Ad strategists target video games

By Jesse NoyesThursday, April 20, 2006 - Updated: 01:14 AM EST
Advertisers are getting into the game - the video game.
Increasingly big-name marketers are turning to game developers to woo consumers more interested in the game controller than the remote control.
“The fact is you aren’t able to reach consumers the same way you could 20 years ago, 10 years ago or maybe even five years ago,” said Jon Raj, vice president of advertising and emerging media platform for Visa USA.
Visa ingrained itself into Ubisoft’s PC title “CSI 3” by making the credit card company’s identity theft protection part of the game’s plot. “We didn’t just want to throw our billboard or put our Visa logo out there,” Raj said.
Visa isn’t the only brand getting into the virtual action. In-game advertising is expected to double to nearly $350 million by next year, and hit well over $700 million by 2010, according to a report released this week by research firm the Yankee Group.
Bay State game creators are already reporting an uptick in interest from marketers wanting to roll real- life ads into fantasy worlds.
“I’ve seen increased interest here and throughout the industry,” said Joe Brisbois, vice president of business development for Cambridge-based Harmonix Music Systems. Harmonix’s last offering “Guitar Hero” featured a variety of Gibson guitars.
“People don’t know how this is all going to pan out yet,” Brisbois said, adding the market will likely boom once customers can buy products without turning off the game. “Once people are able to jump from a game to a retail space online and back, that will be a powerful motivator,” he said.
With more ad dollars pouring into the industry some smaller players are hopeful they’ll see some of the cash.
Even smaller developers producing addictive games will share in the wealth, said Michael Gesner, president of Dragonfly Game Design in Westboro.
Companies crafting cell phone games are also expected to see a boom in marketing revenue. Spikes in advertising through online, console and PC games will translate into the mobile world as well, said Matthew Bellows, general manager and vice president of Floodgate Entertainment, which makes games for mobile phones.

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