Atom Entertainment launched a developer studio for Shockwave.com, its gaming portal, to develop new ad-supported titles for the site and work with marketers on integrated sponsorships and branded games.
The company also redesigned Shockwave.com to make it more user- and advertiser-friendly, and introduced a paid service that comes sans advertisements.
An executive described the game development initiative in grand terms, characterizing it as an unprecedented investment in online games and their potential as ad vehicles.
“It reflects that we feel that casual gaming is going to be driven increasingly by advertising over the next couple years,” said Dave Williams, chief marketing officer of Atom Entertainment and general manager of Shockwave.com. “We work with dozens, if not hundreds, of developers around the world. We’re tapping that network to create an industry around online game development as there is now around downloaded game development.”
For advertisers wishing to integrate their brands more tightly with a game, Shockwave will charge a game development fee. That charge is part of an overall advertising and distribution package that covers, among other things, how the game will be promoted across the site. In this way, Shockwave.com can usually guarantee a minimum number of game plays. If a game exceeds the number of plays promised to the advertiser the Web site earns no additional revenue on the surplus. It’s all gravy for the marketer.
“[Users] might not blog the game, they might not come back and play it again, but we can guarantee a reasonable amount of game play,” said Williams. “What we’ve found is that for good games that do get a lot of repeat play, we’ll blow away the targets.”
In addition to inventing new games, Shockwave’s studio unit will work with advertisers who wish to integrate their brands with games or to place an existing advergame on Shockwave.com. In cases where such a branded game isn’t up to the quality standards of the site, Williams said the new division will work with the advertiser to improve it.
“We’ve had several instances where we helped an advertiser retool the game to make it better,” he said. “Because we play in the consumer space and we’re not just a developer, we have hundreds of games and we know exactly how often those games are played.”
Certain titles created by the studio will be added to Shockwave.com’s in-game ad network, which launched in November 2005. It’s since grown to four games with approximately 12 million monthly impressions. The company reports numerous advertisers have placed campaigns in the network including Intel, Microsoft Game Studios, Sprint/Nextel and TAG.
Ad products available through Shockwave.com include category sponsorships, an array of in-game billboards, pre-roll placements, and standard in-page units such as banners, boxes and skyscrapers. Of these, Williams said pre-roll are the most profitable, effective and easy to sell. He says the company has seen 15 percent click through rates on those units.
As part of the recent changes, Shockwave.com is also launching an ad-free premium gaming service. For between $5 and $10 per month, “Shockwave Unlimited” members can play as many games as they want with no time constraints or advertisements.
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