SONY ONLINE OFFERS NEW AD OPTIONS: MORE PAY-FOR-PLAY GAMES ALSO PART OF DRIVE TO INCREASE REVENUE

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In an effort to increase revenue, Sony Online Entertainment this week begins offering marketers new advertising models and adding more pay-per-play games.

The fall marketing push supporting the changes includes a revamped look for its Web site, The Station@sony.com (www.station.sony.com), and a new advertising tagline, "We've got your game."

Two of the new games are multiplayer versions of "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" with new advertising formats. On "Wheel of Fortune," advertisers will be able buy space on an "incentive button."

FREE VOWEL & AD MESSAGE

Before starting a game, for example, players who click on the button will get a free vowel or free spin -- along with an advertiser's message.

The other type of ad, on both "Wheel" and "Jeopardy!" pops up between rounds or between games.

No advertisers have committed to the new models yet. Both formats are part of an effort to offer advertisers alternatives to the banner ads that traditionally appear at the top of a Web site.

The other new games, Fantasy War and ChronX, will be pay-for-play. Previously, only Tanarus was a paid game, with a monthly subscription fee. Pricing is still undetermined on the new pay-for-play games.

"We've been ad-supported and now we're going to go out for more customer-fee driven revenue," said Lisa Simpson, president of Sony Online Entertainment. "So we're looking at pay-per-play, subscription and pay-per-power models . . . but we're not going to be overly aggressive in implementing customer fees."

FEE-BASED TOURNAMENTS

Richard Gehorsam, VP-programming for Sony Online Entertainment, said while the new "Wheel" and "Jeopardy!" multiplayer games are free, The Station@sony.com plans to soon add tournaments that will include fees.

"With our strengths of the Sony legacy, the brand strength of our games, our experience in creating games and integrated marketing, we feel it's possible for us to enjoy a business model of a strong advertising-driven site and begin to build a strategy or test some of the user fee opportunities," he said.

To promote the new lineup and look, Sony will run an online and traditional print trade advertising campaign with undetermined spending. Next month, it also begins 8-second spots on its syndicated shows "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" and the Game Show Network.

The ads are being done in-house.

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