Microsoft is preparing to acquire two-year-old video game ad network Massive Inc. for between $200 and $400 million, according to a report today in the Wall Street Journal.
Microsoft and Massive both declined to comment.
Massive has rapidly built a large network of video game publishers whose inventory it represents to advertisers. It went relatively unchallenged in the space until last year, when similar companies began to emerge. These have included Double Fusion and IGA Partners. IGN Entertainment, News Corp.'s recently acquired gaming media network, has also launched an in-game ad representation business, but has reportedly not made great headway.
The company has signed publishers at the rate of more than two a month. Recent network additions include Acclaim, NCsoft North America and 2K Sports, a label of Take-Two Interactive. Among its bigger deals was an agreement with Funcom, reached last year.
So far the biggest game publishers -- companies like Electronic Arts, Sony and Activision -- have largely steered clear of outsourcing their ad sales to third party firms. A Microsoft purchase of Massive would likely further deter them from partnering with the company, or it could cause them to snatch up Massive's competitors in a bid to provide equal services to advertisers.
Microsoft has already stated its plans to add the Xbox to its adCenter ad management platform, but has so far lacked the technology or sales expertise to effectively broker and traffic campaigns in video games.
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