Sims Venture Into Outside World Full of Advertising

Latest Version of Most Popular PC Title Will House Dynamic In-Game Ads

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- When "The Sims 3" launches in February, the popular video game promises to be more realistic than ever, thanks to improved graphics, better processing power and an increase in ads.
'The Sims 3' promises to be more realistic, with improved graphics, better processing power and an increase in ads.
'The Sims 3' promises to be more realistic, with improved graphics, better processing power and an increase in ads.

Yes, an increase in ads.

Electronic Arts, maker of "Sims 3," is working with IGA to provide dynamic in-game ads -- which can be switched in and out of the game via an internet connection -- to the latest version of what has become the world's most-played PC game. In its first new version in five years, "Sims" players will be able to venture beyond their houses and lots out into Pleasantville, where they can go to the movie theater, the sports arena or the grocery store. It's a more open experience, akin to newer online virtual worlds, although it's still a single-player game.

'Very organic'
"Advertising is very organic to the 'Sims 3' experience," said Steve Seabolt, VP-global brand development for the Sims label. Movie-theater posters and billboards will host ads, and EA will continue to integrate brands into the gameplay.

Mr. Seabolt cited an example involving an over-the-counter pain remedy. "Suppose your Sim had a tough day, or the Sim kids are out of control, maybe the Sim worked out -- that could be a moment for that particular pain relief," he said. "And they take that pain relief and feel restored, better rested ... less on edge."

Sims has previously done integrated deals, which can run into the seven figures, with retailers H&M and Ikea, letting users download branded content into the game. But Mr. Seabolt said H&M wanted to put billboards in the game to promote the fact that users could dress their Sims in the retailer's fashions. IGA now will sell those dynamic ad placements, and EA will sell the integrated ones, but where they can work together, they will.

Key to dynamic ads
Justin Townsend, CEO of IGA, said the key to dynamic ads is that they have developed standards that can work inside myriad games to create a network that gets advertisers more reach. However, he said, unlike many console games, "Sims" doesn't necessarily need to be bought as part of a network because it has such a broad reach. He said EA expects sales of "Sims 3" to eclipse those of "Sims 2."

According to Interpret's Gamemeasure, "Sims 2" reached about 16.5 million gamers, half of whom played within the past month. The average "Sims" gamer will spend 1.7 hours with the game per sitting and has spent 47.6 hours with the game in total.

Jay Krihak, senior partner-group director at MEC Interaction, said "Sims" 1 and "Sims 2" sold enough copies to warrant a look at "Sims 3," but he said the beauty of dynamic in-game ads is that marketers can take the time to see how the game sells in the first few weeks before deciding whether to dive in. What's more, time-consuming custom integrations can be created after the game officially launches.

Filling in the gaps
"You can solicit feedback from the community and get a sense of what the game's missing and chance that as a marketer you can address that," he said.

Indeed, advertisers share with game makers a desire to create something that fits within the game.

"If there's a way to enhance the gaming experience, there could be value for the advertiser," said Amanda Richman, senior VP-director of digital services, MediaVest. She also said in-game advertising could become even more important in a recession because it brings with it an escapist mind-set. "We may be seeing even greater demand in this economy at these times."
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