Before I start, I want to make clear that my knowledge of the gaming industry is pretty poor, but I think the assumptions I’ve used in this post are fairly sensible. If not, please let me know!
I want to talk very briefly about Pro Evolution Soccer, a game which I and many others have bought and enjoy playing. I’m sure this game cost a lot of money to develop – most games do. Traditionally, of course, this cost has been recouped by selling high volumes of games at a price which is around the standard for that console. So, for example, I generally expect to pay between £35-40 for a game for the PlayStation 3. This model has been around for a long time, and I’m assuming it works, since the game industry has managed to continue to thrive.
Pro Evolution Soccer appears to be bucking this trend. I don’t know whether or not it is the first, but the game has a hell of a lot of advertising in it. The boards on the side of the pitch change with adverts (for example, we have seen ones relating to upcoming games which are to be shown on ESPN), and on the pause menu there is often a small advert in the top right of the screen (I can understand advertising on the boards, but on the menu?). I can’t be sure, but I think the sponsors on the team shirts change as well (this is an assumption based on seeing a foreign team with a British non-multinational logo on their strip). There may well be other, more subtle advertising that I’m missing.
Don’t get me wrong, this is fine. We’ve learnt to ignore advertising online, we can learn to ignore it on the PlayStation as well. What does annoy me, however, is that this is obviously a second revenue stream for the developers/production house. I’ve already paid £40 for the privilege of playing the game, and as I have said, traditionally this should be enough to keep the game going through to the next version. Had the game been set at a much lower price point, and it was obvious that the advertising was there to ensure the survival of the company, then I wouldn’t mind so much, but since it was priced at the regular level, it seems that the advertising revenue is just a nice added bonus. To me, it seems a bit odd to charge full price for a product, and then make more money by selling advertising space in that product – though it could obviously be a very lucrative model.
Is this the future of gaming? Will we see more and more advertising within games? If we do, are the prices of games going to come down to reflect the reduced need for income from direct sales? Only time will tell.