Games could be good bet for advertisers

Games offer not only remarkable stickiness but also let advertisers seamlessly integrate their ads into the game scenario. No wonder there is now huge interest in gaming sites.

The pending combination of movie site atomfilms and animation and game site has been hailed as a metroplex of short-form entertainment. One particular benefit could come from syndicating the resulting company's online games, since games are proving to be both attractive to advertisers and potentially ripe for subscription services.

The as-yet-unnamed company could ink deals with sites looking for more stickiness. Users spent an average 89.9 minutes on game sites in November, according to Media Metrix. That's the kind of number advertisers like to see, though currently only 3.1 percent of ad revenue goes to game sites, according to AdRelevance, a Jupiter Media Metrix company.

Eddie Ranchigoda, product manager at Microsoft's game site, said advertisers have been very interested in working with his site. He's seen his Zone's advertising revenue grow 1,000 percent this year and predicted that it will double in 2001.

Is gaming a golden opportunity for advertisers? YES

Many traditional advertisers like the ability to seamlessly integrate themselves into games. Toyota has a racing game on Zone called Toyota Adrenaline, for example. Jack Daniel Distillery sponsors a pool game on Shockwave, and features its logo on the pool table. Taco Bell has likewise sponsored the video poker area of the game site

Gamers also tend to be accepting of commercial breaks. "It's easy for us to say we'll be back in a minute," said Ken Cron, chairman and chief executive of the game network Uproar. Even if games can be supported by ads, many sites are seeking ways to charge for at least some games. Shockwave has a team studying the possibilities, as does Zone, which currently offers 5 percent of its games on a subscription basis.

Sony Online Entertainment already has a successful effort with its EverQuest game, which has more than 300,000 members who buy the software for $40 and pay $8 to $10 per month to play. The game has earned the title "EverCrack" for its addictive nature.

Niche multiplayer games such as EverQuest are likely the kinds of games people will pay to play; Sony found gamers wouldn't pay for its Jeopardy game, for example. Predicting player's willingness to spend, however, may prove to be the toughest game of all.