E-Game Ad Network Is in Play

LOS ANGELES Players who go online to play Mall Tycoon 2 Deluxe today will encounter the first advertising network for online gamers, said the company’s CEO.

Announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (Adweek Online, May 13), the Massive Video Game Advertising Network, privately held by Massive Inc. of New York, is the brainchild of Australian native Mitch Davis. During a two-year development of the network technology, Davis struck agreements with many of the top software publishers, including Infogrames, UbiSoft and Vivendi Universal, to carve out prescribed ad space into games as an alternative to the flat-fee product placements that necessitate deals long in advance of a title’s release.

Take2 Interactive Software, for example, designed ad space into Mall Tycoon 2 (signage along a boardwalk and above the lanes in a virtual bowling alley) so that messages could be placed live over the Massive network and changed as frequently as advertisers wish. Davis said advertisers want impressions uploaded to the network, to give agencies concrete feedback on reach and frequency [Adweek, May 24].

Davis said the potential number of targets depends entirely on the title. “For the next few weeks, as titles start coming into the network, we expect to reach a half million or more players,” he said. “The potential reach is over 10 million players by the end of next year, and by the third quarter we expect the weekly reach to be several million.” He maintained that gamers prefer the virtual ads because they better replicate the real-world environments, and because the ads will change the landscape and the game would not be locked into the same look.

RealNetworks, Seattle, currently advertising its music downloading service, is among the first companies to sign with Massive. Other undisclosed advertisers have signed on to other games, Davis said. In one upcoming first-person shooter game, for instance, a subway contains the transit ads, but when the game goes online, movie companies will be able to run time-sensitive campaigns for various titles, targeting the likely players of certain games.

The model may prove to suit less trendy brands, too, said Davis, pointing to an advertiser with a venerable trademark that has already decided to dust off a historic ad campaign for a game set specifically in New York during the early 1980s.

Davis said the network also allows sponsors to do “geo-targeting” (hitting specific states, for instance, by addressing certain Internet providers) “behavioral targeting” (advertising to heavy game players versus occasional users) and time-based campaigns.

Sources estimated ad rates at $8 to $24 CPM, and predicted higher fees as ads contain full sound and motion.