EA ponders ads to squeeze even more money out of its most expensive AAA games

Ads seem inescapable these days. The next place you might see commercials in the not-too-distant future is in AAA games from EA. That’s right, some of your favorite high-end games, which can cost over $70 apiece, might come with ads to boost the revenue of companies like EA.

For the time being, there’s no timeline for the move, as EA hasn’t made any specific announcements. What the company did do was confirm that it has teams looking at the prospect of placing ads in AAA games. However, EA plans to be “very thoughtful” about those ad experiences, though, it’s unclear what that might mean.

During the company’s latest earnings call, EA CEO Andrew Wilson addressed a question about placing games in AAA titles. Here’s the way he phrased his answer:

To answer your question on advertising broadly, again, think it’s still early on that front. And we have looked over the course of our history to be very thoughtful about advertising in the context of our play experiences. But again, as we think about the many, many billions of hours spent, both playing, creating, watching and connecting and where much of that engagement happens to be on the bounds of traditional game experience, our expectation is that advertising has an opportunity to be a meaningful driver of growth for us.

We’ll be very thoughtful as we move into that, but we have teams internally in the company right now looking at how do we do very thoughtful implementations inside of our game experiences. But more importantly, as we start to build community and harness the power of community beyond the bounds of our games, how do we think about advertising as a growth driver in those types of experiences?

There’s certainly a place for ads in games. It’s one way to monetize games that are free to download and play, but not free to develop. Ads can also complement in-game microtransactions, another strategy that developers use to make money.

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Perhaps Fortnite is one of the best examples. You can buy in-game content, but Epic routinely partners with all sorts of third parties to include themed content that qualifies as advertising.

Placing ads in AAA games is another thing. These are high-end games available on consoles, PCs, and sometimes smartphones. They cost a lot of money to make, but many generate plenty of revenue from high purchase prices. Most AAA games cost $70.

Then again, companies like EA will continue to chase profits, and the bottom line will be a priority.

Ads could be a way to avoid raising the cost of AAA games, assuming players go along with it. Price hikes are to be expected in the current economy, something that gamers would probably hate just as much as the prospect of seeing ads while they play their favorite titles.

Ultimately, it’s up to EA to implement ad placements in AAA games in a way that does not bother gamers too much. As long as a commercial doesn’t impact gameplay, it could make sense to see ads in games, especially if the placement of those ads feels natural for a specific title.

Sports games or racing games might take you to locations that have ads in real life. Maybe it’s a stadium, and the ads for real products surround the field. Or perhaps it’s billboards along the race track. EA has already done billboard ads in its Need for Speed games.

One thing is certain after last week’s big Helldivers 2 fumble from Sony: If players don’t like ads in any of EA’s future AAA titles, they’ll be very vocal about it, to the point where EA will have questions it can’t escape answering.


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