Midway Ventures Further Into Video Game Ads

NEW YORK Midway Games said it is increasing the ad options for its upcoming releases, looking to tap into marketers’ desires to explore video games as a way to reach younger audiences.

The Chicago-based company late last month released NBA Ballers: Phenom, a basketball-themed game for Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation 2 systems. The game includes product integrations of T-Mobile, Spalding and Sprite.

After they are drafted, players’ characters communicate throughout the game via a T-Mobile Sidekick. Building such integrations into a game requires 12-18 months of lead time, according to Sarah McIlroy, director of in-game advertising and promotions at the company.

“Game development is a long process,” she said. “If a brand is going to be integrated in a truly meaningful way, it has to be involved at least a year in advance.”

In the fall, Midway plans to supplement such so-called hard-coded integrations with dynamic ads, which it will serve into the games via Double Fusion. With dynamic ads, games are built with placeholders for ads. They have the advantage of being swappable and measurable, while hard-coded integrations are forever part of the game and are measurable only through unit sales and pass-along projections.

McIlroy, a former Atari executive hired in November to develop Midway’s ad strategy, said both hard-coded and dynamic ads had places in games. The video game ad market could receive a major validation this week, when Microsoft is expected to announce a deal to buy Massive, a video game dynamic-ad placement company, for between $200 million and $400 million.

“There’s still an educational phase we’re going through with a lot of brands,” said McIlroy. “We’re getting to the point where people are recognizing it as a valuable advertising medium.”