Apparently, February 9 is National Pizza Day. Naturally, that got me thinking about one of the weirdest things in the history of MMOs, EverQuest II's /pizza command, implemented 10 years ago this month, back in 2005.
It was simple, and a seemingly great idea: Just type “/pizza” into your chat box, the same as you'd type an emote like /dance or /sit, and you'd pull up the pizzahut.com website for easy ordering. Gamers and pizza are a match made in heaven, and this seemed like the perfect melding of the two.
“I'm useing the /pizza command tomorrow!”
“/pizza has singlehandedly made EQ2 the laughing stock of the mmorpg community.”
“/Pizza is an appalling joke.”
“I think its kool, as long as we never see in game advertising”
...along with the usual “This is the end of the game, it's completely gone to hell now gg”-type of comments. Hey guys, did you know EverQuest II died in 2005? /pizza killed it, apparently.
It must not have done great business, because the service was discontinued some time later. I'm having trouble finding an exact date, but it seems not to have lasted more than a year, if that. Still, with free-to-play games finding all sorts of innovative new ways to make money, I'm surprised there haven't really been any more in-game partnerships like this one.
I don't think a new and improved /pizza (or /chinese or /italian or /whatever) command would do very well in 2015, though. People are much more used to ordering online now than they were 10 years ago, and cell phones, with pre-programmed numbers, are more likely to be close at hand. Even alt-tabbing out to find a website or phone number is easier on today's PCs than it would have been in 2005. /pizza was a convenience, albeit a slight one, a decade ago, but we have those kind of conveniences mostly built into our lives these days.
I think that any perceived image problem was overblown, too. I really don't think anyone quit playing EQ2 over the /pizza command. People largely see it as a nice bit of nostalgia, in the “we'll laugh about this later” vein, and not as a sign of doom and gloom. You can order a pizza from your Xbox in the UK now, but it hasn't seemed to generate nearly as much buzz as /pizza did, back in the day.
But how far could an MMO go to advertise a product? Blizzard has done a little bit, with its truck and motorcycle tie-ins, and having millions of monthly players certainly makes them more appealing to advertisers. But you'd think that games with 500,000+ monthly players could at least get some kind of deal worked out. With that many players, your actual number of logins – and the number of times you might see an ad – would number in the millions monthly, more than a lot of websites generate.
Of course, gamers – or really, just about anyone who uses the Internet – are notoriously anti-advertising, so it would have to be subtle and non-disruptive, as the /pizza command was. A friend and I tried to brainstorm on this a while ago, and, apart from the obvious notion of having something in the launcher, we wondered if in-game billboards or posters would seem too jarring. Obviously, such a thing would only work in a modern-day, or possibly, futuristic game; Coca-Cola ads might work in Champions Online, but probably not in EverQuest.
Then again, maybe Gods & Heroes should have done something with Little Caesar's...
And before you get into the “I don't want any ads in my game, period!” stance, consider that if a developer needs to make an extra chunk of cash, would you rather see Coke on a subway wall or see a new, and totally not pay-to-win-we-promise microtransaction? I wouldn't suggest anything that disrupts or interrupts the game – no pre-playing video ads or anything like that – but stuff that just takes up space that would otherwise not be put to any use.
What do you think? Would you tolerate any kind of advertising or /pizza-like promotions in your game?
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.More Stories by Jason Winter
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