In-Game Ad Growth Moves Casual

Casual game sites are exploring new ad formats such as banner ads, in-game ad units, sponsored sessions, and skinned games, representing opportunities for advertisers to reach consumers and subsidize gaming experiences.

These new experiences, and the snackable style of Web-based games, gives the channel the potential to more than double between 2007 and 2012, according to a video game advertising report compiled by eMarketer.

The casual game channel has the potential to grow at a faster rate than console and PC-based games, said eMarketer senior analyst Paul Verna.

“It’s a combination of the fact that casual games lend themselves very well to both monetization. It’s an audience that doesn’t expect a full, intense experience as the console version,” he said.

Casual game developers have made ad models successful for some time, and continue to work with new models. The casual games category has even become an attractive category for in game ad networks including Double Fusion. Double Fusion had previously focused on games distributed through retail.

The report forecasts ad spending in Web-based games will go from $205 million in 2007 to an estimated $368 million in 2009, and $478 million in 2012. That is still dwarfed by other online ad formats, such as search engine marketing which is expected to reach $10 billion this year, according to one estimate.

Casual games allow for more opportunities for advertising than console titles, said Verna. Banners are an easy insertion. Advertisers can also buy pre-roll or interstitials or load screens. Some publishers and developers are starting to allow ad units to be integrated into the game as product placements and banners.. These are dynamic units and can be swapped out each time a game is loaded. Games can also be skinned with a brand’s logo or creative.

Whether browser-based or downloadable, casual games are typically lighter content than console titles. There’s some crossover of casual games to the console with Xbox Live (define) and similar offerings on the PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii systems. “There is definitely growth potential there, the console makers know it,” said Verna.”

Once the console environments expand their casual base, the advertising will fill in. Until then, advertising for the casual market will primarily be Web based.

“We see the online and casual space is growing faster because it’s so naturally suited for the advertiser,” Verna said.

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