In-game advertising isn't new. Many of the more popular games for the big console players have had ads embedded in them for a while. And the feedback has generally been positive because players think they make the games more realistic. Still, when a player is "driving" the course in Need for Speed and sees an ad for Burger King, no one expects the player to interrupt the game action to visit the nearest BK. But when that player does get hungry a few hours into a game, the player might suddenly find himself craving a Whopper.
The thing about Google's AdSense program is that the measurement comes in click-throughs. And it's unclear how effective that model can be for Web-based video games, where players aren't prone to stop the game action to check out an advertiser's site. Still, Google's presence further validates the Web-based game space and the audience that's playing. We saw this coming with Google's $23 million purchase of AdScape last year.
DoubleFusion CEO Jonathan Epstein, the CEO of game maker DoubleFusion, tells CNET that Google's presence proves that games as an ad platform shouldn't be dismissed, no matter what other choices advertisers have. Epstein says:
...this space is of interest to one of the largest media companies in the world. Google does not enter into markets that don't have billion dollar-plus potential for them... The battleground here is not between ourselves and (gamemaker) Massive and Google. It's getting games their rightful share of the ad dollars, as opposed to TV, print, and (traditional) online ads.
Don't expect an overnight success from Google in this space. Analysts are already saying that the news itself isn't earth-shattering. But it does set the stage for positioning Google as the ad server in many different environments. And that could be something that's attractive to advertisers of all sizes.
From the Google blog, here's an example of how an in-game ad might look: