Today's main feature is a book excerpt from Paraglyph Press' Game Design Complete
by SCi Games Creative Director Patrick O'Luanaigh which looks at the challenges of advergaming and the gray line that exists between licensing and advertising, introducing various in-game advertising techniques, from including brand names on your product packaging as a credibility enhancement to putting branded objects into your game.
The following passage tackles the difference between licensing and advertising:
"You might encounter a rather gray area when it comes to licensing. At one end of the scale, you'll likely need to pay to license any major brand for inclusion in your game, and at the other end, the brand holder will pay you to feature its brand in your title. This gray area usually depends on how much clout you have with your game or brand, the relative skills of your licensing team, and the attitude of the company involved. By and large, the distinction tends to be about who really benefits the most. The question becomes: Does the addition of the advertised brand significantly improve the quality and overall impression of the game, or does advertising the brand in the game mainly benefit the owner of the brand?
Let's look at an example. Assume that you're creating a racing game and you want to include a Ferrari. This brand of car is probably much more widely known than your game. It increases the attraction of your game to consumers, so it's clearly a great thing for you. It makes your game feel special, and players want to drive the best cars. But the benefit Ferrari receives for being in your game is much smaller. The folks at Ferrari might feel that being in your game isn't going to help them sell very many cars. In fact, the risk of being in your game (which from their point of view might not be very good) is probably much more important to them than the reward of seeing their cars in yet another video game. Because of these circumstances, you may well have to pay Ferrari a considerable sum to include its car in your game.
On the other hand, including Red Bull drink cans within your game environment is unlikely to add much to your game at all. In fact, you may feel that unless you also include Coke, Pepsi, and a host of other brands, having a specific brand may look like an obvious advertising ploy and therefore make your game weaker rather than stronger. However, the makers of Red Bull, providing that your game is a high-quality one, might view your game as reaching an important demographic that they can't easily reach using other advertising vehicles. The message of linking fun quality entertainment with their drink could be an important one. Clearly, in this case, you'd expect them to pay you to feature their brand in your game. I'm using Red Bull as an example only because it has been in a large number of games (hopefully this has been successful from the company's point of view), and I'm sure the company would agree with me that its product is very different than Ferrari's in terms of what kind of advertising deals it could command. Unfortunately, neither company is paying me to mention them! (I wonder if you can get in-book advertising deals?)"
You can read the full Gamasutra feature
, including examples of good and bad in-game advertising (no registration required, please feel free to link to this column from external websites).