Google is finally venturing into the uncharted territory that they’ve been itching to probe for quite sometime now—online gaming. The company has just introduced its new network, AdSense for Games, which will insert intermittent advertisements into online (primarily Flash-based) games. In much the same vein as online video advertisements, the ads will run before, during or after the game is played and cannot be skipped.
The game ads are part of an attempt by Google to push into new and different ad markets, a move that was prefigured in February 2007 when Google purchased Adscape, a portal for game advertising, for $23 million. Google is actually late to the game here (pun intended). Their bid for Adscape came on the heels of Microsoft’s 2006 purchase of in-game ad leader Massive.
Riding shotgun in the bandwagon, Yahoo has recently scooped up competing game ad networks NeoEdge and Double Fusion. Apparently, Google has tapped out all of the other ad markets so that they’re now beginning to care about the millions of 18-35 year old nerds who have long been ditching television in favor of more interactive forms of amusement.
From what I’ve read on forums and postings so far, Google’s attempt to shank captive gamers with 15 to 30-second ads isn’t sitting well with its target audience. Cries of “Nooooo, I was just about to level up!” are bound to be heard from computer desks around the world, as a between-level ad promoting weight loss drug Hoodia beckons flabby cave-dwelling gamers to get fit and trim without leaving the comfort of their cushy office chairs and oily keyboards. You can almost envision South Park’s Cartman screeching “What the h—l!” as an ad chastising his double-chinned physique interrupts his mesmerizing 2-D video game.
Murmurs of revolt are stirring among hackers everywhere. Ad blocker? I smell a challenge. I love playing video games as much as the average person does, which is to say that I love playing games that are easily accessible and which don’t require me to waste even more of my time trying to learn how to play them or waiting for them to load. It’s a consumer mentality that Nintendo has exploited with the Wii and that has lead people to believe that hardcore gamers and consumers in general aren’t going to like the idea of Adsense for Games. But I’m optimistic.
Electronic Arts, for one, has already begun incorporating product placement ads into the highly successful Sims game, which is noticeable but not too intrusive. I base this entirely on the fact that I continue to play The Sims with anticipation of the latest accoutrements, strategically placed or otherwise. But The Sims is obviously a perfect format for product placement. It’d be a little weird if your Level 8 Gnome Hunter were showering with Axe shave gel. Or maybe what the nerds say is true. In the world of online gaming, anything is possible.