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National Geographic Channel Tries Advergame

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NEW YORK Paleontology lovers can track dinosaur bones and build dinosaur skeletons at their desktops starting today.

National Geographic Channel has entered the advergaming space, adding its latest interactive offering to a new microsite.

The microsite was created to correspond to two new specials, Dino Death Trap and Dino Autopsy, that will premiere Dec. 9 on the cable TV channel.

The advergaming component, which is among the video and interactive-heavy content site, is called "Fossil Hunt" and consists of three rounds that represent three different prehistoric eras: the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods and a distinct dinosaur from each. Developers used lifelike models for each as a base.

The move was a natural evolution for NGC, having explored video early on and subsequently adding interactivity with features such as maps and time lines in an effort to increase time spent on its site, said Brad Dancer, vp, research and digital media. "We want to make contextually fun games that still offer opportunities for people to learn," he added.

NGC employed Arkadium, a creator of Flash-based games, to construct its format. "They really understood that we're not looking for another game. We're looking for something that is more integrated into the experience," said Dancer.

Added Kenny Rosenblatt, co-founder and CEO of Arkadium: "In developing an advergame, it's really important to think not only of the target audience, but also the content of why you are developing this game. That is, driving the viewers beyond the confines of the television set and onto the Web to interact with the brand well beyond their regularly scheduled program. Advergaming is one of the great ways to do that."

NGC's Dancer said one of the goals is to learn how effective the advergaming format is. The cable channel wants to see how people interact with the game and the shows. Questions on its effectiveness include: are people getting exposed to the shows? Do they come back later for more information? Is it assisting time spent on the site? "This will provide a lot of insight as we head into 2008," said Dancer.