As a big fan of the legendary Sim City I could’t resist giving it’s recent launch of a Facebook version a try. I spent a bit of time but it was rather disappointing, nothing really innovative, just a FarmVille copycat.
What made me think was the integration of advertising. Basically you get a Mercedes factory and more branded items for free to build in your city plus a couple of related quests. We’ve seen that in various Facebook games in the past.
My first thought always was “Makes perfect sense – if there are real world objects in a real world simulation why not sell the slots?”. And the history of selling banners in racing games goes back 30 years already. And thinking about movies it’s not that big a deal isn’t it? Well, if you disregard that many people feel uncomfortable with this there is still one invisible line that differentiates fiction movies from documentaries.
I find the simulation genre within the game segment fairly similar to documentaries. Specifically games with the “Sim” prefix pretend to be world simulations (or life simulations) modelling reality and like all modelling they get better and better doing so over the years. Quoting from the The Sims website: ”The Sims is the award-winning series that started the Life Simulation genre”
So this means if you sell slots in the model of the world you build and sell you fake it for money and you can throw your credibility straight into the bin. Sure, you can’t compare Sim City Social and FarmVille with a serious documentary. But if you label something “simulation” and change the model for money something is wrong.
Should a simulation genre leave out any product placement advertising or will it be left to the makers of indie games?