Some of you may have heard about a company called Engage Advertising that recently inserted advertisements on behalf of the Subway restaurant chain into the ever-popular Counter-Strike. Engage got quite a bit of (negative) publicity when Valve, the developer of Counter-Strike, announced that it had not approved the advertising campaign, and was treating the situation as a “legal matter“.
I’ve been wondering how something like this could ever happen without Valve’s knowledge, much less permission. Fortunately, ArsTechnica has posted an interesting article that explains who was involved, how the ads made it into the game, etc. Basically, Engage and IGA Partners worked directly with individual Counter-Strike server operators, as opposed to Valve itself.
This does raise an interesting question: will server operators for these types of games always be content to host them, no matter how much dynamic advertising is embedded within? Or will they demand a revenue share? Given that operators are mostly volunteers and fans, you might not expect a backlash, but operators have shown themselves willing to fight developers in the past.
Final thoughts: this marketing campaign was a bad idea in more ways than one. Counter-Strike appears to have been arbitrarily blanketed with Subway ads. They stick out like sore thumbs. A guaranteed mood-killer… offensively conspicuous at best. Doesn’t make me want to run out and buy a sandwich.