Matthew Carr, senior director-Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions, said the stunt was a "chance to show off emerging media in general," although the focus was clearly on games.
The promotion included a video that showed examples of in-game advertising interspersed with facts about the gaming demographic. One corner sign focused on Xbox and Microsoft video games, while the other focused on casual games like the ones on MSN. Both highlighted the ability of Massive and the digital solutions group to connect advertisers to the market.
Although the casual game market, which is largely female, has opportunities for in-game advertising, more attention was placed on the possibilities available within serious games, such as the ones that are played on Xbox.
Jay L. Sampson, VP-North America and Asia-Pacific Sales, Massive, pointed out the five types of advertising on offer: advertising around a web-based game, dynamic advertising, sponsorships, integration within a game, and developing a game specifically for a brand. Approaches like advertising around a web-based game are great for casual gamers, but there is more excitement with what can be down with the other four methods, especially for hard-core gamers.
All of these methods are not new, and some have been occurring for years. For example, most gamers are used to seeing brands placed on billboards, courts, fields and tracks in a sports video game. This simulates reality, while allowing for brand presence. As Mr. Sampson pointed out, people expect to see advertising at a sporting event, so this makes a better experience for the gamer. Also internet games have long used advertising in a variety of methods, from banners to sponsorships, to interrupted game ads.
The reality aspect is huge when it comes to in-game advertising. "If you advertise directly to them, they'll call us and say leave me alone," says Pedro Gutierrez Jr., lead product planner, Xbox New Media. Gamers don't mind advertising, but do not want the experience to be interrupted. "The player is very focused on the game. It is a less cluttered space, and you want the advertising to be done seamlessly," he added.
While the benefits of static advertising have been noted, Massive, Microsoft and Xbox are interested in showing the benefits of dynamic advertising. Because of systems like Xbox Live, advertisers can change their advertisements along with the system. A player playing the game on Thursday can see an advertisement for a movie premiering that weekend, and a completely different ad when playing the following Monday. The dynamic ability of Massive was one of the key features mentioned in the billboard advertisement.
Still, while Microsoft execs were quick to talk about the various benefits of in-game advertising, they did note that some games could not contain advertisements. "We don't put brands into every game. We're very selective with brands that we put in," said Mr. Carr. "Halo 3," which premiered on the same day as the advertisement, was one game that could not contain in-game advertising although several companies did advertising surrounding the launch, such as Best Buy, Pepsi and Discovery Networks. Mr. Gutierrez cited fan opinion as well as the content of the game as factors preventing in-game advertising for "Halo 3."