Nielsen Tackles Video Game Ratings

Audience measurement specialist Nielsen Media Research has unveiled plans to provide ratings for video games, giving marketers and advertisers a credible way to get statistical data on video game usage.

The New York-based company, best known for its television ratings data, said the new GamePlay Metrics service will track the activities of gamers across other media platforms — like TV and the Internet — to establish fresh methodologies for the buying and selling of advertising in video games.

GamePlay Metrics is the first project from the company’s newly created Nielsen Wireless and Interactive Services division. It will use the existing People Meter sample to harvest data from current and next-generation video game consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox, Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PlayStation.

The GamePlay Metrics service will passively record the titles of games while capturing key demographic details about players. Because it is based on Nielsen’s national TV ratings sample, the company promises that the service will provide advertisers with useful data on what TV programs are consumed by active gamers.

“This is pretty powerful,” said Brandon Berger, senior strategist for digital innovation at OgilvyOne. “It creates a credible source for gaming usage data. This gives us a way to look at the aggregated audience and figure out what’s successful and what’s not working. It sets up benchmarks for [gaming] ad campaigns.”

Starting in mid-2007, subscribing clients will receive weekly ratings charts and rankings showing the most-played video games. Clients will be given necessary elements — titles, platform, genre, daypart and demographics — from which to base their advertising and planning decisions, Nielsen said in a statement announcing the new service.

OgilvyOne’s Berger said the absence of credible usage data has been a major challenge for advertisers and marketers targeting active video gamers. “We’ve been pushing for these types of metrics across games, and across platforms. The ad-serving platforms offer some capabilities but Nielsen brings something more to the table. We’ll be able to figure out where the games are to target them based on how they interact with specific games,” Berger added.

Nielsen plans to sell the new measurement service to advertisers, agencies, hardware manufacturers and game developers, promising “independent, high-quality, quantitative demographic data” for negotiating the buying and selling of in-game and around-game advertising.

The company collects its audience data from about 5,000 People Meters placed in randomly selected households. Smaller markets are measured with viewer diaries during television “sweeps” periods. It also collects data on Internet use through an alliance with NetRatings.

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