New Gamer Site Aims to Cast Off Industry Advertisers

Video game enthusiast sites such as GameSpy, GamesRader, and GameSpot are dominated by advertising from game publishers, and as a result their reviews are often charged with bias. A new independent competitor, Crispy Gamer, hopes to overcome such criticisms by simply barring those advertisers.

“We want to serve the gamer culture with an honest voice and a contemporary community experience,” said President and CEO Chris Heldman. To that end, he said, “we will eliminate any perceived or actual sway dictated by ad dollars coming from the game publishers.”

The site began publishing in early 2008 and primarily ran Google AdWords for the first several months. Editor-in-chief John Keefer spent many years as the editorial director at GameSpy, which is now part of NewsCorp’s IGN. He has spent the last few months building a “game trust” of writers for the beta site. Keefer said his stable of freelancers tell him there are games they review on Crispy Gamer that they wouldn’t review on other sites.

“The advertisers we’re approaching, since we’re not going after the [game publishers], it’s going to be the big brands that are going to go after the gamer,” said Heldman. “Advertisers like Doritos, Axe Body Spray, Mountain Dew, those advertisers are already spending money in the gaming space.”

Additionally, the site today said it received an investment of $8.25 million in funding from Constellation Ventures and the company’s founders. The three founders fronting the money are Keefer; Chris Heldman, who was previously head of media and entertainment at Google; and COO Chris Hoerenz, previously CMO for eMusic.

Since Crispy Gamer is a new site and operates independently, the founders claim it can respond to advertising opportunities as they emerge. One of its principles: Keep ads-per-page to a minimum.

“We’re trying to cut down on clutter, and make sure we have a good user experience,” said Keefer.

Heldman added the site can “embed ads inside of the experience. In fact we think we can do it better than other sites that are doing it because… you don’t have the raging, screaming ad right next to it.”

Where video game ads do make an appearance on the site, it is clear the publisher is not the advertiser. There are cases where a retailer may purchase an ad for a specific game, or a brand advertiser such as a soda company may have a partnership with a game publisher and the ad may promote a game or contain cheat codes for a certain title.

“The game publisher dollars is what we don’t want,” Heldman told ClickZ. “If there is a clear distinction that this is an advertiser, not a game environment…what the beverage manufacturer is trying to get across is, they have a relationship with gaming.”

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