In something of an unusual twist of late, Google would appear to be playing catch up to Microsoft for once. The Redmond giants bought the market leader in the in-game advertising business, Massive Inc, last May for close on $200 million. Today Google has confirmed it has finalized the deal to buy an in-game advertising business itself, namely the relatively small San Francisco based Adscape. Relatively small describes the cost of the acquisition as well, although Google is keeping the actual figure close to its chest, the word on the vine is that $23 million is the order of the day. Whether that turns out to be a good value investment remains to be seen, especially as Microsoft/Massive already has hugely important deals with Ubisoft Entertainment, THQ and Take-Two Interactive wrapped up.
A Google spokesperson said that “as more and more people spend time playing video games, we think we can create opportunities for advertisers to reach their target audiences while maintaining a high quality, engaging user experience.”
The new Google ‘Dean of Games’ is Bernie Stolar, a former president of Sega Entertainment and Adscape executive. He claims that the cost of producing a single game has risen from an average $100K in the 1980’s to $25 million today, and that something is required to help fund these movie style productions. “The good news is there are some very passionate gamers out there that have come up with some interesting new ways to introduce non-intrusive and targeted advertising in order to make gaming accessible and affordable for all” Stolar insists.
I cannot say that I am overly excited by either deal, to be honest, as the thought of being immersed within the fantasy game playing environment only to be confronted by some very this worldly advertising fills me with dread. Sure, there is always the Hollywood movie product placement type marketing, which is less in your face. However, trying to find a product which fits perfectly into the background of an alien dreamscape or a World War Two scenario is rather unlikely.
It looks like I may well be in the minority with such an opinion, as a recent Forrester Research report suggests that only 33 percent of online households object to in-game advertising compared to 85 percent that dislike online pop-up ads.