Latest DevelopmentsClearly, advertisers are already finding a variety of ways to reach gamers. Anarchy Online has displayed several different real world products on in-game billboards, and there is a neon AXE deodorant sign baked into Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. There.com was conceived partly around the idea of product placement, with virtual Nike shoes and Levis jeans appearing in the world. EverQuest II has added a /pizza command in the game that brings up the online order form for PizzaHut.com.
What has brought this issue to the forefront recently is Massive Incorporated's creation of "the world's first video game advertising network." They have some big advertisers like Intel, Honda, and Dunkin Donuts onboard, and claim that around 40 games will be using their service by the end of 2005.
BackgroundIn the case of Web games, advertising became commonplace quite a while ago. This ranges from running a standard Internet ad in the same browser window as the game, to "advergames" which incorporate product promotion into a broad selection of free games, such as Candystand and Planters Games.
The use of ads in retail games, however, is still in its infancy, but a growing interest in online gaming is definitely one reason for the impetus. Massively multiplayer games seem to be particularly well-suited for this type of advertising, because they offers a variety of ways to place ads, they are easily and frequently updated, and they tend to have high concentrations of players in certain locations.