Then you've got in-game ad sellers -- any number of companies who have made a business brokering deals between video-game publishers and advertisers.
Alliances and exclusive partnerships abound among these three relationships, so if you want to advertise on Xbox Live, you have to go through Microsoft-owned Massive. For ads in PC games, there are brokers Double Fusion, Google-owned Adscape and IGA (Massive also works with PC games). Beginning this year, Sony will be opening its PlayStation Network to all comers (with the obvious exception of Microsoft-owned Massive). In addition, Sony has hired an internal in-game-ad executive, Darlene Kindler, to oversee all aspects of its open-ended PlayStation Network.
HOW BIG CAN THE IN-GAME-ADVERTISING BUSINESS REALLY GET?
HOW ABOUT DYNAMIC ADVERTISING?
CAN I BUY AROUND THE CONTENT, LIKE IN OTHER MEDIA?
WHY ARE SO MANY PUBLISHERS OFFERING FREE, ADVERTISING-BASED PC GAMES?
WHAT ARE MICROTRANSACTIONS?
WHAT ROLE WILL THE CASUAL-GAMING MARKET PLAY FOR ADVERTISERS MOVING FORWARD?
CAN I TARGET CERTAIN GAMING AUDIENCES?
'U.S. Interactive Marketing Forecast, 2007 to 2012,' October 2007
Source: NPD Group's 'Kids and Digital Content' report (2007 edition)
CASE STUDYMarch means one thing to millions of college-basketball fans around the country: the road to the NCAA Final Four. Pontiac and 2K Sports are entering the third year of a partnership that combines 2K Sports' "College Hoops 2K8" with Pontiac's overall sponsorship of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The two created a contest that allows online gamers the chance to win a trip to the Final Four (April 5-7 in San Antonio) and a 2009 Pontiac Vibe GT.
"Last year more than 6,500 people registered for the tournament, and over 230,000 online games were played during qualification to get into the tournament," said Mark Goodrich, marketing manager for basketball at 2K Sports.
Matt Story, director at Denuo Play, which works with Pontiac on video-game integration, said the program involves integration of real-world variables in "College Hoops 2K8," such as 2008 team lineups and digitized CBS sportscasters; the virtual tournament, which culminates in a live event with more than 60,000 fans at the Pontiac Garage in San Antonio; and distributed content delivered contextually via relevant channels.
"Touching nearly every media contact point, the [program] uses media/creative executions in broadcast, event, gaming, internet and sports platforms to drive participation in the tournament amongst hard-core gamers and, more importantly, deliver college-basketball entertainment content to the general NCAA men's basketball fan," Mr. Story said in an e-mail interview.
While Pontiac wouldn't release any numbers to show the competition's impact on car sales, Mr. Story did say that each year has seen more positive brand exposure, and he expects this year to be no exception.
"No other marketing program in history has made such a concerted, effective and broad-based effort to leverage a game experience and the content it generates as a brand message," Mr. Story said. "The brand impact and buzz that the Pontiac Virtual NCAA Final Four produces every year has in turn made this program into an institution that players and basketball fans alike will actively seek."
Mr. Goodrich added that 2K Sports, which has the highest-rated and best-selling college-basketball video game on the market, gets a lot of coverage in print and online media, on TV, and live at the final event.
"Microsoft also has helped to promote the tournament on Xbox Live," Mr. Goodrich said. "It all really meshes well together with the cultural phenomenon that the NCAA tournament has become."
This could be 2K Sports' last year with the contest. The company has broken off talks with the Collegiate Licensing Co., which handles the NCAA sports license, and canceled its "College Hoops 2K9" game, which was due out this November. EA Sports, which makes rival "March Madness 08" and the 09 game, is a potential future partner for Pontiac.