NeoEdge Launches Ad-Supported Game Player

Casual game destination NeoEdge has introduced a downloadable game player, titled Most Fun, and game developers publishing for the player will receive a 50 percent revenue split on the ad-supported titles.

The Most Fun player is downloaded to a consumer’s desktop. In addition to searching for games, users can have the player notified about new games through a delivery method similar to an RSS feed. Most Fun simplifies procurement by matching games with players’ preferences and installing in one click.

“Studies show in three to four clicks gamers abandon the game,” said Vic Mahadevan, CEO of NeoEdge, about the simplified delivery of games to the player. He said the one-click install appeals to NeoEdge’s target audience: women over 20. It’s an audience the company claims is as difficult to market to, if not more so, than men aged 18 to 34.

Most Fun is launching today with approximately 25 games, with plans to expand to 50 titles soon. Publishers including Blockdot, eGames and ValueSoft are supplying some of the initial games for Most Fun.

The advertising model consists of pre-roll, post-roll, interstitial and additional in-game ad units, and NeoEdge plans to add product integration. “This is really good for everybody; it’s a win-win. Consumers get to play unlimited games; if they don’t like the ads they can purchase the game,” said Mahadevan. “It’s [also] a win-win for the publishers, it dramatically bolsters [the] publisher, and allows them to build better games.”

NeoEdge has partnered with ad sales agencies to sell the advertisements, including Engage, an in-game advertising agency that is charged with bringing brands to the table. “One of our roles is to represent the inventory,” said David Smith, president and co-founder of Engage. “It is a tight partnership, so once we bring in the client, we work together.”

Smith likes the Most Fun model for its “integrity for maintaining the user experience,” he said, adding, “A lot of players can leave a bad taste in your mouth.”

The typical casual game site model of offering a free, light version of a game to encourage users to buy a downloadable version is being replaced by full, ad-supported versions through revenue shares between the site and game developers, NeoEdge predicts. The company’s revenue share of 50 percent is higher than competitive casual game sites. Microsoft’s recently announced revenue sharing plan gives 10 to 20 percent of advertising revenues to developers, depending on their level of participation.

“Publishers make a lot of money just by selling the game,” said Srikanth Desikan, VP of products and marketing at NeoEdge. “I think the incentive has to be fifty-fifty.”

Revenue sharing, while criticizerd by some developers, is adapting to consumer behaviors, according to Billy Pidgeon, program manager of analyst firm IDC’s consumer markets gaming program. “The publishers have been demanding a piece of that revenue because it’s outstripped the growth of paid downloads,” Pidgeon told ClickZ News. “I expect providers of games will be getting greater and greater share of the advertising pie from games distributors.”

The ad-supported model also benefits casual game players, according to Engage’s Smith. “Consumers are looking for new content to play and it starts to get expensive,” said Smith. “If you can play those games as much as you like for free, in exchange for advertising, it’s not as intrusive. More unique users are coming to the game sites for free, liking the fact that it’s not hurting their pocketbook.”

Meanwhile the reporting capabilities NeoEdge and Engage are able to offer helps brands aid sales statistics. “The ROI is almost instant gratification,” said Smith. “If we run a campaign, we can verify exposure. For a lot of the deeper product integrations we do in console games, it’s harder to gauge the experience.”

Unlike many competing casual game sites, which are Web-based, Most Fun is a downloadable player, having earned certification from TRUSTe‘s Trusted Download Program. The Most Fun application is among the first eight downloadable programs to be whitelisted.

“The program is new, just launched on Thursday last week,” said Carlyn Hodge, marketing director of TRUSTe. “We’re really pleased to have so many different types of companies, including NeoEdge, which is an interesting platform for gaming. You only see the ads when you are using the application.”

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