Cory Van Arsdale is stepping down from Microsoft, where he led Massive, the company’s in-game ad network. He’s replaced by JJ Richards, new general manager for Microsoft Advertising, who led the development of Xbox Live.
The change comes as Massive expands its relationship with game publisher Activision Blizzard and makes its first move into Web-based in-game advertising.
Richards’ responsibility for Massive is just one of a host of duties, which include targeting, data, privacy, analytics, and rich media. His purview spans Microsoft properties MSN, Hotmail, Messenger, Xbox, Office Live, and Windows Live.
Richards spent the past three years at Xbox as general manager of Xbox Live. Xbox Live, Marketplace, Arcade, Microsoft Points, and video chat via Xbox Live Vision are a few of the initiatives developed under Richards.
“He basically built the services business of Xbox Live while he was on the Entertainment Devices team,” said Ian Ali, national sales manager for Massive. “He was the first proponent of Microsoft acquiring Massive.”
Ali added, “With JJ coming on board, two things happen. We get a person who has had that initial vision of how Massive can really work within Microsoft gaming, and the network of Microsoft’s Xbox team. He can be a great bridge between the two teams and work holistically.”
Massive has continued to aggressively grow its network of publishers and game titles. Following the announcement of a multiyear, multi-title deal with THQ last week, the in-tame ad network today unveiled two separate deals with Activision Blizzard.
The companies renewed and expanded their multi-title in-game ad partnership, which spans 18 games and franchises, including “Guitar Hero: World Tour,” “James Bond: Quantum of Solace,” and the Tony Hawk franchise.
In-game ad networks including Massive are increasingly pushing for multi-year deals with game publishers. The Microsoft unit’s recent relationship with EA extends to 2010, for instance. The Activision Blizzard deal is more open-ended. Ali explained, “We’ve made the decision jointly in the wording of the agreement, we specifically didn’t call out the number of years.”
In another change, Massive has begun advertising on Web sites, beginning with Blizzard’s Battle.net. The site serves as a jumping-off point for Blizzard’s “Warcraft,” “StarCraft,” and “Diablo” series of games. Advertising on Battle.net is new; to date all advertising has consisted solely of house ads promoting other Blizzard properties. Ali said Blizzard reaches about 11 million gamers.
“I went to BlizzCon in Anaheim. I saw first hand the electricity, the energy of Blizzard gamers,” Ali said. “And now for the first time for us to have access to that large, loyal, energetic fan base is great for Massive and its partners.”
The appointment of JJ Richards and new and renewed agreements with Activision Blizzard are expected to be announced at Massive’s inaugural upfronts later today.
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