IGN Begins Selling, Serving Ads in Games

IGN Entertainment is rolling out an in-game advertising product to online video game publishers and offering them its own sales staff to support their efforts.

Best known for its media holdings at IGN.com and RottenTomatoes.com, IGN will offer game publishers a proprietary ad management product developed by its technology group. Publishers have the option of selling ads in-house or outsourcing sales to IGN.

No publishers have yet been announced, but the company has already implemented other of its technology offerings in approximately 300 games. These will likely be a starting point for the ad management product.

If several publishers opt to let IGN sell ad programs in their games, IGN would effectively run an ad hoc media network. The company prefers to characterize its external ad sales operation as a service.

“If game publishers drive us toward a network approach and they’re not worried about the commoditization of games, certainly we’re in a position to do that,” said David Tokheim, IGN’s VP of marketing. “We’re trying to let the publishers lead.”

The news raised some ad watchers’ eyebrows. They believe IGN’s game coverage on the media side and its in-game technology ought not exist under one roof. Tom Biro, author of the AdJab blog, attacked the new offering on his site, calling it “shady” to draw revenue from publishers while covering them editorially.

His comments were echoed by other gaming pundits, who say it’s an inherent conflict when a negative game review can result in reduced sales of a game, therefore lowering commissions for its technology and ad sales groups.

Tokheim rejects the criticism. “Our success is based upon providing our readers an objective, informative voice,” he said.

The company has offered other in-game technology components for about four years. Its R&D efforts in the tech group have so far been geared mainly toward enabling various tracking and multiplayer gaming functions.

This move in the in-game advertising space pits IGN directly against Massive, which gradually built a network of publishers willing to carry dynamically served ads. Earlier this year, Massive struck a deal with Nielsen to gather metrics in the gaming environment.

IGN’s extensive editorial network covers games and other entertainment, as well as a large file distribution network, FilePlanet, which offers demos, betas, and patches.

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