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As Zynga Struggles, AOL Chases Social Gaming Ads

Portal relaunching its Games.com site with an advertiser focus

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If you're not someone who plays social games online, it's probably hard to grasp just how huge the phenomenon has become. As it stands now, some 81 million plus take part in social gaming, a majority of whom are women and moms. Estimates by eMarketer predict social game ad revenues to skyrocket nearly 80 percent to $672.2 million by 2014, alone.

And with the industry's market leader Zynga hurting as of late, AOL is looking to capitalize on what the company sees as an opportunity: custom social game advertising. To that end, AOL is set to relaunch its Games.com, which despite its low profile attracts over 4.5 million users worldwide who average 26 minutes per visit. 

According to John Fox, gm of Games.com, AOL plans to promote the new Games.com across its network using splashy Project Devil display ads; some gaming marketers will even embed branded games within these the units. 

Advertising wise, AOL has also partnered with the social game advertising platform, Appssavvy, which specializes in less-intrusive in-game ad experiences. In addition, Games.com will look to entice brands by allowing them to create personalized advergaming experiences.

Indeed, one of Games.com's ad promises is personalization. Fox described Appssavvy's natural and relevant ad serving technology as the "secret sauce" to the company's success. However, the site still needs to prove it can execute. During a demo, the site's ads bordered on spam.

Scale, too, is an issue, Appssavvy's deployment is currently only in 10 games out of the 5,000 on Games.com. Fox assures those figures will increase over time as will the number of custom ad offerings.