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Study: Ads in sports games don't work

Kyle Orland

By now everyone knows that in-game advertising is the hottest thing since sliced bread. But in all the frenzy to cover every available digital surface with product placement, few people have stopped to ask whether in-game ads actually work. British consulting company Bunnyfoot took on just that issue recently, using eye-tracking software and surveys of gamers to gauge how well ad banners in sports games connected with the player.

Their findings are less than encouraging for in-game advertisers. Despite overwhelming brand placement throughout the games under consideration, Bunnyfoot's study showed "a lack of engagement between video game players and in-game advertising." The firm's Sponsor Fixation Index registered some small results with games like NBA Live and Smackdown Vs. Raw but ad-laden Project Gotham Racing 3 elicited what Bunnyfoot called "no consumer engagement at all." Ouch!

In-game ads obviously have the potential to be extremely successful, but only if they're done right. Just slapping a billboard in the background might not register a blip among gamers who are used to filtering out advertising in everyday life. On the other end, you don't want to make the ads so overwhelming that they interfere with the game experience. And remember what Morgan says: if you're gonna make money on ads, give the gamers a break and lower the price, huh?

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