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Imagine the ability to simultaneously reach thousands of consumers who are so passionate about a mass medium that it becomes a world they virtually inhabit.

That's the potential of the embryonic world of massively multiplayer online games. These games are purchased as software and played on a console or PC.

Some massively multiplayer online games "have hundreds of thousands of people paying subscriptions to play them," says P.J. MacGregor, VP-partner of Starcom MediaVest Group's SMG Play. "It is absolutely viable as a medium. Those numbers are only going to skyrocket."

Currently though, MMOGs consist primarily of shooter and role-playing games set in medieval or fantasy worlds-realms generally not considered ad-friendly. Gamers in a fantasy role-playing game would likely be upset if the Golden Arches were plopped down into their forest primeval.

Tim Harris, also VP-partner at SMG Play, warns marketers "don`t belong in the [fantasy] environment, but partnering with them on the movie-type angle does make sense.

"A couple have made a run for the mainstream [and include advertising], like [Electronic Arts'] `Sims Online.' It has up to 10,000 people at a time. They are paying a subscription fee every month. It is tremendously exciting to us because an MMOG is an ever-evolving experience."

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