo with testing how far you can push people based on seduction into something they dont actually want.

  25. mightlife says:

    So what does everyone think is a good implementation of an in-game ad for SimCity?

    I would have thought this was relatively appropriate, although I get what people are saying about the ‘super boost’ effects and lack of negatives – perhaps it has a monthly maintenance fee, it certainly should have.

    • Triplanetary says:

      So what does everyone think is a good implementation of an in-game ad for SimCity?

      That’s like saying, “So what does everyone think is a good implementation of colon cancer?”

  26. El_Emmental says:

    Welcoming ads funding DLCs ?

    … Nathan ? It seems the disaster of that SimCity, how it destroyed a series you (probably) loved when you were a kid, shell-shocked you.

    Ads in DLCs won’t go into funding development, it will only into the profits for the share-holders.

    Even if the ads were funding DLCs (and funding it enough), ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’ so if the developers ever say “no” to a company wanting to break the game’s balance/visual design, they won’t be able to “work with them anymore”, same with the company specialized in ads placements in games: when you burn the bridge, it’s gone.

    What about shrinking down ? You know, rather than having multi-millions dollars projects stealing all the show (and money), why not being in favor of smaller budget projects, taking more years to be made ?

    Big publishers are still doing the same tactic over and over again: make a handful of AAA projects, drown them in marketing budgets, expect commercial success – only keeping smaller projects for console ‘party’ games for the retail stores.

    They’ll soon find out it doesn’t work at all over the long term, and it’s not just “bad luck” regarding the market.

    If SimCity had half the employees, half the marketing budget, and +50% of available development time, I really think the game would have been much better and sell better over time.

    It’s impossible to make actually good ‘big project’ games when you’re crunching during half the development and can’t get 2 or 3 more weeks to iron-out some bugs.

    The terrible AIs in SimCity just needed more time to be made for each elements (inhabitants, agents, etc), the terrible online DRM/feature was only pushed by the monetization/marketing team and not the game design team – who would have needed at least 6 more months to make it a proper feature and not a sorry excuse for the DRM (and the ‘share’ virality à la Facebook), and so on.

    But the top EA “products manager” and chief of marketing wanted SimCity to be out at that moment, and really thought the marketing campaign can compensate a bad game, making the whole product profitable for them.

    They forgot a thing: there’s customers in the equation. They made a product fitting EA and their share-holders’ expectations, but never ever thought about making a product for their customers (too).

  27. TechnicalBen says:

    “Can make DLC free” BUT INHERENTLY BROKEN!
    “Adding the Charging Station will not take power”
    NO POWER!

    SHOUTY, because I cannot comprehend the logic fail on any level for the entirety of EA and this game. Please don’t “catch” the same illness RPS. Or was this a late April Fools post?

  28. sinelnic says:

    No, I do think it is very bad, because when it establishes itself as a dominant source of funding, it will start conditioning the content of the games itself (easy example: you can’t plug advertisements in medieval times).

    This should go away.

    • thegooseking says:

      Yeah, I was really torn up when they couldn’t make the Lord of the Rings movies because movies use product placement. Still, at least we got the six hour Nokia ad, Lord of the Ringtones, instead.

      Oh wait except that never happened.

      • Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

        Well, it happened several times before films in Orange adverts (in the UK, at least): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYcXHp5MtpM

        • thegooseking says:

          Yeah, but if we’re going to start complaining about extradiegetic advertising then I don’t even know what we’re doing any more.

      • sinelnic says:

        Yeah, no, movies are in no way defined by what you can sell through them. Sorry I brought my radical marxist views to this forum.

        • mondomau says:

          Are you just typing random words now? Because no part of what you said made any sense. What has marxism got to do with putting adverts in games or films?

          • sinelnic says:

            Random words? If you think what I said in my first post is too difficult to understand, let me try to help you: The article argues in favor of ads within games content because it can help bring more content, maybe good content, for free, which should be, in the end, a net benefit for us gamers.

            I believe it is the contrary, once a source of revenue is established, businesses treat it as part of their bottom-line, meaning, they will not use that revenue ‘for creating better content for free’, but what they’ll do is try to expand that revenue source as much as possible. If this proves succesful (in pure commercial terms) then future investments will get designed around this revenue source, hence directing more resources to games that can become vehicles for advertisements, and less to those that can not. In time, many games will be entirely designed as vehicles for advertisement.

            The bad part is that the revenue source for this is actually not gamers, as in ‘if we buy it it’s because we like it’ but advertisers, so ad-centric games will be something we’ll barely tolerate rather than learn to like. This model tends to a minimum of fun scattered in as much advertisement as possible. It is shit, indeed.

            So I don’t want it, it’s as simple as that. Was this clearer?

          • Brun says:

            I know you already dismissed it but movies provide a strong counterpoint to this notion. Even in movies with heavy product placement it’s rarely to the point of distracting the viewer from what’s happening – usually this is accomplished by placing those products in a context that actually makes sense.

            It’s not as much of a “slippery slope” as you think. Producers and directors will resist becoming too dependent on advertising revenue in their movies because the logical endgame of that scenario – i.e. creating movies that are designed around product placement rather than entertainment – will mean ceding control of the development process to another party (i.e. the advertising world). If there’s one thing that producers and directors value highly, it’s control.

          • sinelnic says:

            @Brun

            It really comes down to what you find acceptable (not ‘enjoyable’) product placement in your movies. I believe product placement is abusive, because I’m paying for a piece of entertainment to enjoy myself, relax, expand my conciousness or whatever, and the movie maker is re-selling those effects to the advertiser so he can penetrate my subconscious when it’s more defenseless. I’m not warned in advance, and given the ubicuity of product placement, I have to learn to tolerate it if I want to enjoy new movies and not keep watching old movies endless times.

            Earlier in the thread someone used LOTR as counter-example, and that was a good one. One. I could counter with the full future lineup of Disney’s movies, designed from the ground up to cross-sell everything that Disney can produce around the IP’s (movies, videogames, books, TV shows, merchandising, large etcetera). In an industry like that, control-loving, uncompromising directors tend to be pushed outside the industry, and new generations of professionals get trained under the compromise-paradigm. Can you compare the way a Nolan sees his art, with the way say a Coppola viewed his? Artists are replaced by Content Producers. I am fully entitled to not like it, and I don’t.

          • Brun says:

            I’ll use an example where product placement didn’t bother me. In Minority Report, Tom Cruise drives a Lexus, and shops at The Gap. The mall scene in particular is full of product placement, but in context it makes sense to have advertisements there – you would expect such in a real mall. Part of what made that scene so compelling was how it foretold the rise of things like targeted advertising (now extremely common on the internet) and interactive advertisements. Using real brands ultimately enhanced that scene as their use made things that felt so futuristic at the time much more believable and relatable. The fact that those brands got some product placement out of it was just a bonus.

            A more blatant example is in the second Matrix movie, during the car chase scene, both (main) vehicles are Cadillacs. That’s more obvious product placement, but it still didn’t bother me much. The type of vehicles used wasn’t terribly important to what was happening in the film – pretty much any vehicle could have been used in their place. And although the cinematography in the beginning parts of that sequence looked to be somewhat engineered to highlight the brands of the cars, on the whole I don’t think the product placement took anything away from the scene.

          • sinelnic says:

            @Brun

            I would go even further and say that the scene you mention in Minority Report is not really PP, at least not fundamentally, because it’s making you think critically of those brands, their role… a Mall without true brands is not really a Mall; who says one cannot make a movie about a particular, real-life company? Or art about corporate imagery? The problem for me lies with artistic honesty and freedom, as I describe above.

            The scene in Matrix, though, is PP and for me, the fact that it’s barely noticeable is irrelevant, worse even, because of the unconscious. Would you like to be conditioned to perform an action without you knowing it?

          • Premium User Badge darkChozo says:

            Just to note, subliminal messaging is basically bunk as far as psychology is concerned. If something is barely noticeable to your conscious mind, chances are it’s going to barely affect your preferences and your actions.

            I’m not too familiar with any studies done on product placement in particular, so maybe it works better than pure subliminal messaging (I speak from the lofty and definitely authoritative position of someone who almost got a psych minor in college). I’d assume it’s not hugely more effective, certainly not to level of some insidious corporate mind control, but feel free to prove me wrong.

  29. stahlwerk says:

    Regarding sales expectations of triple-A games, I think 50 € as a price on release is just unjustifiable, really, when you can expect a game to hit 50% off in a sale three to six months after release. I do have the money, yet I’m a slow gamer, taking my time to pick and choose and play through games to completion (Batman Arkham City at the moment). Thus, I don’t need to own a game on day one if I can expect to play it on day one-hundred at the earliest. The way I see it, what I do is smart shopping. If they model their sales expectations on people shopping dumb, then I’m not surprised about them missing their marks.

  30. leQuack says:

    I know this isn’t exactly the popular point of view, but I’m still having fun with the game. Watching my minions from above while trying to create a gentle flow of workers, shoppers and students is satisfying, also because it is nicely presented. I led to go of the idea that I have to nervously manage every crisis, anticipation and strategic outlay work wonders for my (new) cities.

    I also welcome some free dlc, which hasn’t too much impact (some of the wealthy sims driving fancy cars when car pollution wasn’t that much of a problem) but still adds some options to the game.

  31. Corporate Dog says:

    The problem with real-world advertising intruding on our games is that, even when it’s in CONTEXT (and that, in and of itself is NEVER guaranteed) the distribution always seems off.

    Now that Sim City has a Nissan ad, what are the chances we’ll see a Toyota ad? Ford? Chrysler? I bet Nissan managed to get exclusivity for their electric car. That, plus gameplay redundancy, means you won’t see a Tesla recharge station on your block anytime soon.

    Anyone remember the glut of Fanta ads that showed up in that cyberpunk MMO game a few years back (the name of which, currently eludes me)?

    I don’t want to be inundated with ads in the first place, but if it’s going to happen, I need to see some variety/competition. Otherwise, it feels less like what I see in the real world, and more like the gaudy cash grab that it is.

    • Twitchity says:

      The Tesla DLC comes with a tiny little Elon Musk who yells at you for playing the game wrong.

  32. derbefrier says:

    Lol whatever ads in games is nothing new. This isn’t a big deal.

    • mightlife says:

      +1 I don’t see the big deal that everyone seems to be whining about.

      Especially as no one is offering much of an alternative; and let’s be honest, (some) publishers are going to allow to/ make this (in game ads/ marketing) happen without consulting the players of the games, not all of whom are actually against this sort of thing.

      • sinelnic says:

        I smell PR, but maybe it’s just bad cologne.

      • Triplanetary says:

        Especially as no one is offering much of an alternative

        Yes they are. “Not doing that thing” is an alternative to “doing that thing.”

  33. LionsPhil says:

    …I think we should only partially leap down EA’s throat for. So maybe, like, just put in one leg. And do it kind of gently.

    You’ve been on the bad parts of the Internet again, haven’t you.

  34. Premium User Badge distantlurker says:

    It’s fair to say no-one sees this as anything other than advertising and product placement.

    So if I buy a Leaf IRL, clearly this advertisement has shown that while it requires charging (check), said charging uses no electricity..

    Bonus. Parking my leaf outside the local horse meat establishment will instantly cause it’s patrons to orgasm uncontrollably while vomiting skittles and joy.

    If the leaf does not work as advertised, can I sue under the trade description act?

    • Premium User Badge Llewyn says:

      If the leaf does not work as advertised, can I sue under the trade description act?

      Yes, but even if you win they won’t take it back :-(

  35. sockpuppetclock says:

    “Maybe SimCity’s Balance-Breaking Ad DLC Isn’t All Bad” Dude come on seriously I mean really now.

    Are you fucking high? When has advertisements in games ever had a direct benefit to you the consumer, ever ever ever

  36. Eddard_Stark says:

    All you need to know about this game was said by Dan Moskowitz from Maxis himself during their recent GDC presentation. Mindboggling stuff. The highlight tells you everything you ought to know about their approach and why the game is a shallow piece of crap:

    I can’t overstate how completely evil complexity is, especially in a sandbox game,” he said. “Constantly ask yourself: What can I remove from the game?

    More “revelations” follows:
    http://www.polygon.com/2013/3/29/4161422/simcity-pedestrians-teleport

  37. Snargelfargen says:

    Setting aside the fact that we’re talking about *just* video games for a moment, there’s something profoundly ignorant and offensive about the idea that people of all wealth levels can afford a brand new 28k car and all the costs associated with it.

    What with commuting, insurance and auto loans, happiness is going to be very far from the minds of folks in lower income brackets. Build some subways ffs.

    • Triplanetary says:

      Car companies spent a century dismantling what was once a very promising mass transit system (or, more accurately, systems) in the US, and they’re not about to stop selling the lie that everyone can and should have a car.

  38. Doganpc says:

    Strangely I think in game billboard with advertisements would work fine in a game like SimCity Online. You login to the server you’ve built up X amount of cash since you’ve been away and you proceed to work on your city a bit more and the Billboards are different, and they change every 15min or so. It wouldn’t be out of place in a cityscape.

    I do have issue with the specific item they’ve added. It’s free happiness, no cost and that conflicts with the style of game SimCity is supposed to be. Everything in that game has a cost, education is expensive to maintain, garbage has to go somewhere, resources are limited and land is a luxury. So here, have a free happiness plop that doesn’t even produce garbage. Don’t know about the rest of you, but I know for a fact that any roadside stop produces garbage. Cigarette butts, stuff flying out of cars, dropped cups and other miscellaneous junk. Even a maintenance cost isn’t mentioned… its like a little cheat code for a park/landscaping replacement.

  39. ScatheZombie says:

    “Because the fact is, ads (at least, where appropriate in the context of their respective games) could make heftier pieces of DLC completely free. We don’t see the idea in practice all that often these days, but it is worth considering – especially in light of the fact that DLC costs money to produce, and not everyone can afford to pull a Valve and drop it on our doorsteps without asking for even a dime.”

    Excuse me, but what? In-game advertising has been around for almost 2 fucking decades, man! And the additional revenue generated from such has *never* been passed on to the customer. Not once. In addition to that, I would also say that such advertising *IS* inherently bad. When you have such deals, the advertising product has *total control* over the usage and implementation of it’s brand name or products. You are basically ripping away all creative control from the design team and giving it over to a marketing team – who likely has *zero* experience or vested interest in the game; other than to get a positive message about their product to the user of the game. That’s why you’ll see +90% of in-games are nothing more than billboards or signs in the background – because that’s what those marketing firms are used to doing. And that’s why this ad-driven DLC is so fucking awful.

    Ugh. Seriously. This article. So … frustrating. UGH. You have no idea what you are talking about.

    • AlienMind says:

      Of course he has. Maybe he just repeated the words he ought to say to get the money they agreed on, no?

  40. Strangerator says:

    “Plopping down the Nissan Leaf Charging Station will add happiness to nearby buildings”

    Hahahahaha, let’s sacrifice accuracy of simulation for the purposes of pushing agendas and products shall we? In a sense, the astronomically exaggerated rate of nuclear meltdowns of plants in SimCity has always been agenda driven, but it is far closer to reality than this little nugget of propaganda. I get pissed off whenever I see electric cars that hardly anyone wants and yet are highly subsidized by tax dollars. Having a charging station nearby would do the opposite of increase my happiness.

    SimCity is an example of the pernicious type of game formed from the ideology espoused in Reality is Broken. EA, take your social engineering garbage and kindly exit the industry.

  41. Hahaha says:

    From the RPS board

    “EA and the SimCity franchise have form for this sort of in-game advertising. In SimCity Societies all the sustainable energy plants and petrol stations etc were branded all over by BP.
    http://www.bp.com/genericarticle.do?…tentId=7037415
    http://valuesatplay.org/corporate-sp…city-societies
    Funnily enough I only remember the ‘friendly’ energy sources being branded, not the dirty unsustainable ones that BP are known for. This sort of corporate advertising in games seems utterly soulless and without merit in my eyes, hope it never becomes the norm.”

  42. AlienMind says:

    Why would I charge a leaf?

  43. crinkles esq. says:

    Nathan, I think you’ve been spending too much time in the opium dens. You sound as if you’re addicted to game content. There’s plenty of ways to have a fulfilling gaming life without resorting to selling yourself in a back alley for another hit of fleeting pleasure.

  44. frosty216 says:

    Back in my day, you bought a game; And got a game.

    Hopefully with Nissan’s support of the contemporary gaming industry, they’ll start making their products follow suit.
    If you pre-order the Nissan Leaf, it comes with a special dial that allows the adjustment of its air vents to create heat for those chilly days.
    A few months after release, Nissan will realize the faults of the stone wheels used on their current version of the vehicle, and update them to lighter, more high performance wooden components.
    Later, they’ll release several purchasable content packages that allow for music to be played inside the vehicle or an in-dash measuring device that will register your current speed and relay that information to you.
    Also, you can go on your PC and access an item shop which allows the purchase of non-P2W cosmetics, such as rear seats, headlights, and body panels. For the more hardcore driver, boosts are available for purchase which will provide you with 60 minutes of 30+MPH, the ability to turn the steering wheel more than 25* in ANY direction you choose, and temporarily replace your AA-cell batteries with a car battery (boosts are non-stacking to promote fairness).

  45. wuwul says:

    NISSAN
    This
    NISSAN
    game
    NISSAN
    seems
    NISSAN
    to
    NISSAN
    become
    NISSAN
    more
    NISSAN
    and
    NISSAN
    more
    NISSAN
    shit
    NISSAN
    as
    NISSAN
    time
    NISSAN
    passes.
    NISSAN