In-Game Ads: EA’s New Revenue Strategy Raises Privacy Concerns

The news raises questions about balancing monetization with player experience.

Summary (TL;DR)

Electronic Arts (EA) is considering using dynamic ad insertion (DAI) for its AAA games to boost revenue. DAI technology allows ads to be inserted in real time and tailored to individual players based on their data, such as demographics and in-game behavior. This practice raises privacy concerns and the potential for ads to disrupt the gaming experience. As EA explores this approach, balancing monetization with maintaining a positive user experience will be crucial.

Electronic Arts (EA), the company behind popular game franchises like Dragon Age and Madden NFL, is considering integrating dynamic ad insertion (DAI) into its AAA games to boost revenue. During a Q4 earnings call, EA CEO Andrew Wilson revealed that these plans are “still early on that front,” and they “have teams internally in the company right now looking at how do we do very thoughtful implementations inside of our game experiences.”

What is Dynamic Ad Insertion?

Dynamic ad insertion (DAI) is technology that allows ads to be integrated into video content in real time. Unlike static ads — which are embedded into the content and remain unchanged — DAI pulls ads from an ad server. These ads can be personalized and swapped out based on viewer data (more on that later).

For example, during a sports game broadcast, a DAI system might display different ads to viewers based on their location or interests. A viewer in New York might see an ad for a local restaurant, while someone in California might see an ad for a new tech gadget. DAI aims to make ads more relevant and engaging for the viewer.

The Downside of In-game Advertising

DAI relies heavily on tracking user data to deliver targeted advertising. This data collection includes a wide range of information — including demographics, in-game behavior, purchasing history, and even data from other games you play. By analyzing and compiling this data, advertisers can build detailed profiles of gamers, allowing them to serve ads that are specifically tailored to each player’s interests and preferences.

In a racing game, you might see ads for car manufacturers on loading screens or billboards within the game itself. Meanwhile, players who frequently customize their characters could be targeted with ads for clothing brands or cosmetic items.

While this targeted advertising approach is supposed to enhance relevance and engagement, it also raises privacy concerns. Many gamers may find this level of data tracking and profiling intrusive, worrying about the extent to which their personal information is being monitored and exploited.

The practice of tracking and using such detailed data profiles can lead to skepticism about whether their information is secure and if it’s being sold to third-party services.

Growing Ad Fatigue

EA’s decision to consider in-game advertising (again) comes at a time when people are experiencing ad fatigue.

Streaming platforms are raising subscription prices while promoting cheaper, ad-supported tiers. Some streamers on Twitch now insert ads during their live streams, along with hosting sponsored streams funded by certain brands or gaming developers. This is on top of Twitch itself randomly interrupting streams with ads — further inundating viewers with advertising content.

The move towards in-game advertising reflects broader trends in the digital entertainment industry. However, it also raises important questions about the balance between revenue generation and user experience.

A Call for Player-Centric Solutions

Prioritizing player experience is essential for long-term success. Gamers want to immerse themselves in the games they play. They want to experience breathtaking worlds and captivating stories — or beat the crap out of NPCs to their heart’s content.

There are alternate forms of monetization that can be successful — such as offering cosmetic microtransactions or well-developed expansions. Gamers can play a part by supporting studios that prioritize player experience and rejecting games riddled with intrusive ads.

Whether in-game advertising becomes a staple in the industry or faces pushback remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: this conversation is far from over.

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