CoX In-game Ads: How to make 'em, where to see 'em

Jonathan Northwood
J. Northwood|04.08.08

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CoX In-game Ads: How to make 'em, where to see 'em
DJ Shecky: Alright. And as a followup to that, I had a couple of people -- namely one of our other DJs -- had come up with the thought of "is there going to be a separate little piece of software that's going to be installed for targeting the advertisements?"

Brian: There is an SDK installed, but it's not gathering any personal info. It's really just there to serve the ads, to cache the ads, so that it has little to no impact on the bandwidth that's being used, and that's really all that package does.

DJ Shecky: Excellent. Templar, why don't you go ahead and ask your questions.

DJ Templar: Kind of in line with the data collection question, how is this being tracked in terms of ... is it literally like a billboard in real life, where someone who pays for space really doesn't have a clear idea of how many people who're seeing it, or is there going to be something in place that indicates how much traffic, like nearby traffic, a particular advertisement gets?

Brian: Well certainly it's handled differently by different advertisers, and with different products. Certainly, in the MMO space, we have a few more advantages to sort-of real-time track who's viewing billboards than we do in offline packages, so we will look at how much of the ad is shown on a screen, how long it's looked at, those sorts of things. But again, that's sort of looked at as an aggregate number, not necessarily on a per-customer number.

DJ Templar: Okay. Shecky, what do you have?

DJ Shecky: Alright. I've seen this mentioned on just about every forum on the City of Heroes site, and on our own forums, and that's with the idea of player advertisements for player supergroups and etcetera. What's the cost going to be, and how would people go about sending you guys doing it ... how would they get their ads placed onto these billboards?

Positron: So the players will be able to make their own ads and send them to us, and in the beta test we're going to be using a lot of player-generated ads that we get. And then, as we move out of beta and move into the live stuff, we'll most likely have contests where players can submit ads, so we'll definitely pick winners from that and get their stuff. And I believe on our forums is a link to the size and color limitations that we have for the advertisements.

DJ Templar: Yeah, I saw that.

Lighthouse: On the player submissions form, there's the details, the specifications and the ratios for the pieces that can be submitted, as well as the submission address to send them in.

DJ Templar: I've been trying my best to follow the main thread on the official boards discussing this announcement, and one of the issues that's been brought up is ... if it starts with the in-game billboards, where might it go from there? And some people have mentioned the slippery slope concept that this is simply the beginning of a much greater ad presence in the game. What sort of plans are there to expand beyond using current billboards?

Brian: I wish I knew the answer to that question. The truth is that we're just looking at swapping out the current ad placements -- our fictitious ad placements with real-world ads -- certainly we could look at other opportunities and find other interesting ways to make the game a little more fun through advertising, but really that's not where our heads are right now. We want to take step 1, we want to look at how this is received by the community. We want to make sure that we can make good, and that we can ensure this is immersive, and not intrusive, and I think once we have a stable platform for that, we'll open up some ideas to the community to what else they might be interested in. But right now, the model that's proven is just flat-texture billboards working in online immersive worlds, and that's where we'll start. I certainly am very open to the fact that that concern would be out there within the community, but I hope that we're continuning to build trust with the community in the fact that we're really up front with our business initiatives. When we comment about features that are going into the game they actually do make it into the game. A lot of times that may be received as not giving out enough information, but we really want to be up-front with our community, be as honest and transparent as we possibly can, and hopefully continue to win their trust and confidence in the way that we want to grow the game.

Positron: I think that our players have a valid concern with where we're going to go with this, but they also should look to us to ... trust us, because we want to make the game immersive, and not exploitive. We don't want the players to be bombarded by ads every which way they turn. We want it to be a nice experience for them, not a turn-off.

Brian: And I should also say that going forward, we expect that anything that we implement with advertising revenue attached to it we fully expect to be an opt-in or an opt-out situation. So players will have the ability to pick and choose what level they want to participate in with these initatives.

DJ Templar: Would any game content be linked to any of the advertisements, in the sense that -- if they did opt out of seeing the ads -- they would miss out on any part of the game experience?

Positron: No. We don't have any plans for that.

DJ Templar: Okay. What about the zones that lack billboards? I think ... I'm pretty sure that Croatoa, for instance, doesn't have any billboards, but I could be wrong. Is that simply going to be an ad-free zone, or are there going to be some modifications made to accomodate, or how is that going to work?

Positron: Initially it's going to be an ad-free zone, but we'll see how things are going, and if the players seem to like the way the ads are working, and it's not really immersion-breaking, and they're working for players, then we can start adding some billboards in logical places in the zones that don't have them.

DJ Shecky: Something I saw a lot of people mentioning throughout the day today is on the opting out. There were a lot of questions about opting out, from whether you can opt out and opt in at will -- say you want to try them, then you decide you don't want them, then you decide you do want them -- are you going to be able to switch in and out with that, and when you do opt out, does it just prevent the ads from being seen, or does it stop everything from downloading to the actual game client?

Brian: So the current plan right now is to let people opt-in and opt-out at will. And if you're not opted in for the in-game advertising, you'll currently see the same fictitious billboards that you currently experience in the game.

Lighthouse: And I can comment further on that. I was talking with our tech lead about that and actually answered this question on our forums earlier today, in that when you opt out, it actually is bypassing all of the ... the game client is not using the Double Fusion code and technology, so ... really, and they're very conscious about bandwidth and performance usages, so from that standpoint, there wouldn't be any extra bandwidth going on, because it's not even going through that code path.

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