Have you noticed lately how often a television show you’re watching will be interrupted on the fly by a promo, a logo, or some other form of advertising? It’s gotten to the point that I can’t watch Spongebob anymore because Nickelodeon keeps running ads for upcoming shows on the lower part of the screen – which right now you’re thinking is maybe the bottom inch, but I’ve seen them take as much as the lower third of the on-screen image. Or take some of the NBA games I watched this year, which included on-screen promos during the game that momentarily flashed close to the center of the screen, forcing your eye to acknowledge them.
I mention this because I think it’s a measure of the degree to which television has been trivialized in the current offering of entertainment options. Sure, taken as a whole television itself is still popular, but there are so many channels now that the model is more like that of the magazine business than anything else. And like the magazine business, channels are struggling to attract and keep eyeballs while building a brand, because building a brand on TV means doing intrusive things like having omnipresent on-screen logos, border ads, overlays, etc.
What’s interesting about this relative to interactive entertainment is that it wasn’t that long ago that people were worrying about product placement practices in TV, and wondering if it was going to destroy the business, or save it. Well, those concerns are long gone in TV land, but they’re soon to roost in the interactive industry, which is already tipping toward licensing as a means of catching the eyeballs of those same consumers – who today have a ridiculous number of entertainment options available to them. I’m already seeing intrusive overlaid ads on pages like Gamasutra (that irritating Radeon-slime ad), and I guess I’m wondering how long it’s going to be before I fire up a piece of interactive entertainment and have to deal with an omnipresent logo in the lower right corner of my monitor while I’m playing a shooter.
When that happens, I’ll know the industry threw in the towel on suspension of disbelief. I’ll also know that the part of the industry I cared about died.
— Mark Barrett