|AtomShockwave's network will consist of a growing stable of online games into which ads can be dynamically inserted. Click the above images to see actual ad placements.
The company certainly knows now.
AtomShockwave has launched the Shockwave.com Immersive Network, a platform that will place multiple advertisers within the company’s popular games. The first to feature brands will be the title "Switch Wakeboarding," with other games to be added to the network in the coming months.
The company has already signed up Sprint, SBC Communications and Sony Pictures to use the company’s new product.
In the new network, a brand’s logo can appear on anything from billboards or on the sides of vehicles within the gameplay.
AtomShockwave, which operates the Shockwave.com and AtomFilms.com sites, as well as AddictingGames.com, hopes to feature up to five companies in rotation in a single game. An advertiser could also buy all of the impressions within a game for a period of time.
Last month, Shockwave.com attracted 22 million unique visitors who played more than 25 million game sessions. The company offers more than 200 games.
“The challenge for us is making sure that the advertising is integrated in a way that doesn’t interrupt game play and feels natural,” said Dave Williams, general manager of Shockwave.com. “We’re working hard to make sure that the ads feel natural.”
The company previously produced brand-backed games for companies like Dodge, Radio Shack, McDonald’s and Honda, and was starting to receive an increasing number of requests from other advertisers looking to hire AtomShockwave to create their own titles, often referred to as advergames.
Marketers have been seeking access to AtomShockwave’s lucrative young audience -- young males who play the company’s action games and older females attracted to its puzzle games.
Earlier this month, the company bolstered its demos by acquiring AddictingGames, a heavily trafficked directory of casual games on the Web. The purchase not only gave AtomShockwave an additional 5 million unique users per month, but also a concentration of mostly 12- to 24-year-old males.
The company’s "Red Line Rumble" game, initially created for Radio Shack, has recorded more than 70 million game plays. The "Dodge Charger Hemi-Highway" has generated more than 1 million game plays in just four weeks.
But given its limited resources, AtomShockwave’s staff just couldn’t handle the extra workload to create an individual game for every advertiser that wanted one.
It’s not that the potential revenue wasn’t attractive. An advergame for a single advertiser can start in the six figures and go up from there. Comparably, prices to advertise in the Shockwave.com Immersive Network range from the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“We were doing a lot of business with advergames, but there was increased interest in getting brands integrated into content,” Mr. Williams said. “Advergames are great for a single marketer, but they often take months to develop and can be expensive for the advertiser. They do take time to get running. If an advertiser wants to do a game quickly, the in-game strategy is a great option.”
In addition to in-game advertising, Shockwave.com will continue to offer advertisers packages to air spots before games or integrate themselves throughout the Shockwave.com site.
Initially, the Shockwave.com Immersive Network will be able to deliver a minimum of 10 million to 12 million impressions per month, according to the comapny. It hopes to increase that to 50 million impressions a month by early 2006, as more games are added to the network
Ad impressions will generally run from three to seven seconds in action games, though they could be much longer in some games, for example in racing games, where ads can be displayed on the hood of a car.
AtomShockwave isn’t the only player in the in-game advertising space.
Massive dominates the in-game ad business with its own network. Meanwhile other firms like WildTangent and Double Fusion have increased their own efforts to go after advertisers’ dollars when it comes to producing advergames or negotiating in-game ads.
And for good reason.
More than a third of the Internet’s active users are said to visit online gaming sites, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, and have made in-game advertising a $500 million business, according to the Yankee Group. That number is expected to climb dramatically over the next few years. The in-game ad market could top $1 billion by 2010. That’s still miniscule compared with the $22 billion that cable TV and $12 billion that Internet ads generate.