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Based in Vancouver, British Colombia, Threewave Software is a developer best known as the company behind the original capture the flag mod for Quake way back in 1996, arguably one of the first mods to popularise team play in multiplayer first-person shooter titles. Since then, Threewave has been creating multiplayer content for some of the biggest FPS franchises, including re-creating their seminal version of capture the flag for id in Doom III: Resurrection of Evil.
Recently, Threewave has been expanding rapidly with the intention of broadening their scope and ability, with intriguing ideas on funding, distribution and development practices, including pioneering the use of sponsor funded, ad-driven content in the multiplayer FPS genre.
At a recent open house event before the New Media B.C. annual general meeting and barbeque, Dan Irish, CEO of Threewave and previously the executive director of Relic Entertainment’s Homeworld 2, sat down to talk to Gamasutra about his plans for the company.
Gamasutra: Tell us about your plans for ad driven content.
Dan Irish: No one’s really figured out how to get ads into gaming and make it effective and measurable. Massive [Inc.] is really only starting that process now, with their dynamic ad technology.
Where we fit into that picture is not so much creating the content and then placing an ad in it, but by creating the content around a brand. For example, one of the projects that we completed recently (though it’s not announced yet) features terrorists taking over the Alienware computer factory.
But creating that sponsor driven content is really how we would like to evolve multiplayer games - so you’re not just shipping with the ten maps that come with the game, then maybe you release five maps later, and then mod community does 500 maps but only about three are really good. We’d like to provide sponsored content that also supports the brand of the FPS, allowing it to have a whole stream of maps that are available month after month, featuring different product placement each time. Maybe in a Jeep-Chrysler level you’ll be able to drive their vehicles. Maybe a Pepsi branded level where you jump through a Pepsi logo to materialise somewhere else.
We’re looking to implement ads in the content in a way that isn’t obtrusive to the user. You know the way that pop-up ads are so annoying, and you just want to escape that? We want to integrate it better than that, something that adds to the experience rather than subtracts from it.
GS: Do you expect the sponsors to pay entirely for the product? (i.e. free to the consumer.)
DI: Oh yeah, that’s the basic concept. We’ve signed up a couple of projects along those lines, though they’re not announced yet.
Another thing is, imagine you’re a publisher, and one of the maps of your games, or one of your brands could be part of a 300 million dollar ad campaign. No one spends that on marketing a video game, 10 millions dollars would be a lot. It’s a great opportunity. Not only to the publishers, but the consumers, who get to have more content.
GS: Have the sponsors interfered or demanded certain things about your projects? A famous example is that the licensed cars of Gran Turismo can’t be damaged due to the manufacturer’s requests.
DI: We’ve actually dealt with that in some of our current projects, and we’re finding that most of the sponsors understand it now. Before it was “just a license” and their product was appearing in it, now they feel like they own it, that it’s part of them. It’s a bit like watching 'The Unit,' where they drive GMC police vehicles - they get blown up all the time. Along those lines, they understand it’s integrated to the story, the concept, and it doesn’t show the product in a detrimental light.