||March 5, 2005
First, there was /pizza. Now, there are billboards...although we're talking about different games. What is this alternative communication I reference? Read on.
Quite. Anarchy Online's official website recently announced what Funcom is calling a "revolutionary game ad deal." This deal involves a team-effort with advertising company Massive Incorporated to scatter sales pitches throughout the world of Rubi-Ka. This would not be for every version of the game, though. Only those playing the free version of the game, which launched this past December. Thus, the online game has become much like the internet itself in that those that don't pay, see advertising, while those that are giving the green see no such ads.
Apparently the company is targeting males of ages 18-34 with this new ad campaign, as the official site's announcement cited a study by Nielsen Media which claimed that members of that category have been watching less prime-time television lately. Nielsen's research showed that more people were playing video games. On Funcom's end, more people are playing Anarchy Online now than ever before, and largely because of the original version being playable for free, meaning no download cost or monthly cost. It was with these two factors in mind that Massive Inc. and Funcom made their deal.
Trond Aas, CEO of Funcom stated "As opposed to a medium like TV you know that the gamers eyes are always watching the screen while playing games. With official ad measurement methods from Nielsen we are sure advertisers will cherish this revolutionary new opportunity to reach the extremely valuable 18 – 34 demographic. Through our own research we know that most gamers want in-game advertisement to heighten the sense of realism. Seeing that the live billboards in Anarchy Online do not interfere with gameplay I am confident our free players will welcome the permanent continuation of our complimentary subscription in the ultimate sci-fi MMORPG."
To see how the community felt about this, I considered visiting the official message boards, but then I was like "Nah, I'm a hardcore rock superstar. I'll freaking go INSIDE the game and ask people about it cause I'm that awesome." So I downloaded and installed Anarchy Online, created a character and went in-game for some investigative reporting. However, it seems no one in the game knew about the ads. I would ask folks "What do you think about the in-game ads?" and they'd tell me they didn't know what I was talking about, then leave. It was really depressing. The only guy that would actually give a comment was the same guy who showed me the ropes on Newbie Island, named Jamikeni. Unfortunately, he's a paying customer and doesn't see the ads, so he only said, "I can't tell you how I feel about it at this time." After advancing to one of the game's first towns, which was very small and unpopulated, and had no ads, I hung my head, logged out, and went to the message boards.
- Khya: Now some of you may not care, but I feel this is disgusting. Nobody is happy with the constant bombardment of commercials on television. Finally there was an alternative to television, online gaming, where you can relax and play without commercials being shoved up your throat!
- LordLucan: If I play a free game, I accept there may be advertising content in it.
- Whatchuwant: There's already billboards & 'advertisements' in AO, they're just mainly for in-game items (Yalmahas, Leet pets, etc., although I could swear I saw one for Alienware computers once). I don't see anything wrong with opening this up to ads for actual products.
- Xtrememeta: As long as it's kept to the froob accounts, and as long as it's kept on the billboards... I see nothing wrong with this idea. It gives you the option to pay or see ads, just like TONS of other online marketing concepts.
I also went to ask my friends at realmsofkrel.com how they felt. I asked whether the advertising is justified by the fact that the game is free, or if it's out of place entirely? Apparently most people there were cool with the idea. Ezeikial testified, "I didn't notice them when I was playing the free AO. ...When I went to Borealis I saw an ad for Alienware Computers...and I was like 'Rock on!'" A chat member named Spoonbender commented, "The ads are kinda cool. Make the city look more, well, city-like."
So the majority of folks seem to be cool with the idea, so long as it stays limited to the free accounts and remains in the form of billboards and other things that don't disrupt gameplay. What do you think? Email me and tell me what you think of advertising in this and possibly other MMORPGs. Will advertisers be able to limit themselves to only in-game billboards, or is this is top of a slippery slope? We've seen other such things in the form of EverQuest II's "/pizza" feature...is there more on the way?
Earlier this week, Sony Online Entertainment announced that EverQuest II has exceeded the 350,000 subscriber plateau. Apparently desiring even more players, SOE's own announcement uses crafty, subliminal, persuasive language with messages like, "...if you aren't currently playing EverQuest II, you should be."
Another feature harped-upon in the announcement in "no waiting." I'm not entirely sure what the company means by this, but the letter says, "Understandably, all MMO games have downtime for maintenance and patching, but we don't believe in making our players wait to play our games. Players are paying a monthly subscription to play a game and our job is to work hard to let them play it as much as, and when, they choose." Read this along with much other boasting and feature-describing here.
Keeping on with the EverQuest II news, the first adventure pack is set to be released on the first day of Spring, March 21st. Entitled "The Bloodline Chronicles" and selling for $4.99, the adventure pack will include the type of upgrades that generally come standard in MMO expansions, though it should be noted that adventure packs do not equal expansion packs. See this story for filler details on that. Specifically revealed features include new Neriak items for players of all levels, five new areas, and additional storyline in which one's actions influence the outcome of one's progressive adventure. Those excited enough to pre-order are given immediate access to the D'Morte Burial Chambers.
Steve "Moorgard" Danuser of Sony Online Entertainment answered some questions about the adventure packs and other things at the EQ Vault. When you've got a spare minute, take a glance.
It seems you can't get in a discussion about Final Fantasy XI without someone in the group complaining about players not of their own nationality. To that end, a study is being conducted by Alan Meades at Middlesex University, United Kingdom, taking a look at cultural differences between players of inter-cultural gaming communities. In order to generate this data, Final Fantasy XI players from around the world are invited to fill out a short online survey currently available in English and Japanese. More translations are planned, and Alan is looking for FFXI playing volunteers who may be able to assist with this.
The survey consists of 26 multiple choice questions and six support questions; it should take approximately 10 minutes to complete. All of this data will remain confidential and will only be used in this study. Said study will be published in June 2006, and respondents can choose to obtain a copy of the findings (English language only at this point). Questions and comments can be sent directly to Alan Meades at email@example.com.
The official website now described a gameplay element not previously reported. Adventurers will be able to hold hands. Not just two, either. The chain of people holding hands can get quite long. There are uses for this feature in battle and simple navigation. In combat, the leader of the love train is the only party member able to harm the enemy or take damage. That in mind, low-level or hurt characters can hang out in the back of the line to stay safe. The lead character is given a small stat boost from each member of the group, as well. Outside of fighting, if a member of the groups holds hand with a fire spirit, the entire group can walk over hot lava without harm. By holding hands with the wind spirit, players will be able to huff, puff, and blow obstacles out of their way.
The administrator of eGenesis's A Tale in the Desert II sent a letter to the community yesterday, speaking of the game's impending updates. In this letter addressed to the "citizens of Egypt," the Pharaoh notes that as many as seven new technologies could be introduced to the game this very weekend, all at once. Additionally, Festivals will begin testing, and all of Egypt is invited to "take part in the research."
Other things such as the company's next game and how players can meet the Pharaoh himself at the Game Developer's Conference are mentioned in the letter, which interested folks can read the full text of this letter and others by signing onto the mailing list.
"Shadowneko" of the Midgardsormr server in Final Fantasy XI sent in a single shot of his character, exclosing the description, "This was taken awhile back when I was lvl 40 or so.
What you're seeing is the HNM known as the Sea Horror
and it's basically chased me into the captain's cabin.
It was taken using the in-game screenshot taker which
isn't exactly great. Have some fun with the thing
that ate me at the time!"
Rebecca Rudeen also sent in a single picture, this time from Maple Story. She said, "this is from MapleStory (which I no longer play,) is a shot taken from around the time the Red Sox were being trounced by the Yankees."
So "the curse" ended at right about the same time as your journey through Maple Story, eh?
I figured I's throw some of my own screens in just for the heck of it. Here's some more of "NinjaHeath" on the Tokuno Islands, featured in Ultima Online's newest expansion, Samurai Empire.
These screens were taken during some casual roaming. Here are descriptions of what's going on in them, starting from left to right, top to bottom:
Screen 1: Such pretty scenery...
Screen 2: ...So pretty, in fact, that I had to kill some of it.
Screen 3: ...And then buy some jewelry
Screen 4: So THIS is where all the NPCs are. Sick of being hit-up for quests, are you? Had to come hide out here, did you? Pfft.
Screens 5 & 6: A shot from inside one of the asian-themed buildings on Tokuno.
Screen 7: My conscience told me not to test the guards. Logic told me not to test the guards. My better judgement told me not to test the guards. The guards told me not to test the guards. I ended up dead that day. ...Kids, don't test the guards.
And one more screen I feel I must show you is from the World of Warcraft community site's Valentine's Day screenshot page.
Hit firstname.lastname@example.org with all the MMORPG screens you've got!
Gamer Alias is a newly launched website where people can create profiles
about who they are in the real world as well as all their gaming worlds.
Many gamers have nicknames they go by in first-person shooter games, and
increasingly they also have different characters in massively multiplayer
Someone could be an accountant named "Wayne" in real life, an elite
counter-terrorist operative known as "OverK1LL" in Counter-Strike, and a
female orc named "CutieFang" in World of Warcraft. They can keep track of
all their personas together in one place at Gamer Alias.
The new site can be found at: http://www.gameralias.com
If you think your readers would be interested in this site, a mention in
your news section would be much appreciated.
Find out who gamers are in other worlds
Thanks very much for the info. Indeed, I do think some of my readers would
be into this. So here we are, posting it in the column.
The only thing I complain about in FFXI is the bad
inflaton but I'm not on that today.(I can deal) I'm
just complaing about the Valkrum Dunes as of late.
It's where most people get their first parties in FFXI
for you other players. It seems that alot of the new
players keep finding new ways to kill off whatever I'm
low leveling(but they are still learning...I just wish
their mistakes didn't make me dead). Eariler when we
had "Newbies" they seemed to be better quality as they
seemed to learn "what not to do" eariler. The people
I've been winding up with trying to get Monk to 15
seem to just kill me on purpose...
(I think it's time I updated the newbie guide again!)
Lvl 55 THF|lvl 17 WAR|lvl 17 RNG|lvl 10 MNK|lvl 10 WHM|lvl 10 Summoner|lvl 37 NIN|lvl 5 BLM
Webmaster of "Jon's Final Fantasy Homepage"
And there's our weekly input from our own, honorary FFXI correspondent ^_^
Those dunes wouldn't be so bad, were it not for FFXI's harsh death penalties, though. Something really ought to be done about those, because you're right: it's very easy for one dude to get everyone killed. When I'm a white mage and I say to the group, "okay gang, I need to regenerate MP," the idiot Galka shouldn't start attacking something unannounced and bring chaos to the group, possibly resulting in a few deaths, which MY character suffers for. That's frustrating. And yes, it seems actual experience has leaked into my response there.
So yeah, send in your thoughts on in-game advertising. And if you see one of the ads in Anarchy Online yourself, take a screen and hook me up.
Heath Hindman almost called this column "Asako in Rubi-Ka," which would have been named after the Korean movie "Asako in Ruby Shoes," since online advertising and services play a role in that movie, but the reference would have been even more obscure than that "Bushinomimi" FFXI joke that no one got a few columns ago.