The fear of unskippable ads in menus or gameplay has led to a lot of concern over recent reports that Microsoft and other gaming companies are searching out ways to implement advertisements into some of their games. Those fears were only increased when Electronic Arts CEO, Andrew Wilson, said in a recent earnings call that he feels in-game advertisements can have a place in gaming “if done right.”
We want to ensure that the player experience is the best possible player experience that we can provide. And that’s why you’ve seen us kind of test various models over the course of time, some have continued and some we have stopped on the basis of really upholding the best possible player experience we can.
What we’ve seen generally though in entertainment media and even in games, particularly in mobile games right now, you see that there is a place for advertising when done right. And there is a portion of the community that when given the choice will participate in advertising where it benefits their gameplay experience..
While Wilson does mention the “player experience,” it’s hard to not bristle at the idea of advertisements taking on a larger role inside games. For example, Wilson mentions the ads that exist within mobile games right now, and as someone who plays mobile games, many of them do have unskippable ads that interrupt gameplay. EA, in particular, has a negative history involving forced advertisement in its games, such as when ads had to be taken out of UFC 4 because they would appear in the middle of a fight. One of EA’s competitors, NBA 2K, caught major flack for trying to cram unskippable ads into NBA 2K21.
To play devil’s advocate, ads have existed in games for a long time in more subtle formats. Sports games feature them on billboards or will have awards named after them, and we’ve seen racing games use billboards and decals of real-world brands plenty of times. Then again, these were all subtle. If we start seeing huge, unskippable ads in the middle of games, there will be a whole lot of extremely unhappy players. History tells us players don’t want this, and while Wilson can speak to the player experience all he wants, that isn’t going to quell the fears.