It seems like it was only *the day before today* when in-game ads were all the rage. I even remember candidate Obama taking out campaign ads in one of those racing games. Those days may be coming to an end, with EA saying that micro-transactions, and not in-game ads, are the *true* source of additional revenue for publishers. That’s good news and bad news. It’s good news for those of you who *hate* to see in-game ads, but it’s bad news for those of you who *equally hate* having to pay 75 cents every time you cast a spell in an MMO, or shoot off a round of ammunition in an FPS.
Part of this is due to the rise of “social” games, including all those Facebook games put out by Zynga. Those guys have made giant sacks of money as a result of micro-transactions, whereas EA “actually [isn’t] getting much from ad revenue at all.” So says Ben Cousins, the general manager of the free-to-play Battlefield: Play4Free, which is now in private beta.
The only way to fully take advantage of in-game advertising is to deeply integrate it with the game, like EA did with Battlefield Heroes. There was some deal with Dr. Pepper that would get you exclusive in-game items provided you supplied one of those codes printed on the bottle. That type of thing would seem to have a future, but merely plastering virtual billboards with ads for The Gap or Wonder Bread doesn’t work as well as publishers may have once thought.