Gaming Your Way

May contain nuts.

I feel kind of cheap ( And not for the first time )

I recently did a reskin for a new CGI movie which we're not actually allowed to take credit for due to the nature of the contract ( It's a project which filtered down a couple of agencies before landing in my inbox ) so I can't link to it without giving it away, or even mention that it involved both Aliens and Monsters ( If you follow us on twitter you'll see I've been a bit less subtle there ).

I noticed yesterday that it's been posted to gameJacket, so thinking the worse I fired off an email to which I got a good prompt reply from Simon. Long story short, it turns out Rubber Republic have been contracted by Dreamworks to distribute the game and they're using gameJacket to do so.

Perhaps it's just me, and I'm being naive ( I've been shocked in the past, and still am now and again, about the size of the budget for paid placements. I live in a nice little garden where viral games sit on their own nice custom webpage and people just swap emails about them based on their actual merit as a means of entertainment until they get a nice lot of traffic and everyone's happy. I fear the busy road outside that is all about paying to put a game in the #1 spot on high traffic portals ) but it just doesn't sit too well with me.

An adver-game supported by adverts just feels overly cheap. I've had this before with Brain Voyage, and I really fought against that at the time ( Obviously I lost ).
If you're using a game to sell a product, then surely the game itself should be enough without further ( And random ) advertising before it, that just dilutes the message and to me cheapens the end title.

I think it's because advertising is such a common way to pay for the development of a game that when you see it in any game you naturally assume the same. So when you see a game by Eidos or Dreamworks promoting their IP it gives the same impression, that the games development costs need to be recouped by advertising other products. That's not a great impression to give out.
We don't have ads on here or the site for that very same reason. It's not that we're rolling in cash, it's just that the returns vs the perceived loss of quality to the site massively outweigh each other. We've even been asked to do sponsored articles, but unless it's enough money so we can ignore the feeling of being dirty, then what is the point ?

We pride ourselves on producing the very best work we can, dependant on the budget / timescales / project scope, and I think for the most part we hit that self imposed target. We want our work to be presented in the best light possible, so why don't companies like Dreamworks and Eidos, who at the end of the day are IP driven, feel the same ?

Ok here's what I'd like to do, follow me with this. I'm going to set up a fictional game called "Mackerel Queef" and buy advertising space on mochi and gJ

queef.jpg

I think that's subtle enough. Now I'm not really going to do this, it was partly just an excuse for more dirty words on here, but it is kinda related to the point I'm trying to make.
If I was Dreamworks and I was advertising a family movie, I wouldn't want "Mackerel Queef" ( I've used it again 'cause I want this site to be the number one on google for "as3 fps counter and queefs" ) being promoted in the same breath never mind being seen as earning money from it.

Ok the ad networks are more responsible than that ( And I'm really not critising them, they've made Flash a viable development platform for a lot of people which is only a good thing ) but it shows the lack of control you have over such things.

I guess it all boils down to the figures. If you've commissioned $x worth of game I assume there's someone working out the cost per set of eyes viewing it ( A figure I found for cpm on prime time tv in 2002 is $17.78. Imagine getting that rate from mochi ) so to be able to turn around to your boss and say "$x worth of game was viewed by x million people which works out at $0.0x per person" then I guess your boss doesn't give a shit if it was at the expense of people watching an ad for "Mackerel Queef" first.

Maybe paid placements are a better way of making the whole seeding process feel less cheap. At least then your game is treated more like the art it is rather than as a product like a tin of beans.

Maybe the ad networks who have a great seeding process in place could offer it as an ad free service ? It'll be cheaper than paid placements for the clients, they get to drop a "Distributed by..." in there and it'll make the end game look a lot more on brand and less turned around for the minimum cost possible.

Maybe, but it's not going to happen is it. So developers like us, like you, will be working 'til 2am to meet the deadline and to just force that last bit of love into a project to really make it shine, only to see it a week later on some no-name portal with the size tags in the html wrong ( And a "Play it full-screen" option there, even though it will look and play shit like that ) and an ad at the start.

Squize.

Comments (5) -

  • chrisError

    4/17/2009 8:41:46 PM |

    I feels your pain brother, an advergame with an advert before it, seems just awful, but their distribution channels really do work, put a game into the GJ / Mochi channels and it will appear on hundreds of portals almost overnight.

    I think we are in agreement that there should be some sort of Ad opt-out system for games but, then, I guess some of the portals wouldn't list the games as I think I am right in syaing they make 15% of the CPM for showing them (which in real terms must equate to almost nothing, but I guess they still do it)

    Chris

  • Squize

    4/18/2009 10:43:03 AM |

    I'm sure everyone reading this will agree with me, that not all projects are equally great to work on.

    For me the only way I can get through some of them is to take a step back, see what the best job I can do will be and try to at least achieve that, in effect develop around the bits I know aren't great and try and make the best of what at times is an average job.

    I guess it's part of my job to do that, hell I charge what I still consider a ton of money, so I'm not hard done by, but even so I think it's one of the strengths of my work. I never just wash my hands and blindly follow a brief when the brief has flaws, as the end result will be flawed. To let that slip by would really mean I was just doing it for the money and not for the joy of the art.

    So there we are, throwing the hours at a project to try and elevate it above what is expected because that's what we do to try and be good, to keep winning the work. You have to force that pretentious stick up your ass and tell yourself that even this job that at best is only going to be average 'cause there's no budget for it, or no time or the client is just throwing the amends at you, isn't a product but is in fact art.
    I'm not creating advertising, I'm creating an experience. Entertainment. Art. That's the mantra to repeat to yourself when you're on an average job just waiting for it to end. It's art.

    I think if you knew at the start of the project that it was going to have an ad at the start it would be a lot lot harder to convince yourself that you're actually creating an experience for people as opposed to a(nother) product.
    For me it just distracts from the project so much, and hopefully this comment fills in the gaps of my original post [ As to why I think it's such a bad thing ].

    Chris this was going to be just a reply to your post, but I just drifted off :)
    I'm not a 100% sure about the portal share scheme, I remember reading mochi were doing it, but to be honest only the really small portals will benefit in any meaningful way from that, so if they're not going to support your game due to a tiny loss of income due to a lack of ads, in terms of traffic it's no big loss.
    I was swapping some emails about this very subject yesterday with Simon@gJ and he explained that if they're doing a paid distribution then the ad will be branded to the client's wishes, which usually would mean a splash screen or the same ad that is running over the entire gJ network. So my "Mackerel Queef" plan wouldn't actually work on the gJ network ( While the campaign was running anyway ).

  • Bob Ippolito

    4/18/2009 8:52:28 PM |

    Mochi doesn't charge for distribution but we do currently require an ad placement. However, the developer of an advergame could run a custom ad which would advertise whatever they want (e.g. the movie or product). There are some scenarios where a paid ad would show up anyway, such as when we are paying for the bandwdith, but you could fill in the gaps by doing an ad buy with us if it was really important to you that no other products would be advertised in the game.

    In the Mochi case the primary benefactors of the publisher program (10%) are game developers that run their own portals, because they make about 60% instead of 50% of gross when they're hosting the files.

  • FJGamer

    4/20/2009 1:31:13 AM |

    I like the MochiAds service, but it hasn't been a profitable venture, not yet. I would never make a game solely to advertise some product, unless it meant getting so much money I could live off just that pay. Having ads in the loading section of a game really doesn't bother me much. I don't like having ads during a game in progress, though.

  • Squize

    4/20/2009 8:07:23 AM |

    Hey Bob, thanks for taking the time to post.

    Seems you guys and gameJacket aren't a million miles away from each other in this regard.

    As a game studio whose primary income is from adver-gaming, in our ideal perfect world we'd like to be able to have a deal in place with the ad networks so we could pay you guys a set fee for ad free distribution ( Even if there was a distribution credit in there for you guys. Good partners can help elevate a title just by attaching their name to it ).
    I know this isn't a huge market, there are only so many adver-games, but they are evolving from a game sitting on it's own custom html site ( And site locked to that ) to clients wanting them to be spread around more, hence paid placements, so it is a growing market and there is quite a lot of budget spend available for distribution.

    I think there are a lot of design agencies who would love to be able to put into a pitch document "And for $x we can leverage the power of the mochi / gJ distribution network to ensure this game will be seen on a min. of x number of sites". In effect, charging for a hit in terms of traffic ( Exactly like a paid placement ).

    "I would never make a game solely to advertise some product, unless it meant getting so much money I could live off just that pay"

    FJGamer that's exactly what we do man. There is far more money in adver-gaming than sponsorship / ads.
    It's the point I was trying to get at above, rather than looking at it as advertising some product you have to look at it as creating art themed around someone else's IP, otherwise you may as well be making banner ads instead of games.

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