As reported by GamesIndustry.biz, NCsoft is to introduce in-game advertising to its superhero MMO, City of Heroes. This makes City of Heroes the first major subscription MMO to feature ads.
The ads will be supplied by specialist agency Double Fusion. NCsoft is at pains to point out that they will be optional; players will be able to opt out via the options menu in the game.
However, Brian Clayton, boss of NCsoft's NorCal studio - formed to run City of Heroes after NCsoft and original developer Cryptic parted ways - stressed that the company felt advertising was an appropriate addition to the City of Heroes universe.
"Double Fusion... Have demonstrated sensitivity to the needs of our community and fundamentally understand how advertising can bring value to the players when executed gracefully, and in the appropriate context," he said.
He expanded further in an article on the official City of Heroes site.
"From our perspective it always came down to a few fundamental questions: Will this technology make our game experience more immersive or less immersive?" said Clayton. "In other words, is City of Heroes an appropriate environment for it?"
City of Heroes' contemporary city setting means that billboard adverts won't necessarily look out of place, and they will also be vetted for suitability. "Only contextually relevant ads or branding that the development team approves will go into the game," assured Clayton.
Revenue from the advertising will be ploughed back into development of the game. "As we have made it pretty clear lately, with the acquisition of City of Heroes from Cryptic Studios last November, we are entering a major phase of reinvestment for the game (and brand)," said Clayton, the bit in brackets presumably there to allow for potential sequels and spin-off titles.
"Our development costs are ramping up in a major way as we look to literally double the team this year to accommodate big plans for the short, medium and long term. Optional in-game advertising is another revenue stream that helps us to accomplish all of this at no additional expense to our players."
The ads are expected to go live this summer, and replace the fictional billboards already in place in the game's world.