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  • Book Excerpt: Game Design Complete: Advergaming and Sponsorships

    [04.06.06]
    - Patrick O'Luanaigh
  • Using In-Game Advertising Agencies

    If all this sounds too much like hard work, there are companies that offer to manage in-game advertising for you. Some companies will even sort out the online updating of advertising I mentioned previously. Ideally, you should hook up with one of these companies at an early stage—you may find that a couple of tiny tweaks to your design allow new possibilities. Again, it's vital to keep a balance between revenue and not ruining the game, and you need to be careful when talking to agencies not to get carried away! But the advantage of using companies like this is that you can tell them about your game, who is publishing it, how big you expect it to be, and most important, what opportunities there are within the game (and packaging) for companies to sponsor or advertise. Video games are growing in terms of their reach and demographics. As more people ignore TV adverts, or skip past them after recording shows onto hard disc, advertisers need to look elsewhere to hit carefully targeted customers. Video games offer that, and I strongly believe that in-game advertising is going to grow rapidly over the next few years. I just hope it doesn't get too blatant!

    Adding Authenticity

    One excellent reason for adding licenses to your game is to build its authenticity and realism. The first step is to make a list of exactly what licenses/brands you'd like to use in your game. It's worth trying to push yourself. There is no harm in approaching massive companies; the worst they can do is say no. What is important is to have fallback options and to set a date at which, if you don't have the licenses, you will use something else. I've been in many projects where the licenses take much longer than you'd think, and the last thing you need is a license holding up your gold master. In fact, games have been pulled from the shelves after manufacture because the right permissions hadn't been received, which, as you can probably guess, is an extremely devastating and expensive situation to be in. Try to think about all the places in your game where a real-life brand might help. To convince these companies to get on board (and ideally pay for the privilege as well), print out some in-game screen shots with their logo put in, showing them the kind of result they'd get. You will find that you need to pay for many licenses—cars, real race tracks, some real-life buildings, and so on. But ideally you'll be able to convince the brand owner that they will benefit from the association, and you can reach a deal that benefits both parties.

    Creating a Version of a Game for a Company

    The ultimate destination when talking about working with other companies is to actually create a game for them. More realistically, this might be to create a special version of an existing game for them, since most companies can't (or won't) pay the $4 million to $12 million needed for a high-quality console game. If you're creating a racing game, you might want to consider developing special versions for some of the car manufacturers that you're working with, featuring only their vehicles and putting their branding on the front end and loading screens. If you're talking to a company about in-game sponsorship, then why not bring up the idea of a unique version just for the company and see if it is something it would be willing to pay for. Bear in mind that if a company wants a console game, you'll need to submit the extra version to Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo in order to manufacture gold discs, so you need to check this out before signing the deal and find out whether you'll be charged extra for QA and whether you can get a low-volume run manufactured. Otherwise, creating a tailored PC version of your game is obviously much simpler, and this route makes a lot of sense. Many companies have trade shows, and it's great for them to be able to run a game that features their brand at these shows to inject some entertainment and excitement. For them, it's a case of having something very cool and exciting attached to their brand—video games are great at attracting young consumers. For developers or publishers, it's simply a case of making some additional profit from their existing game engine.

    Summary

    Hopefully, you've seen the different kinds of in-game sponsorship and advertising that you might want to consider at some point. Although it may feel overly commercial, remember that you need to make money with your game, and by using advertising in the right way, you could add authenticity to your project while also earning revenue. This could mean that you wouldn't need to sell as many copies to start making royalties, or even that you have additional money to do a better audio recording or to employ a couple more level designers. Just don't sell your soul.

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