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Googles Game Play: Adscape Finally in Use

adsense gamesIn February of 2007, Google paid $27m to acquire small in-game advertising company Adscape.  The expectation was the acquired technology would quickly ramp into a Google platform to rival Microsoft’s Massive unit, IGA Worldwide and others chasing the expected boom in video game ads.   That never happened.  While EA linked with Massive, as did Activision, the Adscape platform remained locked away somewhere on Google’s campus.

In July, Venture Beat reported daylight might soon be let in.  The was no certainty but AdSense for Games, the report speculated, was quietly being tested for use with console games, web games and mobile offerings.  The platform was “something to watch for.”

This week, the doors were finally opened.  On Wednesday, Google began offering a select group of online publishers a revenue sharing relationship to beta test it.

To be eligible, publishers have to have 500,000 game plays per day and draw more than 80% of their audience from either the U.S. or the U.K.

In a AdSense blog post, Google product manager Ryan Howard gave a partial view of the offering, writing: “As a beta user of AdSense for Games, you can display video ads, image ads, or text ads to earn revenue.”  The ads can be set as interstitial frames before game play begins, after a level change or at the end of the game.  “Members of [the] AdWords team will sell your in-game ad placements directly to top brand advertisers, and you’ll also see contextually targeted text and image ads based on content and demographic information.”

Playfish, Zynga, Demand Media, Mochi Media and Konami are among participating publishers from the start.  Google has signed up Sprint, Sony Pictures and Esurance as beta advertisers.

The initial focus will largely be Flash-based online games.  Konami, while more widely known for its console titles like Dance Dance Revolution, is reportedly creating flash titles. Their participation will focus there. A migration to console titles could happen in the future.

According to a recent Adweek report, a poll of 534 active gamers conducted by Nielsen Games found 11 percent purchased a brand they saw advertised in a game.  19 percent said they talked about it, and eleven percent went out looking for more information.  Those results mesh with prior studies that have concluded in-game ads are often positively received, sometimes  adding to game realism, if done appropriately.

For now, AdSense for Games seems to be starting small; the opportunity following Google’s familiar path of making advertising placements and sales accessible across larger swaths of internet territory.  It goes to Google’s roots:  the company’s success in the ad marketplace was predicated in part by extending ad tools to a smaller and otherwise under served customer base.    Through AdSense Google brought a revenue stream to web publishers too small or ill equipped for larger display partnerships.  Through Ad Words, which generated $16.4 billion in revenue in 2007, they opened up ad purchasing to smaller players who were drawn to the self serve world but might have been either priced out, or not interested in working with buyers.

Tim Hanlon, the executive VP of Publicis Group’s Denuo, which focuses on media futures, told CNET he thinks Google is working on the “foundational building blocks to an ad server in many environments.” He believes the area Google will see the quickest return is self serve, the “mom and pop” market. AdSense for Games, as currently described, seems to fit that vision.

Today, the in game market is drawing less than $200m per year in spending, a trifle compared to broader ad markets, but Yankee Group is still forecasting acceleration to a near billion dollar market by 2011.

In-game ads have the potential to both increase brand awareness and also serve as direct-response tools. More information on the marketplace can be found in the related articles from Metue listed below.

Related Articles from Metue
AdSense for Games Coming Soon?
AdSense for Distribution: Google Partners with MRC and McFarlane on Original Video Content
•Electronic Arts Extends Massive Ad Deal
EA Sports and Massive in In-Game Ad Deal
Activision Enlists Massive for Dynamic In Game Ads
Sony Gets into In Game Advertising
NBC Universal Gets in the Game of In-Game Advertising
Microsoft acquires Massive Inc.
Google Acquires Adscape
Inside Game Sales: June NPD Data Review


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