EA and In-Game Advertising
Do you consider games to be cheap? No, not unfair, but low in cost. For this gamer, $50 (or for next-gen console games, $70) is often more than enough compensation for most titles, which, on average, keep my attention piqued for about a month or two. Of course, titles like Oblivion are the exception, but generally games grasp their players for less than half of a calendar year. That makes them well thought out purchases for many young people on a budget, but recent controversy over in-game advertisements is fueling the debate over the cost of certain titles.
In recent years, industry giant Electronic Arts (EA) has placed an increasing number of advertisements in its gaming environment. Some of the worst culprits include the Need for Speed series, which has lambasted the gamer with fast food billboards, cell phone logos and auto accessory brand names. EA also forces the gamer to listen to its pre-selected songs, or "Trax", which are undoubtedly the tunes being pushed the most by money-waving music industry moguls behind the scenes (the worst case may be NHL 07, which only includes 10-15 songs. That can get awful old after just ten hours of game time).
Currently, EA is facing its greatest backlash over the use of advertising in games. According to some reports, the company's online mass-multiplayer release, Battlefield 2142, is tracking gamer information. By connecting to the internet, gamers are opening their log of personal information to EA, and some have accused the company of using that data to stream specified advertising.
EA has responded by denying that it has done anything seriously wrong. Initial reports suggested that EA was tracking anything it could find on a specific computer, but it appears as though the company is limiting its research to information found within Battlefield 2142 alone. That's not horrendously terrible, but alas there is tracking, and most gamers – probably well over 90% of them – aren't aware that EA is engaging in any such practice when they pick up the game.
Here's where the debate over game cost and advertising comes in. If I purchase a title for $50 or more, should I not be able to drive virtual streets without seeing a giant Burger King banner? Should I not trust that a game company will not exploit my personal information in order to devise the perfect ad campaign for me?
For a gamer who abhors legislation, it's tough for me to admit that there needs to be some sort of regulation on this. If companies like EA – the game publishers who certainly don't need the extra money – want to pound our eyeballs with advertisements, then perhaps we could see a drop in the price of affected games. Knock ten, even fifteen dollars off of the title.
We made you rich, EA. We deserve it.