Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Online Game Ads

If you list yourself as “male” on Facebook you have probably been subjected to carnally-suggestive banner ads for online strategy games. While the games themselves differ a great deal, the marketing techniques do not. The basic framework for these banner ads is as follows:

1.      Must contain at least one illustration of an actual (or animated) woman displaying actual (or animated) cleavage
2.      Must allude to salacious content by referencing a minimum age or using terms like “Adults Only”.
3.      Must contain the words “play” and “now”
4.      Must link to an online recreational pursuit that is unlikely to bring the participant into contact with the actual (or animated) woman in the ad.

The first example is for a game called Pirates: Tides of Fortune, developed and marketed by a social gaming company called Plarium. Along with pirate strategy they also offer war strategy, new war strategy, economy strategy, nuclear strategy, farm strategy, and an obligatory online slot machine. The following ad popped up on my Facebook feed a few weeks ago:
As you can see, it features a comely animated lass who may have suffered a traumatic corneal injury. In bold letters we are told you must be a man over 18 to play. I assume that this is because women are psychologically unable to handle buccaneer-themed sexual innuendos as well as their male counterparts.  We are also reassured that they are peddling “The Most Addictive Pirate Strategy Game of 2013!” and while I have no doubt that must have been a tough category to dominate this year, I suspect the accolade may have been created for the product. This technique is not restricted to online swashbuckling strategy. I always enjoy when I see ad copy such as “Voted San Antonio’s Most Efficient Libertarian Vacuum Repair!” or “The Largest Selection of Discontinued Shoehorns in the Tri-State Area!”    

While “Pirates” may be the current favorite, it owes a sizable debt to Evony LLC who came under fire after launching the 2009 online campaign for their medieval civilization strategy game of the same name. Their ads featured increasingly lurid images of busty women who referred to male players as “My Lord” and invited would-be gamers to “play discreetly” in case they were concerned that someone might stumble into their mother’s basement unannounced. The company began by utilizing animated temptresses but eventually just started swiping pornography cover art. Not only were many of the ads denounces as blatantly sexist, many players were chagrined to discover that women pictured had nothing to do with the actual gameplay.

Their earliest ads featured an animated queen in period costume whose bosom appears to be under direct attack from a sword. The ad’s use of the “queen” designation implies some level of emotional and perhaps marital attachment:

In the next ad, your queen (although she is no longer designated as such) appears to have been liberated from both her captors and her inhibitions. Her expression is one of intense passion or carbon monoxide inhalation.

In the next ad, your endangered “queen” has been replaced by your endangered “lover” who is joined by her morally-pliable twin sister. Incidentally, it appears that the source of the carbon monoxide fumes has not yet been discovered.

In the next ad, they have abandoned any semblance of animation or period-accuracy. We are presented with a sultry blond whose role in your life is apparently so superficial she does not even qualify for the title of “lover”. The only thing that appears to be in danger now is the king’s pre-nup.

The Evony advertisements continue to digress until you are presented with a URL link disguised as a an actual pair of breasts. These ads are not limited to obscure PC gaming sites either. The following ad appeared under an article concerning 9/11 memorials on the Washington Times website:
As you can see, this ad features a well-endowed blonde woman whose outfit serves as a severally-overtaxed nipple retention system. In addition to that, the viewer is left to speculate on the suggestive positioning of her right hand (I choose to believe she is hiding her psoriasis). Clicking on the link brings one to the animated RPG game called Tynon where the object is to save the king from a Dark Wizard named Wyrm.Of course it is.

Marketing is a cut-throat business, but if it is a game market it as a game. I realize that targeted advertising is what allows companies like Google and Facebook to offer their services without charge, but is it too much to ask for a filter for online strategy game ads? Can I look at a news site without being subjected to an animated temptress with cleavage so disproportionate to her stature that it likely led to a slipped pixel in her lower back?


  1. Hmm... Without wishing to sound sexist here, salacious advertising will always be around in online gaming advertising due to the fact it attracts mostly a male oriented audience. Frankly, it doesn't bother me either way whether the ads are salacious or not. I have many games on my website with little or no advertising, come and check us out at Unblocked Games

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