Business Entertainment Google Internet Software & Hardware

Google, EA aiming for open gaming platform?

When it comes to advertising, Google is preeminent, able to squeeze revenue from clicks and passing eyes in print, the web, and possibly TV soon, too. But what about entertainment? Specifically, video games. Can we expect to see Google adverts in Halo 4 or Quake 5?

An open gaming platform

Let’s look a little further into the future, reaching towards an open gaming platform — looking beyond a possible political scenario where Microsoft works to block Google’s attempts to sell an advertising model to the developers of Xbox video games.

Still a speculative idea in its own right, but I think EA makes a good argument for an open gaming platform:

“’We want an open, standard platform which is much easier than having five which are not compatible,’ said EA’s head of international publishing.”

EA’s reasons are probably entirely selfish, but there are also material benefits to the gamer, too:

“EA currently produces games for more than 14 different gaming systems, including consoles, portable devices and PCs.”

Re-working the code for each game to some or all of those platforms is something that EA and those other games studios could do without having to spend.

So the benefit to the gamer is the prospect of almost any game for one open video games platform most likely cheaper than they are now, because of the reduced development costs.

CPK (Cost Per Kill): who said there was no money in death?

Of course, with an open gaming platform, you have the chance for a round table discussion by the the major players — by that I mean Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, EA, Eidos Games, Bungie et al, and of course Google — to thrash out an entire new class of business model built atop an open gaming platform that incorporates advertising and e-commerce elements, in addition to other entertainment media, such as music and video, for example.

It’s an intriguing idea, all of which only becomes feasible because of that interweb thing we all keep hearing so much about.

The link to Google is purely my imagination, and not based on any rumors doing the rounds. But I imagine an open gaming platform would give Google a good start-from-scratch angle to push forward their advertising schemes.

Advertised to hell and back!

There’s been recent attempts to massage in-game advertising into Hellgate: London, which didn’t quite go according to plan:

“Several angry emails have entered my inbox because people installing the newly released Hellgate: London demo have noticed that the game includes adware, advertising that is integrated into software.”

The problem here is two-fold: firstly, the integration of in-game advertising was a little clunky because usability was a distant second to making money, and then secondly, there’s the question of whether the price of the game will be discounted, given the inclusion of advertising.

So what’s needed is some empirical evidence. And who better to make cash and reason from senseless violence than Google:

“Internet giant Google has drawn up plans to compile psychological profiles of millions of web users by covertly monitoring the way they play online games … The patent [recently filed in the US by Google] says: ‘User dialogue (eg from role playing games, simulation games, etc) may be used to characterise the user (eg literate, profane, blunt or polite, quiet etc). Also, user play may be used to characterise the user (eg cautious, risk-taker, aggressive, non-confrontational, stealthy, honest, cooperative, uncooperative, etc).’”

Google’s advertising head shot?

So to begin with, Google is armed with their regular battery of targeted advertising smarts, but then their covert reconnoitering will further enhance the specificity of their adverts, allowing Google to fix their sights more firmly on almost every player with an advert for every style.

Now add in-game advertising to the in-game music mix and you’ve got yourself a formidable arena for making money from video games, but there may be obstacles to in-game advertising:

“While you can see things like in-game advertising adding a sense of authenticity to a video game, in-game music makes for a more engaging experience, and offers a more scalable platform for revenue.”

Assuming that the advertising isn’t annoying, that is:

“It’s a power struggle — the advertisers and the TV channels are trying to poke the viewer in the eye as a way of curing our increasing ‘ad-blindness’, which is no cure at all.”

But in-game advertising wouldn’t be a one-way Google killing spree. The beauty of an open platform is that those with the initiative and the ideas can carve out their very own niche.

Here I’m thinking of something like Sony’s Universe or Second Life, which could be a bridgehead to Social Networking.

And once Google dignifies a new idea with research and patent filings, you know you’re looking at a legitimate initiative, which opens the doors to those similar-minded, too.

But the key to this particular door is ensuring the advertising is unobtrusive, highly contextual, specific and offers a subsidy towards the final cost of the game.

Should such an open gaming platform come to pass, those key members need to ensure that open doesn’t become synonymous with words like ‘wide’ and ‘varied’ — if in doing so, those other ways of making money become obtrusive, lacking in context and unspecific.

Get those things wrong and they’re going to cost game players extra money, less fun and more clicks with fewer reasons to kill time by murdering bad guys…

Recommended reading

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

4 replies on “Google, EA aiming for open gaming platform?”

Interesting. I think what would probably work well in the gaming world, aside from normal ads (billboards in street scenes and such) would be product placement. If people are driving virtual cars, have them provided by VW (or whatever car make is popular with that game’s audience). If there’s a virtual diner, how about bottles of Coke and neon Coke signs?

You could fill a game with real world stuff without it being any more distracting then it is in real life…plus if you grab the coke bottle maybe it emails you a coupon or something. At first I was thinking it could take you to a special cola world, but one probably doesn’t want to be distracted/removed from the game.

There are oodles of possibilities.

In game advertising is going to be tricky for companies to get their head around without alienating their potential customers. They will really need to tailor their ads to fit the game environment and they’ll need to accept that the gamer market is more than just 18 – 35 year old males. Context becomes very important too, a Red Bull ad in World of Warcraft could play on the Tauren race of minotaur-like characters whereas an NVidia graphics card ad might fly better in a sci-fi themed game. Definitely a lot of potential but a lot of potential pitfalls too.


Because the adverts need to be contextual, they’re relying on the genre of the games. And it’s not always going to be viable to chase down the popular genres if the context isn’t there…

Comments are closed.