EA’s UFC 4 is off to a rough start. The developer told Eurogamer it had removed commercials from the MMA game’s replays and overlays after many fans complained about the experience. These weren’t small, unintrusive promos — one commonly-cited example was a full-screen video ad for Amazon’s second season of The Boys. UFC 3 players have reported similar ads.
The company said it turned the ads on in early September, but that it was “abundantly clear” from the backlash that ads in replays and overlays were “not welcome.” These commercials “will not be reappearing in the future,” EA said. It added that ads weren’t new to the UFC series, but were typically reserved for main menu titles or Octagon logo placements.
Critics complained not just that they were seeing ads in a paid game, but that the timing was dishonest. The ads appeared roughly two weeks after UFC 4’s launch, or well after initial reviews. If you were an early adopter, you wouldn’t have realized you were in store for a marketing blitz. While advertisers are clearly eager to reach gamers who might not watch much TV, EA appears to have overestimated players’ desire to sit through any ads that disrupt gameplay.
This isn’t the first time EA has had to change a game in response to an uproar over commercialization. Most notably, it revamped Star Wars Battlefront II’s progression system after gamers balked at a pay-to-win loot box mechanic. EA has been accused more than once of putting its desire for post-sale revenue ahead of the gameplay experience, and UFC 4’s brief dalliance with ads won’t help its reputation.