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EA says it's not planning in-game video ads, following report (updated)

Smite
(Image credit: Hi-Rez Studios)

Update: According to an Axios report, EA recently struck a deal related to an in-game advertising system called playerWON, which is said to bring video ad tech to console and PC games. EA says that's not true. The company tells PC Gamer that it isn't putting ads in console games, and that it hasn't made any deal to do so. 

"Following incorrect reports suggesting that we are looking to introduce 'TV-style' commercials into our games, we wanted to clarify that in-game advertising for console games is not something we're currently looking at, or have signed any agreements to implement," an EA spokesperson said. "Creating the best possible player experience remains our priority focus."

Our original story about the playerWON system follows, with mention of EA removed for now. The case isn't closed, though: Why are we hearing different things? We'll keep our ears out for more info. Simulmedia says that it "cannot comment on anything related to EA."

Original story: A new advertising platform will allow companies to include video ads in PC and console games, similar to those seen in mobile games or on free-to-air TV. Dubbed playerWON and owned by Simulmedia, the tech is based around rewarding in-game items and currency to players who watch ads, and targets free-to-play games, according to an Axios report.

And it's probably going to catch on: Axios says that Simulmedia has already struck a deal with Hi-Rez, and a pilot has already run in Smite. According to the report, players during that pilot were "much more likely" to play a game and spend money in it if they could acquire perks by watching ads. It's feasible—though not spelled out in the report—that players could acquire in-game currency by surrendering to 15- or 30-second ads, rather than using real cash, thus turning a free-to-play game into a viable video marketing platform.

The tech wants to target younger players (18-34), who are more difficult to reach via conventional video marketing. In order to be "rewarded" for watching an ad, the ad needs to be watched to completion. Simulmedia's own research claims that people would be willing to watch up to 10 videos a day for rewards, which sounds crazy but hey, I'm no market researcher. 

Simulmedia's Dave Madden points out that 90% of the free-to-play audience never buy in-game items, so this is another way to squeeze cash out of them. The company wants to implement these ads in "roughly a dozen" games by the end of 2021. It's a grim vision of gaming's future: Volunteer to be marketed to during your scant leisure time for virtual rewards. Watch a 15-second ad about Cheetos to unlock a Marvel-themed cape in Fortnite. Where's the exit?

Shaun Prescott
Shaun is PC Gamer’s Australian editor and news writer. He mostly plays platformers and RPGs, and keeps a close eye on anything of particular interest to antipodean audiences. He (rather obsessively) tracks the movements of the Doom modding community, too.