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As video games become more lifelike, the advertisements in them are also coming to life.
The original forms of virtual gaming have been around almost as long as the popularization of television and computers. But unlike TV commercials and Internet pop-up ads, advertisements for video games have only recently evolved to a multi-million dollar business, and the business shows no signs of slowing down.


Mochi Media has joined in the effort to redefine the business of advertising and making money in Internet gaming. Mochi’s product, MochiAds, inserts ads directly into Internet games. The network of advertisers, game developers and producers reaches more than 60 million users, making it the largest network of its kind, Ryan Nichols, Mochi Media’s product manager, said.
Most of the games MochiAds serves are Flash games, Nichols said. Adobe Flash games are often time-killers that generally only require an Internet browser such as Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer to play. Procrastination tools like Minesweeper, Mahjong and Tetris are just a few examples of popular flash games that are placed in the category of ‘casual gaming.’
Independent developers of Flash games can sign up for Mochi to put ads in their games at no cost, Nichols said.
‘It’s win-win for developers,’ Nichols said. ‘They have complete management over their own game, they have the opportunity to make money, and it’s at no risk to them since it’s free.’
Google recently recognized the number of users playing Flash games and combated MochiAds by launching Adsense this month. The software runs a 30-second video of a game’s character at the end announcing who sponsored it, and it can be inserted into Flash games and YouTube videos.
Mochi Media is one of Google’s partners in the venture, according to an Oct. 7 report on Venture Beat. Developers using MochiAds can now use Google’s software to place ads from Esurance, Sprint and Sony Pictures into their games to cash in on every play.
‘A user has definite loading and waiting time where they would have nothing but a blank screen,’ Nichols said. ‘They’re captivated and interested in being entertained for that short time.’
Game producers and developers from the United States to Russia take advantage of advertisements in their creations. Although the money from MochiAds probably can’t support someone’s life in expensive places like San Francisco, in some countries the money can go a lot further, Nichols said.
‘In other economies we hear about developers supporting their families,’ he said. ‘I hate to sound clich’eacute;, but there are heart-warming stories about how much of a difference these ads can make.’


The potential of an untapped customer base playing away has also led to a scramble in the video game business to spearhead in-game advertising initiatives like Google’s Adsense. More intense online games and games on consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii are also seeing a greater number of in-game advertisements.’
Microsoft bought Massive, a leading in-game advertising network, in May 2006 to begin depicting brands in real-life situations in games, such as a character passing by a real billboard. These ‘dynamic’ ads in Microsoft products, Xbox Live, Xbox 360 and MSN games have since increased brand familiarity by 64 percent, according to a Massive, Inc. case study.
Activision, the video games publisher of hits Guitar Hero and Call of Duty, announced a partnership with IGA Worldwide at the end of September. IGA, an independent in-game advertising network, will provide in-game ads for Activision games on PlayStation 3.
Soon after, IGA reached an agreement with Activision’s rival Electronic Arts to provide dynamic ads for The Sims 3, which comes out in 2009. The Sims 2 sold more than 16 million copies worldwide.
Matt Schoen, a School of Engineering junior, said he hopes to make video games someday and has noticed the changes games have been going through.
‘Last year, Halo 3 made more money than the movie Spiderman 3,’ Schoen, a computer engineering major, said. ‘At this point in time, video games are becoming a clear money maker. Turning to advertising was bound to happen.’
Studies have shown that Halo 3’s success was not a fluke. The video game advertising industry is expected to be worth $1 billion by 2010, according to Nielsen Media Research. A study by eMarketer doubles that number to $2 billion by 2012.
‘Games came from arcades to playing like you watch a movie,’ Schoen said. ‘They’re becoming a serious competitor with typical entertainment.’
Although Schoen said there is a benefit in providing a different source of capital for the large teams of workers needed to create technologically advanced games like his favorite game Half Life 2, ads in games can have a negative side.
‘Ads turn gamers off,’ Schoen said, ‘A lot of the times it’s a cheap shot and gets annoying. But if companies do research and don’t advertise obnoxiously, there probably won’t be any controversy.’
A recent study released in June by IGA and Nielsen found that 82 percent of the 1,300 gamers surveyed felt games were the same with or without advertisements. It also found that there was an average 61 percent increase of favorable opinion in products that were advertised in games.
Joe Sousa, a junior computer science major at Wentworth Institute of Technology, said that in-game advertising is becoming a bigger industry because of the diverse groups of people playing.
‘Companies are making games to target different people,’ Sousa said. ‘Some games have such a good story that people older than your typical video game playing teenager are pulled in.’
Games with a deeper story line appeal to the average video game players, who are 35, according to the Entertainment Software Association.
Jonathan Lo, president of the Boston University Video Gamers Society, said that advertisements are not as useful as studies have made them out to be.
‘I don’t really notice the ads in video games. I think the ads aren’t that useful, especially since many gamers choose to ignore the advertisements,’ Lo, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said. ‘Ads in a video game are just like ads in a movie; you don’t really focus on them.’


While advertisements in video games can promote anything from nacho chips to car insurance, the actual content of games often affects other businesses.
James Owens, a Guitar Center employee, said games such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero promote the music industry.
‘They reinforce the strong trend towards solidifying classic rock,’ Owens said. ‘What 10-year-old would know the song ‘Suffragette City’ by David Bowie if they hadn’t heard it on one of those games first?’
Musicians featured on video games have a lot to gain, Owens said.
‘More than anything else, it is an opportunity for bands to get their catalogs out,’ Owens said. ‘Aerosmith is making a fortune with all the songs they have on games that kids are buying now.’
When Aerosmith partnered with Guitar Hero to release Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, their catalog sales went up 40 percent, CNN reported on Aug. 20. When Metallica’s most recent album Death Magnetic was released in September, the music could be downloaded onto Guitar Hero the same day. The album eventually went on to be the top-selling album for three straight weeks, according to an Oct. 4 Associated Content article.
Joe Young, a University at Massachusetts-Amherst junior, said Guitar Hero is a good way to learn new songs and remember old ones.
‘I wouldn’t buy a whole album because it’s a waste of money, but I would buy a song if I really like it on a game,’ Young said.
Conor Reilly, a College of Communication senior, said he has downloaded a couple of songs after hearing them on Guitar Hero, and he is also influenced by sports games, such as the Madden series.
‘I would assume the people that play Madden already have a favorite team or some sort of apparel,’ Reilly said. ‘Mine’s the Jets. In sports games, they will have companies’ ads on the sidelines and other places off the field, just like games in real life.’
Sports Authority sells sports-themed video games next to their corresponding real-life equipment for when gamers want to buy both, employee Shanelly Ribes said.
Lauren Zanderoff, a games adviser at GameStop, said music games are more likely to be influential than sports games.
‘It’s easier to just download music than to go out and buy sports equipment and learn to play a sport,’ Zanderoff said.
However, Christina Genco, a City Sports employee, said games often inspire players to go outside and play sports.
‘Games are mostly common sports like football and basketball, so people already know about it. It’s not like they’re playing a game about curling that they would have to learn completely new skills,’ Genco said. ‘Anyone can pick up a basketball and dribble it.’

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