It is a generally accepted, though reviled, practice to insert non sequitur commercials into television programs that air on pay-TV. In other words — as far as broadcasters are concerned anyway — we pay for the clear reception; the content is generally paid for by the time we spend trying to ignore those aforementioned non sequitur disruptions to the flow of the program we were watching.
There are even commercials in the movie theaters now. Actually there are two kinds: the ones that play on the screen when the lights are on and you need to find a seat and the ones that play on the screen when the lights have been extinguished or are in the process of being extinguished. These commercials are more annoying than the TV versions since you have paid a pretty penny to see a film…showing you a commercial smacks of betrayal. Still, the commercials air before the film starts so their interruption factor is minimal.
A video game is a different beast from either TV or a film. As expensive as a film generally is, the per-person up front cost is generally much lower than what you pay for a video game. Also, a film makes you part of an audience…you watch what happens. A video game allows you to make things happen (or sometimes strenuously attempt to prevent something from happening), so your participation is far more visceral and immediate. Sony appears to be on the path to not only charging you for purchasing their games but forcing you to watch a commercial (that will most likely have zero to do with what you are playing) and it appears that the format they want to follow is that of broadcast TV rather than films.
The patent, filed July and granted November of last year, goes into more detail about how this would affect the user experience. The filing suggests that gamers could be warned of an impending advertisement by a warning message, or by slowing down gameplay. The filing also suggests that game content could effectively be rewound at or prior to the end of the ad, presumably in an attempt to ready up the player in case the gameplay broke off at a critical point.
Even the game play of Mario Bros. would suffer from an interruption of this sort. A game of chess could suffer from an interruption like this. IMHO, this is a response to the Gamefly’s of the world. Their idea is that they will get you to pay one way or another…even if you only rent the game and don’t pay the full price of a title back to Sony. This way, all those people who don’t purchase the special one-time-use code for some functionality in the video game (that comes “free” in the new purchase) still get charged.
The biggest problem with this approach, IMHO, is the fact that they would be “forcefully engaging in reproductive behavior with” their audience who actually did pay full retail price for a new copy of their game. They would be punishing their loyal customers for being loyal…thus marginalizing the primary purpose of being loyal in the first place. Why buy a game full of commercials you can’t avoid for $60 when you can rent it for a flat fee? And get rid of it without having to worry about recouping your investment?
I understand that places like Gamefly hurt revenue of video game manufacturers. However I also believe that the implementation of a system like this will only result in higher prices for the games and even fewer people buying fresh copies. I don’t see how any good will come from this.