Let's face it, most of us are sick to death of the relentless sensory assault of advertising as exists today, and the terrifying vision of Spielberg's Minority Report, where consumers are delivered bespoke advertisements via retina scans is an all too realistic prospect.
Advertising in videogames has been prevalent for a number of years, but often it's been unsubtle to the point of outrage - the McDonalds-themed Mick and Mack Global Gladiators on Mega Drive being a case in point.
The bottom line is, however, that product advertising can play a crucial role in the funding of projects which simply would not otherwise be feasible. But in this media savvy age where gamers will simply switch off in exploited disgust at product placement, what is the solution?
Recently formed UK outfit Hive Partners believes it has part of the answer with what it terms 'situation placement' - finding an interactive purpose in a game for consumer brands which serve both the gamer and publisher/developer effectively.
The first fruits of the labour have already featured in Rebellion's Dredd Vs. Death and Team 17's Worms 3D, where in the latter the energy drink Red Bull is an unobtrusive power-up, which makes contextual sense rather than being a shameless plug.
Crucially, Hive's initiative should be of huge benefit to smaller software development companies, enabling a valuable alternative source of income which should facilitate riskier concepts and more original games in the long run.
For a fuller picture of the potential impact of 'situation placement' in gaming, we spoke with former Bitmap Brother and CEO of Hive Ed Bartlett:
How did Hive Partners come about?
Bartlett: Hive was originally established in September of 2003 so that I could concentrate 100 percent on pursuing new game development related opportunities without the constraints of working for a single company.
Although the majority of my industry past has been game-design based, I spent considerable time in my most recent role as Business Development Director for The Bitmap Brothers looking at new and viable ways as an independent developer of getting a game to market, as well as developing it as a brand from day one and looking for significant new revenue streams that could be generated from a project.
The next logical step was to look at how consumer branding and making very specific and targeted brand partnerships could help both with funding, and also with the profile and positioning of the game.
After explorative talks with a few notoriously proactive brands I came to the conclusion that it was some years from the time where a brand would fund an entire pre-production process without any publishing deal in place, but more importantly I also discovered that this was an area that was of huge interest to a great number of brands, and could provide a valuable new creative and financial resource for both the videogame sector and for the consumer brand and marketing world.
It appears your core focus has become 'interactive product placement' in games. Can you explain what this entails?
Bartlett: We cover the full range of possible videogame-related branding and sponsorship opportunities including the more traditional static environmental and billboard branding that gamers have seen for years in sports and racing titles, but our core focus is on a new range of opportunities termed 'situation placement', where we work much more intensely with the brands and the developers to create a tailored gameplay scenario or 'situation' for the brand or product to sit in.