Jon Epstein's Take on an Exploding Industry

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Who: Jon Epstein, executive vice president and general manager of IGN Entertainment (formed through the merger of IGN and GameSpy Industries). In his position, Mr. Epstein
An image from the promotion of IGN's 'World WarCraft' game.

oversees all aspects of the company's media businesses, which include Web sites,, Rotten Tomatoes and TeamXbox, among others.

Age: 41

Credentials: Prior to IGN's merger, Mr. Epstein spent nearly three years as president of GameSpy, where he built on top of what was then a leading online gaming service to create a media and subscription powerhouse. Before that he was executive vice president of international at CNET and ZDNet, overseeing their overseas media businesses. Mr. Epstein also founded and served as CEO and president of GameSpot, the first professionally executed game-related site on the Internet, which was sold to ZDNet.

What is IGN's Madison & Vine play?
"The gamers and entertainment enthusiasts that visit our site are passionate about their games and their movies, and at the base level, our consumer advertising business is all about helping marketers connect with and harness those passions." IGN attracts an estimated 28 million visitors per month. "We know how to connect with them, and we have sophisticated research and data analytic tools to help us understand and share best practices on how to communicate with these audiences." IGN also operates gaming service sites such as, a game download destination;, the largest gaming distribution site; and GameSpy Arcade, the leading online gaming matchmaker, that "allow marketers to connect more tightly with the gamer."

What is it about games that attract advertisers?
"For the most part, it's not the games per se, but the gamers. The gaming generation, which is also the Internet generation, is just
An image from the promotion of IGN's 'World WarCraft' game.

not reachable through other media in the way they used to be. IGN's Web sites offer the highest concentration of males 18 to 34 and males 18 to 24 available online, in massive numbers. As importantly, gamers are, as a segment, now key arbiters of youth culture, so marketing to them has an impact well beyond just the gamer population. That said, big games are now cultural events. The 'Halo 2' launch comes to mind. When that many consumers get that excited about a game, what demographically focused marketer would not want to play?"

Have advertisers figured out what to do with games yet or how to use them to their advantage?
"Definitely not. That's the fun part. The next few years will be the crucible out of which the future of branded interactive entertainment will emerge."

There are different gaming platforms -- consoles, online, mobile. Is one better than another for a brand looking to integrate themselves into a property?
"The different platforms offer different demographics. Different game genres attract different demographics. Then the platforms themselves have different technological aspects, at least currently, which make them each suitable for different things. Online gamers are of course connected by definition, allowing for massive interaction and updated messaging. Consoles are for the most part not yet connected, although this is changing, which means to reach the broader console audience you need to consider a more fixed approach. [And] mobile devices lack the bandwidth of the connected Internet devices and also lack the screen size, but interacting with them can happen at any time or any place."

What trends involving advertisers and the gaming industry are you seeing?
"Gaming is now recognized as the mainstream and preferred entertainment pursuit of its generation, whereas a few years ago we had to apologize in some cases for the gamer, and being leaders in gaming was a black mark, not a positive, among marketers. We don't hear that any more."

Where will these deals be going?
Up, in volume, size, and prominence.

What's next for IGN?
"IGN is set on its course to be the leading player in the in-game advertising field. The company's technology business unit is the leading provider of online middleware to games publishers and developers. With that in place, a marketer can do the ultimate Madison & Vine hat trick -- to reach the entertainment and gaming enthusiasts through advertising on the Internet's most popular Web sites for gamers, build amazing custom promotions using IGN's interactive services, and promote the brands within the games themselves."

Are you a gamer? What do you play?
"Yes and no. I like to win, which pretty much counts me out of most traditional gaming genres given who I work with. That leaves me with puzzle games. But I play to stay up, and I play with my girls [age 6 and 9]." Currently playing: "Donkey Konga," "Katamari Damacy," "Karaoke Revolution," "Fable," "The Incredibles," "Toontown Online" and "Super Monkey Ball 2."

What appeals to you about the gaming industry?
"The people involved in it. They are dynamic, visionary and fun. The other most exciting element is that, unlike most media, it is still evolving. The games of this year look nothing like the games of three years ago, and will likely look very different five years from now."