Ski Challenge 2010 – Does In-Game Advertising Work?

Gaming is expensive. New console games for Playstation 3, Wii and Xbox 360 are usually priced over $50 each. Online multiplayer service costs can also add up to hundreds yearly. On the Mac / PC side, its not much cheaper. Game costs, hardware costs and online service costs are similar. Piracy is rampant, ever invasive protection schemes are defeated within weeks, stopping only the paying customers.

An interesting way to take some of the cost away from gaming, and the piracy element without ruining the developer’s bottom line is to use an ad-supported model, like radio and television. But does it work?

Introducing Ski Challenge 2010:

Ski Challeng 2010 is a skiing computer game with 1:1 courses modelled after famous courses such as Lauberhorn, Streif, and Saslong. Online and multiplayer, last year’s edition had over 3 million downloads. Its also OS X friendly.

The Ad-Supported Model:

What makes Ski Challenge 2010 interesting isn’t the game itself. Its a pretty straightforward game – no plot twists or complex story. The graphics are decent and its fun to play. What’s interesting is the way Ski Challenge is brought to you. Entirely free, with no spyware, no piracy protection and it doesn’t suck.

Nothing is free, however and you shouldn’t expect developers to just create games and entertain you out of the goodness of their hearts. What is different is that the money comes from sponsors, not from gamers.

Successes with this model:

Radio and Television have been doing this for decades. Companies pay for programs by advertising – you watching commercials is your payment for the shows / music. Radio / Television is falling apart due to the changing online world but it proves the point that ad-supported media can be very successful.

Websites / services such as YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Hotmail, almost all of Google, and many more use the ad-supported model to a huge degree of success.

People like free. Even if free means watching commercials, looking at ads, or having various logos all over the scenery in Ski Challenge 2010.

The Piracy Issue:

Piracy is nonexistent if the game is free. The whole point of piracy is to download or copy something which costs money for free. You don’t see pirates filling up their secret closed-door websites with the latest version of Ubuntu or Suse Linux, do you?

Piracy becoming a non-issue is a breakthrough for you, the end-user. That right, no more of the following ridiculousness:

– Serial number hassles.
– Registration nonsense.
– X number of install limits.
– Customer service calls to unlock the game.
– Challenge / Response / Activation codes.
– Dongles.
– Rootkits clogging up your computer.
– Secu-ROM.

All the anti-piracy measures end up doing is insulting the ones who paid for the software.

Other Ad-Supported Games:

Ski Challenge 2010 isn’t the only ad-supported game out there. There’s a ton of them if you look. Some of the popular ones are Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean Online and Second Life. In addition to ad-supported model, many of these games use the purchase of in-game items to finance their development / use.

Does it work?

Does the ad-supported, sponsorship model work in gaming? Download Ski Challenge 2010 and try it out.

I think its the way to go, provided that the advertisements are not annoying or stop the action for a 30 second commercial. As long as the advertisers themselves don’t have a say in the development or direction of the game, I’m alright with it.

What do you think about this? Post a comment on how you feel about this issue.

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