Yahoo! Bolsters Ad-Supported Games

NEW YORK Yahoo! said it plans to roll out more than 400 free ad-supported casual games on its own gaming site and multiple partner sites by the end of this year — and to facilitate that rollout, the company has partnered with in-game advertising firms Double Fusion and NeoEdge.

Though Yahoo! has sold ads in and around offerings played on Yahoo Games and its other properties for over a decade, it has also long offered users the option to download more elaborate games for a fee. Typically, users can try these games for a limited time before they elect to make a purchase.

However, while Yahoo! says these downloaded games’ sales are lucrative, just 1 percent of such game trials result in purchases. “That means that tens of millions of game plays go unmonetized,” said Kyle Laughlin, head of games at Yahoo!. “We need to go to two partners to help us bring this to market faster.” So the portal has tapped both casual game video ad specialist NeoEdge and in-game ad firm Double Fusion to help monetize various titles. Both will provide Yahoo! with technology and ad sales support.

Laughlin said Yahoo! plans to continue allowing users to purchase some titles, but as part of its new ad initiative some games will be made completely free in order to increase their appeal. “We want to help bring ad-supported games to the widest possible audience,” explained Alex Terry, CEO of NeoEdge. “These users are purchasing these games with their eyeballs rather than with a credit card.”

The concept of allowing advertisers to subsidize game play has been tried before, perhaps most notably by casual games publisher and ad seller WildTangent, which allows brands to provide users with free credits through its WildCoins program. But according to Double Fusion CEO and president Jonathan Epstein, by making some games entirely free for Yahoo Games’ huge audience, “Yahoo! is really throwing down the gauntlet. This is a game changer for casual games, no pun intended.”