In-game advertising is becoming an increasingly prevalent part of the games industry, and with many businesses looking for alternative revenue sources to recoup the cost of development the trend looks likely to continue.
Earlier this month Sony announced a deal with IGA Worldwide to open the PlayStation 3 up to dynamic in-game advertising. The two year deal will see advertising in a range of EA Sports franchise titles.
GamesIndustry.biz interviewed Ed Bartlett, vice president of publisher relations in Europe and co-founder of IGA Worldwide about the deal, in-game advertising, and his future plans.
Q: Do you think this deal finally validates the idea of in-game ads on home consoles?
Ed Bartlett: The PlayStation platform is obviously incredibly important, the PlayStation 2 was in 120 million homes and the PlayStation 3 is already growing faster. In terms of the audience it reaches specifically, it's an incredibly valuable audience for advertisers in terms of high disposable income - an audience that is fragmenting away from other traditional media, like TV, and spending more and more time playing videogames. They're an attractive audience for advertisers - so I think it definitely does.
Q: Do you know how much this deal and dynamic advertising will expand in-game advertising revenue?
Ed Bartlett: Not specifically but the big difference is we can do a similar thing to what TV advertising does. They're able to have upfronts with their advertisers and show their roster of shows way in advance and allow advertisers to know what budgets to plan and what's forthcoming.
We can now do that for advertisers in-game as well, and that is a big step forward in terms of sophistication and validates the medium as a maturing medium. That will allow advertisers to plan their budgets with confidence much further in advance, which in turn will allow them to increase their budgets significantly as well. There's also the increased reach of having PlayStation 3 titles in our network too.
Q: Do you have any future plans to work with Microsoft and Nintendo?
Ed Bartlett: We've always been open to working with the other platforms and in fact we do already do advertising on other platforms - in the form of static advertising - through various relationships through our third party publishers. From a dynamic perspective we'd welcome that opportunity.
Q: Can the advertising work outside of the sports games and racing genres?
Ed Bartlett: Yeah, we cover a wide range of genres in our network outside of those as well - action being one, entertainment being another. Again, coming back to that TV network idea, we're able to create verticals, so rather than an advertiser just buying into a racing game we can now sell them the racing vertical and they can buy in across 10-12 racing titles at a time. Which again is another leap forward in sophistication.
What we aren't going to do is try to find games where we're shoehorning advertising into them. There's no interest from our perspective, from an advertiser's perspective, or from the gamer's perspective - let's not forget the gamer here.
There are racing games, there are sports games, there are the realistic city games, where you're walking through a 3D city environment - those are where you expect to see advertising where it actually adds to the realism, if it's done properly. So certainly that is where we are focusing, but we'll always look at new models.
Q: How often do you expect to have the advertising updated?
Ed Bartlett: We update in real-time. The real advantage of dynamic advertising is that you can change the advertising at the click of a button, which allows advertisers to buy strategically.
What it also means is that the gamer will see new ads which will keep the game fresh. With games now moving more towards a service model where they're lasting much longer, being able to update and keep those games fresh with dynamic advertising is a big advantage.
It's important that it's territorially localised as well, so in Germany you may see a different ad on the same day as in the UK.
Q: What is it that the PS3 offers you in an advertorial sense that the other consoles may not?
Ed Bartlett: Looking at the sales, Sony - particularly in Europe - is doing amazingly well with the PlayStation 3. The PlayStation franchise has its own slang, you know, it's the 'PlayStation generation'. It's ubiquitous among that specific demographic.
Sony have also done an amazing job in pushing a more social aspect of gaming, the Wii gets a lot of credit for that nowadays but really Sony started that with things like SingStar and Buzz! They're continuing to push that envelope with things like Home.
Just bringing that social aspect to gaming and pushing the online aspect - you look at the online penetration and the console from the processor up was designed to be online, look at their attach rates for online play. That is very valuable.
It's a very high disposable income demographic and one that's hard to reach though traditional advertising. The fact that we can reach them in their living rooms with very robust ad-metrics is something that advertisers can't ignore.
Q: Have you got any plans to work with Home?
Ed Bartlett: We have no specific plans at this date. That isn't specifically part of this deal, this is a platform deal not a product deal. But we would love to work with Sony on a deeper level.
Q: So you feel there's an audience that advertisers have missed out on in the past because they're playing games, not watching TV?
Ed Bartlett: Absolutely, for sure. I mean, between 10-12 and a half hours a week are spent on gaming in that demographic. It's very significant numbers, and the fact that the PS3 is primarily in the living room...it's not just impacting the people who are playing the games but it's also impacting the rest of the family, whether it's the partner, the boyfriend, the girlfriend, the brother, the sister. Whoever it is, the fact that it's in the living room means it's impacting on other people's TV viewership, so that makes it even more valuable.
The main points are: The increased sophistication and, from the EA build perspective, being able to work with games at a much earlier stage, I think that's beneficial - not just to the advertisers, in terms of planning their budgets, but also to the gamer because it allows us to spend much more time up front locating the ad spaces to make sure it's not oversaturated, to make sure it's contextual. And at the end of the day it's very important that that's the case because the research has shown gamers like to see advertising in their games provided it's contextual.
Ed Bartlett is the co-founder of IGA worldwide and is currently its VP of publisher relations Europe. Interview by James Lee.