According to game distributor RealNetworks, the sweet spot for in-game ads has turned out to be “casual games” — those simple but engaging Tetris-like puzzles, word challenges and card games that even people who don’t play online games will kill a few minutes with.
“They’re games that are easy to learn but hard to master,” says Chris Houtzer, new media games director at RealNetworks. “You can play them for hours on end without getting all the game play out of them.”
Until last year, RealNetworks offered the games over the Web on a “try and buy” basis. Users got a 60-minute free taste and then had to pay to continue. That didn’t give buyers a lot of time to fall in love with the product, and it made for a 2% industrywide purchase rate.
So last year the company began working with Eyeblaster’s eb.in-games platform to interpolate ads. Users can now opt for the short ad-free trial or for virtually unlimited free use with ads — anything from a logo on a solitaire deck to streamed video inserted at natural game breaks such as between levels. Users can click on the ads, pausing the game, and be taken to an advertiser’s landing page, then re-enter the game at the same point. If they buy the game, the ads are disabled.
“These users indulge in ‘game snacks’ lasting 20 minutes to an hour,” says Ran Cohen, emerging tech director at Eyeblaster. “Advertisers are getting access to users who are blocking out other messages for that time.” The results for marketers can be enhanced brand awareness among women over 30 (casual games’ largest audience), but also increased clickthrough traffic to Web sites.
Results have played fair with RealNetworks, too. With 4 million ad-enabled game downloads between June 2006 and last February, the ads have pulled a 10% clickthrough rate, and 74% of those who watched the video did so to the end, racking up 40 million ad impressions. RealNetworks’ revenue per game download increased by an average of 300% — revenue that will be shared with game developers.