These embedded billboards of product names add to the realism particularly for car racing and field-sports with placement around perimeters. Whether this can be successfully extended to other genre of games such as an online first person shooter (FPS) has yet to be determined. Therefore this exploratory study embedding billboards in a first person shooter game was designed to add to our knowledge of the effectiveness of billboards in a gaming environment. In particular, whether billboards are recalled and whether they have any effect on gamers in terms of their game experience, was examined.
This paper will discuss in details how are game console interfaces assisting in creating gaming experience. As it is a relatively new strategy, there is a dearth of research on in-game advertising; indeed the first studies of online games were undertaken as recently as 2002. Kim et al. (2002) investigated motivations to using online games and Nelson (2002) studied recall of brand placements in computer racing games. Even though billboard use in the virtual environment has not been the focus of academic research there has been some academic interest in the context of real world' billboards (Bloom 2000; Donthu, Cherian, and Bhargava 1993; Pham 1992; Taylor and Franke 2003). For the 'real world' studies, recall of the billboards is employed as a common measure of outdoor advertising effectiveness (Donthu, Cherian, and Bhargava 1993; Fitts and Hewett 1977). Factors that are related to the recall of billboards include ( 1) those concerned with the billboard itself, i.e. colour, position, location, number of words and brevity and legibility of message, and ( 2) consumer characteristics, i.e. attitude to advertising which incorporates attitude to outdoor advertisements (Bhargava, Donthu, and Caron 1994; Donthu, Cherian, and Bhargava 1993).
To achieve the objectives of the study a multiplayer 'fragging' session was organized. The first step in the process was to identify an appropriate online multiplayer game in which to embed billboards. A FPS game was chosen for this study as this genre is the most popular in online multiplayer games (Euromonitor 2003; Game Research 2002). A new map i.e. a level within the game world, was created into which three billboards for different products were inserted. The locations of the billboards were highly visible in areas where all gamers would pass. Exposure time could not be controlled as it is determined by the player, however, the strategic positioning of the billboards ensured maximum exposure. Furthermore, players would repeatedly pass all three of the billboards throughout the duration of the session. This difficulty in controlling for exposure is not unique to online gaming; studies of outdoor billboards would encounter the same issue.
The choice of products to be advertised on each of the three billboards was made after a discussion with two online gamers. The gamers suggested that consumables such as pizza and soda would have personal relevance particularly when playing games. A third product, a digital camera, was chosen as the final