IGN Back to Ads With EA’s Battlefield Heroes

IGN Entertainment has signed a deal with top game publisher Electronic Arts to sell ads within Battlefield Heroes, a new, war-themed multiplayer online game.

In 2005, as startups like Massive Inc. were touting huge growth for in-game ads, IGN announced it was launching its own in-game ad effort. But those plans fizzled once News Corp. acquired the company that September.

At that time, the in-game industry was primarily focused on placing ads in games played on PCs and consoles like PlayStation. Since then, though, there has been an explosion in free Web-based gaming. IGN already provides technology and services for online games, making the transition to serving ads easier, according to said Charlie Barrett, senior vp sales, IGN Entertainment.

“For advertisers, we can offer multiple touch points [like ads between game levels and during live game play] and drive deep, rich engagement,” said Barrett.

EA has existing partnerships with other in-game vendors, including Microsoft’s Massive and IGA Worldwide. But in the case of Heroes, IGN’s online ad expertise was a plus. “In all these screens in the game we can place classical Web ads,” explained Johannes Mang, director business development for Battlefield Heroes. “We were looking for a partner with proven strength in this area.”

IGN’s move serves to further entrench the company in the gaming world; it publishes the gamer-aimed news and reference site IGN.com and even sells games via Direct2Drive.com. That multipronged approach could provide IGN with an advantage over pure in-game ad companies, said Brandon Berger, vp, digital innovation at MDC Partners. “IGN should be able to gain a lot of traction by offering an integrated campaign,” he said.

But will it expand beyond this deal to sell ads in all sorts of game formats? Not immediately, said Barrett. “We do not intend to become an in-game ad company,” he said. “But of course we are interested in extending this relationship.”

There should be numerous opportunities. According to Ben Cousins, who heads up EA’s free to play initiatives, the industry is “on the cusp of an explosion in Web games over the next five years.”