The other day, I had a Skype voice chat with someone. Bloody hell, it was awful. Skype had messed around with my microphone settings, the other person kept on cutting out and there were adverts EVERY FUCKING WHERE. Alright, I get it, it’s a free program and Microsoft (who, last time I checked, was doing pretty well) wants to make money, but fuck off with your completely intrusive adverts. Luckily, there was a way around those adverts, but still.
This whole thing with adverts inside programs reminded me of all those advert servers. When Quickplay was released, apart from a few rules, it was mostly a free-for-all. All mostly vanilla servers were included, as well as a few pony ones, anything was fine apart from turning off random crits and damage spread, or enabling Highlander mode. Some of these servers may have had a single advert, easily skipped, on the Message of the Day screen, the first panel you see when you join a server, making a tiny bit of revenue to keep their servers alive. A small number of server owners though decided to take advantage of the influx of new players and of the MOTD screen, by putting advertising on the MOTD screens of incredibly cheap, low quality servers. Then when they realised that no one was watching the adverts, they forced you to sit on the MOTD screens. Five seconds, ten second, thirty… a whole minute before you could get into a game. These shitty servers were everywhere.
The company behind the advertising plugin, Pinion, claimed they were doing good but they couldn’t see the damage they were doing. Of course that doesn’t matter because they were making money out of this, and had some sort of deal with Valve.
You know what those servers did? They ruined Quickplay for everyone. Valve ended up clamping down on what sort of server you could have in Quickplay, and countered the flooding of cheap advertising servers with their own. In the mean time, community servers, particularly smaller ones, slowly died off due to the competition between Valve and big server groups.
Advertising in games never works, and people are always trying to do it. It’s one thing for a community server to ask for donations, perhaps in exchange for something silly like end-of-round immunity, it’s another thing entirely to tax your players’ time by forcing adverts in their faces. People simply don’t like adverts. Even advertising your own products in your own game can be ineffective, unless it’s for a sale or brand new item. People don’t care about shinies and e-sports, they just want to get into a game and start playing.
Putting adverts inside your game also gives you a bad reputation. You’ve already advertised the game elsewhere. You’ve already (in many cases) persuaded someone to buy it, or to purchase something from the in-game store. You’ve probably already seen adverts on the main menu. You get past all of that and there’s more advertising? It looks bad. It really does.
Thing is, we get it, you need to make money. That’s perfectly understandable. You need to be creative with your advertising though and know not to piss off your customers. Otherwise your customers will drift, not buy anything or block your adverts completely, creating things like Adblock and the Pinion-disabling config.. Worse, you end up with no customers because they’ve become tired of your ways and have moved on to something better.
As for Pinion? They won. They may have drawn back from TF2, but they’re still floating around in Left 4 Dead 2, providing the occasional server for Valve.