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Advertising in Lieu of Game Fees in MMORPGs? 46

Mat/.Cloud asks: " Am I the only one that thinks it's incredibly unfair to have to pay $20 a month to play a game that I've already paid $50-$60 for? I realize that companies have to charge this fee or they would loose money from the cost of operating the servers. I guess I'm just so spoiled from having everything else on the net being free that I expect this to be also. Then I realized how everything else on the net is paid for... advertising. Would it be possible for companies to put ads in their mmorpg without drastically detracting from the game play? The only reasonably feasible solution I came up with is to have a banner ad at the top of the screen. Do y'all think it would be worth a small sacrifice in game play to keep the games free? Any other ideas on how to insert ads or ways for the companies to pay for their servers?"
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Advertising in Lieu of Game Fees in MMORPGs?

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  • This might disrupt the flow of a game in a fantasy setting... This magic vorpal sword +8 drop has been brought to you by Smashdot.

    However something like this might work better in a futuristic setting such as the upcoming Star Wars MMORPG. Also, Blizzard currently does some banner advertising at the top of the chat rooms.

  • No (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I don't think people would want advertising in a game they paid $50-60 for. Instead, the game should be given away (it could be sold for the cost of the media, put in magazines like AOL CDs, or people could be encouraged to copy them). The company would make money from the monthly fee. If they get the CDs into peoples homes, they might see a lot more people subscribe (especially if there was a free trial period).
    • Those damned powergamers would be put in their places! Besides, take Ultima Online, if you play through OSI it costs $10/month, however thanks to diligant coders, UO server emulations have been made free for all to use, see for instance all the servers listed at UO Top 200 []. After you shell all that money out for the game you think they could at least make it cost a little less, I might not even be so adverse to paying a little more at retail for the game if it was so. Unfortunatly, I have yet to see any real progress on an Everquest emulator so we are still stuck paying for that crap.
      • /* Here's an Everquest emulator I wrote
        in C, I hope you all enjoy it */


        int main()
        double years = 60*60*24*365; // seconds per year
        int level;
        time_t start_time;
        for(level=1; level61 ; level++) = time(NULL);
        start_time = time(NULL);
        while(time(NULL) start_time + level*years)
        printf("You have died.\n");
        printf("BING! You have gained a level,");
        printf(" you are now level %d.%c\n", level, 7);
        return 0;

  • The only MMORPG I know of, that asks you for 20$ a month is some wierd online sex game ...
    all others are in the 10 bucks range
  • by cmowire ( 254489 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @08:22PM (#2376392) Homepage
    I suspect that you couldn't get enough advertising revenues to recoup a $20/month fee unless the game was equipped with an electric shock device that physically forced you into purchasing advertiser's products.

    Especially given that rates for advertising are falling.
  • I'll use EverQuest for an example. (I'm an EverCrackfeind myself, well not as of recent because college started). Anyhow, quite from this messageboard post 3 months ago []. "as of July 18th, 658,504 total players have ever registered EverQuest and the number of active subscribers was 405,522"

    Let's say that 50% pay the $50 for 6 months ($20,276,100/yr), and the other 50% pay $10 a month ($24,331,320/yr). In one year they make: $44,607,420 off of subscriptions. This is a very very very rough estimate. I don't see how you could make that much money, or even half as much from advertising.

    This 50/50 is of course probably way off, or perhaps not, only a $4million difference. I would assume more pay the $10 a month, so actually more than $44mil is made.

    • The math is pretty simple, but I keep seeing EQ/Sony/Verant apologists on the message boards claiming that the company is making almost no money on the game, that the servers cost soooo much to run, that there's soooo much staff, and poor Sony and we should all be happy they don't raise prices.

      What are they smoking? $44M off subscriptions. Yeah, poor Verant all right! Sheesh.

      Glad I kicked, anyway. More time for... uh... oher games, I guess...
  • You can't just convert everything over to advertising. The companies have to make a sale somewhere to recoup their advertising costs.. Do you think online companies are really going to enjoy a business model that requires that they rely on other businesses for their income? The buck has to stop somewhere. Someone has to fork over the money to power the corporate machine.
  • by Matthew Weigel ( 888 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @10:04PM (#2376651) Homepage Journal

    You're either letting your privacy be violated to get something free (and let's face it, advertisers won't pay nearly enough to cover a $20/person-month subscription without mucho private info), or you're protecting your privacy by giving them just money.

    No, subscriptions are the Right Way to Do It. It costs you money, but we're concerned about free-as-in-speech, not free-as-in-beer. Complain about the closed nature of the games first, then we'll talk about the cost (at which point I'll bring up the costs of paying all those developers, admins, and maintaining those servers - and subscriptions will still be the Right Way to Do It).

  • Rather than have annoying ad banners that take up valuable screen real estate, why not have billboards in the game, ala real life?
    Not sure how well that would fit in to Everquest, but in something like Anarchy Online where a good amount of time is spent in bustling futuristic cities, advertising billboards would probably fit right in.
  • by Rolan ( 20257 )
    As a player of a MMORPG I don't like anything that's not totally in genre. If your actually playing it as a RPG and not as a hack and slash then do your really want an add for a credit card at the top while your trying to play your character?

    This is a great method in some aspects (when I'm forced to use Windows I use the Full version of Eudora for my mail and I got it free because they put small adds in the bottom left corner). But I would leave any MMORPG that decided to start advertising while I was playing.
  • if all the games allowed anyone to create a server, we wouldnt have this problem, would we?
  • Okay, this would not work so well with say, Everquest or Ultima Online...

    But if the genre has space for it, say anarchy online for instance, why not go ahead and have Pepsi and Coke machines and IBM ads on the sides of public transportation or even as someone else posted, billboards? When I am playing a future war game like fallout, there is always the obligatory Heckler & Koch MP999 or the Smith & Wesson 5000 or whatever... well just take that to the next logical extreme and sell product placement.

    Hell you can get pretty blatant with it, always have the protagonist in Ralph Loren clothes or holding a can of Seven-Up. If this made a game free after I bought the box, hell I would welcome the attention to detail. Make it clever.

    Though I do not want to see a banner ad hanging over my paladin as he rides the hounds of hell. No. I play games to suspend my disbelief and embrace the fiction created, and that is just a touch too intrusive.
  • by pyro_peter_911 ( 447333 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @01:34AM (#2377113) Homepage Journal
    The key to successfully advertising on an online RPG would be to make the ads desireable in the context of the game.

    In DiabloII, for example, collecting the runes 'C', 'O','K', and 'E' and putting them in an item could make a bad-ass and much desired rune word. Players would scramble about in an attempt to locate these "sponsored" items.

    Your Paladin would soon be wearing Nike Mesh Boots, GAP armor, Dillard's rings, etc. Everyone would be walking billboards, just like in real life!

    Hrmmm. Maybe this isn't such a good idea.
  • Raph Koster has a very interesting behind-the-scenish snippet titled "MMORPG, Business Models 101" about the costs involved in running an MMORPG. It's on his website [] under Gaming->Snippets or here [] (sorry for linking into a frameset). Very informative and yes, it does bring up advertising (albeit briefly).
  • You can take a look at for a free-to-play MMORPG which is funded by banner ads in the client.

    So you were right :-)
  • With all of the advertising capabilities available on the internet, I would suggest a compromise between the two.

    The company running the game could produce advertising incoming using:
    1. Data Mining.
    2. Banner Advertisements.
    3. Newsletter Advertisements.
    4. Premium Accounts

    I'm sure if they have enough basis to charge $20/month, their user-base is fairly large. Therefore, they could probably make a nice bit of coin off of newsletter ads alone.

    Since this still wouldn't equate to $20/month per user, they could at least knock it down to $10/month or so.

    The logic behind this system is fairly simple:
    1. Banner Ads rotating every 30 seconds at .0025 per ad.
    2. Newsletter Ads at .01 per email.
    3. Data Mining: Selling ads to software/game designers based on highly-targetted output. Yes, this would require users to provide information about their interests.. and I would hardly say that producing a list of your favorite game-styles is an invasion of privacy.
    4. Premium Accounts: When a user pays an additional $5/month (or so, based on host preference), all advertisements are removed and they could throw in some other small features to account for the other $2.50.

    In conclusion, there are probably several routes that could be taken to decrease the $20/month fee and the interface would not be greatly inflicted using banner advertisements @ 10k or less rotating twice a minute.

    One side note: I am greatly inadequate as far as knowledge of gaming systems goes because I don't generally have any time to play. If I've made myself look like a giant ass by posting this message, just let me know. :)

  • by SuiteSisterMary ( 123932 ) <slebrun AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @09:10AM (#2377841) Journal
    Your character stalwartly advances towards the Bridge of Doom. It's a rotten, rickity rope and wood bridge. Looking down, you cannot see the bottom of the Gorge of Peril; only fetid smoke, smelling of the grave. You hear the gibbering of mad things, things just beyond the ken of mortals. north As you approach the end of the bridge. You see an old man, white of eye, stooped, gnarled, wearing tattered robes. At your approach, he lifts his head, and intones in a strangely singsong voice:
    You must answer me these questions three, ere the other side ye see! /say I'm not afraid, bridgekeeper! Ask me your questions! The bridgekeeper nods, and asks the first question. the worlds most refreshing drink? /say Coke. The bridgekeeper cackles in delight. the athletic shoe most likely to improve your game? /say Nike. The bridgekeeper claps his hands sarcastically.
    WHAT....was the effect Napster had on the sales of compact disks sold by the RIAA, as is generally accepted by journalists, the ignorant, and people afraid of 'that Internet thing?' /say What? But CD sales went up! The bridgekeeper grasps a lever and pulls it, and you are catapulted into the Gorge of Peril.
    • You are dead! Press space bar to respawn.
    • I can't help but think how this would have added some flavor to Infocom's games as well:

      ZORK I: The Great Underground Empire
      Copyright (c) 1981, 1982, 1983 Infocom, Inc. All rights reserved.
      ZORK is a registered trademark of Infocom, Inc.

      West of House

      You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a gigantic neon sign next to a small mailbox. On the sign, the words "25% off all Zork® walkthroughs for new customers at®!" blink above a green arrow pointing at the mailbox.

      >go west

      Don't you want to see what's in that temptingly-placed mailbox?

      >go west

      A gnome wearing a Nike® shirt comes jogging up the path from the west. He tries to tell you something, but he is out of breath.

      >go east

      Just before you can leave, the gnome begins to cough. You turn around to see if he's alright, and notice that he's pulling an icy Gatorade® and the latest Michael Jackson single 'You Rock My World' out of the mailbox.

      >kill self

      That wouldn't be very polite to the gnome now, would it? Besides, he's just quenched that killer thirst of his with your Gatorade, so you might as well listen to what he has to say.

      >run south

      "Hey, " shouts the gnome, "you forgot your CD!" At that very moment, a very dirty music thief comes running up from the south and knocks you over. By the time you get up, both the pirate and the hot new Michael Jackson single are gone. "Don't worry about that," says the gnome, "Borders® is giving those away free with the purchase of any Michael Jackson CD and you'll be inflicting some justice on him after you go through the trapdoor in the house. You'll probably want to pick up an Energizer® for that lantern in the attic first, though, so that it doesn't kick out on you like competing brands will when you get to the maze of twisty passages."

    • Hey, it's that guy from Alberta again. (Colin, by the way)

      Please send me a copy of your resume, and if it looks at all like what we're doing here (Unix, esp. Sun stuff) then I'll pass it onto my manager. We're definitely hoping to get two people in Ontario very soon.

    Understand, that in this day and age... Things cost money to run.

    Ad-based revenue models are falling apart everywhere. Just look at

    You should have to pay to play on their networks.

    If you don't want to pay.. play a game that doesn't need a centralized play server, or write your own.

    God. The last thing I want is yet another dumbass add popping up, and when the dumstunts realize that nobody looks at them anyway, will start making interuption-based commericals that stop the play.

  • 10Six [] has ads on billboards in certain areas of the game. The nice thing is that all you have to do to play is download the client and register. Then if you like the trial, you subscribe. The ads themselves were only in areas that players meet to swap items, so it wasn't a huge hassle compaired to paying $50 to even see the game.
  • Just think for a moment.. say you have an ad, be it a banner across the top of your screen, or perhaps a cleverly inserted texture inside the game itself. How do banners usually work ? You see them, you click on them. Now will you really want to jump out of your deeply absorbing RPG just to see what kind of crap some retailer wants to shove down your throat ? no. I'm assuming the advertisers have enough smarts to figure this out too. I rest my case.
  • Making an adaptation inside the settings of the MMORPG, and offering something if you visit the page? Something like neopets does with cartoon network and other adverts...

  • I wouldn't mind paying a fee for using an MMORPG if it was something along the lines of paying for time spent online or how much throughput I used. I never got into playing games like EQ because I didn't want to pay a flat rate for service I might not use for a month or only use a little bit if school or work got intensive. Maybe even the game itself ought to be a subscription service. Instead of shelling out 60$ all at once for the game you could either download it or order a cheap cd (15$ including S&H) with the game. The publisher would sell an account on the network for playing of the game. They could save tons on physical distribution and use the subscription money to cover development cost and the maintainance of the network. I think one of the best examples of a MMO game is Subspace. It was a game of pretty simple concepts, it was a glorified Asteroids for the most part, yet had a ton of gameplay due to the multiplayer aspect. Even after VIE died and dropped all support the game lives on with a fair sized audience even after three years of no official support. The problem with Subspace as an example is VIE went out of business so we didn't get to see if their revenue model was going to work or not.
  • Welcome to my shop, Gamanen! You look like you could use a Coca-Cola 20oz Bottle.
    That will be 1 platnium 2 gold 3 silver 9 copper for the Coca-Cola 20oz Bottle.
    You pay Inkeep Jobober 1 platnium 2 gold 3 silver 9 copper for the Coca-Cola 20oz Bottle.
    You take a drink from a Coca-Cola 20oz Bottle.
    You feel refreshed!
    You say, 'Ahh, that hit the spot. Coca-Cola tastes great, try one today! Available at your local beverage outlet.

    Welcome to my shop, Gamanen! Have you had your break today?
    That will be 4 gold 7 copper for the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese sandwich.


    Egads! OTOH, in a MODERN setting MMORPG, in context adds would not be out of place. In a fantasy RPG, leave em on the login screens, otherwise there is no decorum.

    Avid EQ Player
  • Don't say it! Don't even think it! Because if I ever see an X10 ad on say Castle Crushbone, I'll be sharpening a real axe and coming for you and all the rest of the cheapskates who won't pay server maintainance fees! Verant doesnt pay the people they've got, enough for what they do.
  • The only way this will work is if the game sucks. Who is going to stop playing a game to go "Hit the monkey" or get a free credit report?

"Pull the wool over your own eyes!" -- J.R. "Bob" Dobbs