Video game publisher Electronic Arts plans to ditch its ad sales reps Massive and IGA this summer - just as in time for the release of the latest Madden NFL game, a top seller.
Recognizing the potential for selling their dynamic in-game ads direct to advertisers, EA held its inaugural upfront event in New York on Monday as it pitched its range of properties to major advertisers and media buyers. The company said it will take sales operations for its dynamic in-game ads in-house, ending its relationships with networks Massive Inc. and IGA Worldwide for all of its titles released from August onwards.
During the event - which featured a range of audio and visual content throughout -executives including CEO John Riccitiello and Peter Moore, president of the firm's high-profile EA Sports brands, took turns demonstrating in-game sponsorship and ad opportunities the company's upcoming releases might feature. Those releases included major franchises such as its Madden football and Fifa soccer titles, alongside the more casual and social gaming properties in its Playfish and EA Mobile divisions.
Riccitiello described how the company began promoting its own brands successfully within its games, before realizing it could offer its audience to paying advertisers. "We're at the beginning of a new media in the advertising world," he said, claiming that second to search and TV advertising, EA could offer greater potential reach than anyone else in the U.S. The wide appeal of consoles such as the Nintendo Wii means "it's not just boys in their bedrooms any more," he said.
During her address, Elizabeth Harz, SVP for global media sales, touted EA's content as "the best in the world, reaching the most engaged, forward-leaning user base." She said the company also realized advertisers weren't concerned with the platforms through which they reach consumers - such as Microsoft-owned Massive - but more about the EA brands themselves.
As a result, the company made the decision to bring its sales operations in-house across all platforms and brands, cutting its ad network partners out of the loop. Massive and IGA will continue to represent EA content that is currently live in their networks, but following the release of Madden NFL 11 in August all dynamic display ads will be sold directly by EA.
Massive sold dynamic display inventory to the Obama campaign back in 2008, and ads were served into EA's X-Box-based NBA basketball game. That type of campaign will now be available from EA directly, Harz said.
Another point of interest during the upfront was the repeated reference to the gaming capabilities of Apple's forthcoming iPad device, and the opportunities it might present. Michael Marchetti, SVP for EA Interactive, said the company was "really excited" about the device, and that it will launch a dedicated iPad version of its popular Sims 3 game alongside its launch on April 3rd. Although it's not clear if that incarnation will include advertiser content, the PC-based version has previously included product placement from brands such as clothing retailer H&M.
Marchetti also emphasized the growing trend of casual and mobile gamers, claiming EA is the top developer on Apple's AppStore, and that it currently commands around a third of the mobile gaming market overall. He also described Facebook as the "largest gaming platform in the world," alluding to the explosion of games such as Scrabulous and Farmville over the past year. He estimated the casual gaming market would grow its revenue 59 percent by 2012, a "large portion of which will come from advertising.
Elsewhere in the videogame world, news and reviews-focused site IGN announced new ad formats across its site yesterday as it seeks to attract ad dollars around gaming-related content. The new formats, launched with sponsorship from gaming title Final Fantasy XIII, include leaderboard ads with pushdown functionality and page skins opportunities.
Upcoming summer releases from EA include Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 11, 2010 Fifa World Cup South Africa, and Madden NFL 11.
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Jack Marshall was a staff writer and stats editor for ClickZ News from 2007 until August 2011.
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