In-game adverts will reportedly soon appear on video game consoles, but surely this is a step over the red line even for greedy games corporations.
So far we haven’t seen sight nor sound of replicants (though flying cars are just around the corner) but one prediction upon which Blade Runner has undoubtedly been proven right is the constant, inescapable barrage of advertising directed at every one of us each day. True, we haven’t seen looming neon billboards just yet but nonetheless, wherever you see a screen it will soon be polluted by some corporate slogan or another, exhorting you to buy, consume and buy again.
Things are about to get even worse in this regard; no sooner had we escaped traditional broadcast advertising on television thanks to the welcome advent of streaming services, greedy companies have spied another potential profit source: video games.
From what we know so far, the proposed playerWON platform doesn’t just have an awful pun for a name, but it also has awful plans for games on console and on PC, and that is to interrupt them with adverts which you must watch to gain some form of advantage.
This conceit so totally goes against the spirit of gaming, at the same as the discipline has been picking up wider respect via eSports broadcasting, that it must have been the idea of some soulless corporatist who has never had fun in their life, and whose own existence consists of nothing more than racking up real, hard currency rather than seeking the thrill of topping a leaderboard.
Of course any product has the right to make money, but the phenomenal success of Fortnite Battle Royale as a free-to-play game was something to celebrate rather than sneer at. It showed that financial reward for developers and a low cost of entry for players, while keeping an unparalleled spirit of competition alive, could all co-exist. To kill that experience via 15- to 30-second pop-up ads is the commercialised equivalent of a streaker running on the field of a football game.
Not to be outdone by this act of cynicism, Facebook has already announced that adverts will be invading virtual reality, being plastered across the Oculus platform and targeted based on your personal data. Much like the searing psychological conditioning scene in A Clockwork Orange, you simply can’t look away — because there’s no profit in that.
For once, especially after a pandemic in which so many gamers have made it through lockdown thanks to the liberating and immersive experience of competition and exploration that is never so visceral as with video games, can the corporate bosses not balance their greed with some respect for the medium and the people who love it?