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In-game ads not very effective, says St John

Despite pioneering in-game ads, Wild Tangent has found them ineffective and switched to a different model

Wild Tangent founder and CEO Alex St John is no longer a believer in in-game advertising.

"I think a lot of the perception out there - the rest of the state of the market - thinks the advertising opportunity is in in-game advertising," he said during the annual Wedbush Morgan Securities Management Access Conference.

"And in-game advertising - Wild Tangent has patents on it, we did it very early on, we have a lot of in game ads, we sell them - is not a very effective way because you've got to plumb the game, you've got an unproven method of measuring the value of that ad, that unit is not trackable..."

In retrospect, St John says that it is a huge mistake to ever interrupt a game while somebody is playing it. He is no longer thinks injecting ads into console games is a "bright idea or where the market opportunity is."

"I have to say - after brilliantly pioneering the space and being a huge advocate of it - we've actually shifted models to one that works a hell of a lot better and is remarkably simple," St John remarked.

That model is advertising supporting gaming on a per play basis, where users decide if they want to spent their own money or have a company such as Coca Cola pay for their session for them.

"And if you say 'I'll take the free play from Coke,' Coke plays a little 30 second video ad while the game is loading - that's the time you are sitting there waiting for the game to load anyway, it plays the Coke ad. It's not doing anything else. Then you go into the game and play it for free," he explained.

"We average USD 140 CPMs putting that ad unit in front of any kind of game without modifying it, without bothering developers, without crapping it up. We serve it with a standard double-click ad server.

"You sell it with standard media sales force, part of a standard IAB ad unit. It sells great, it's easy to scale, it is easy to explain, it is easy to measure, and it works for any kind of game."

Wild Tangent's ad revenues went up 400 per cent the minute they switched to this model in 2007.

"I came to the opinion that a lot of the in-game and some of these variations you've heard of out there - they're a lot of work, they take too much explanation, they actually don't make sense," St John said.

"Something as very simple as selling a game on a per session basis, and playing a pre-load video, works fantastically well for any kind of game."

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Latest comments (4)

Tameem Antoniades Creative Director & Co-founder, Ninja Theory Ltd13 years ago
At last someone talking some sense! Let's hope this puts a nail in the coffin for in-game ad models.
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Ed Bartlett Business Development 13 years ago
Tameem, what a ridiculous and uninformed statement, I would have expected better from you. Bad form mate. Not everyone can afford to sit under Sony's wing and spend years making cut scenes.

Look at the success independent developers like Nadeo have had with Trackmania Nations. It's now in the Guinness book of records as the most popular online racing sim thanks to a free-to-play, ad-supported model. They make their entire revenues from our ad revenues.

Frankly this article is full of misinformation. Since when did in-game advertising interrupt the gameplay!! The simple fact is that all of the meaningful 'in-game' inventory is tied up in multi-year deals with companies who understand the sector, and so companies like this on the periphery are trying to muddy the waters, without even understanding that an in-game billboard in a premium retail game and a 30-second preload before a web-based casual game are two totally different, non-competing offerings.

As for "brilliantly pioneering" the sector...come on!!! Are you for real?! Hive and Jam were out there doing paid deals into AAA retail titles 6 or 7 years ago, IGA and Massive were the first with dynamic in-game ad networks, IGA was the first to launch a dynamically enabled EA can't rewrite history.

As for increasing your revenues by 400%, it's only impressive if you have revenues in the first place.

Good job this St. John guy is an 'expert'...
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Tameem Antoniades Creative Director & Co-founder, Ninja Theory Ltd13 years ago

Easy does it! It's a pet hate of mine. Just like sitting-under-sony's-wing-and making-cut-scenes is yours! You make it sound so pleasant and easy!

Ads during loading screens and such gets a big thumbs up from me. It is trivial to implement and doesn't interfere with the game experience. Can't understand why this isn't already widespread. In the right context in-gameplay ads are fine too (sports etc).

From a creative pov, I violently do not want publishers to steer our game concepts to those that support in-gameplay ads.

I've already started to see publisher concept submission that have check-boxes for in-gameplay ad opportunities. I oppose it. It's my opinion


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Ed Bartlett Business Development 13 years ago

I'm sure you know that my Sony comment was specifically to illustrate how sweeping statements can be damaging and unfair. Nothing personal.

However, I still think there is a certain amount of misunderstanding here. Have you actually played any of our games with ads enabled? It is 100% pure context-driven environmental ads. We're talking racing, sports, city-based. We have the opportunity to do pre-roll and load screens but in fact all of the research shows that gamers LIKE the contextual in-environment stuff as it adds to the realism, but are very much against load screens and pre-roll, which is why I'm so surprised at the comments.

Our producers work hand-in-hand with the development teams to locate the ad placements in the environments and the developer and publisher gets to sign everything off, including every live campaign. We are not in the business of forcing uncontextual ads into irrelevant games, nor ever shall we be.
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