Trade Show Creates Big Video Game Site Stir

Video gamers will avidly follow next month’s annual video game trade show, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), on the Web. Video game publishers and consumer marketers vie for placement on many game sites to reach the sought-after male 18 to 34 year-old audience.

The show takes place in Los Angeles from May 10 though 12. Most gaming sites can expect heightened traffic around the show. Fox Interactive’s IGN Entertainment Director of Marketing Jennifer McLean says E3 is when the site gets the most traffic and interest during the entire year. Traffic begins to build two week prior to the show and continues the week following. The volume of visitors the site receives is rivaled only by the holiday season.

IGN and its partner site GameSpy.com leverage content across both properties. They also run an E3 supersite that acts as a homepage to aggregate the show’s top content. The site branches out to each platform and includes show news. The focused site offers both advertising and sponsorship opportunities. The index page on each site hosts an integrated header sponsors can utilize for brand messaging. Included are the same standard ad units that run throughout IGN and GameSpy, roadblocks and video enabled units. McLean said most inventory sold out in January, and sponsorship opportunities are mostly booked.

CNET’s GameSpot.com creates an immersive experience. “We send our editors, producers, GameSpot live crew, and we make it so that if you’re a 26 year-old kid sitting in Topeka, Kan., you can actually experience E3 sitting at your computer,” said GameSpot.com’s SVP of Sales and Marketing Suzie Reider. “E3 is a trade-only event, and there are kids all over the world that would give their left arm to be there.”

GameSpot.com intends to stream the press conferences held by each of the console manufacturers live. It will host a stage with interviews and also send crews out to film events throughout the show.

Marketers have opportunities to pair their brand with E3. “We cover the show and package it up in a way that elements can be brought to you by various consumer marketers,” said Reider. She adds the relationship must fit the opportunity. “For a marketer, rather than sit between a gamer and what they’re trying to do and what they’re looking for, you need to add value and bring them something.”

Reider suggests a non-endemic marketer might be able to sponsor a press conference stream with a “brought to you by” message, rather than a standard banner buy.

Video game Web sites have traditionally attracted endemic advertisers, however more non-endemic advertisers are finding their way to gaming properties. In-game advertising is hot, and gaming sites attract the same audience.

“If you look at the audience, it’s so hard to reach right now, it’s harder to find them on TV,” said Ira Becker, SVP and GM of Ziff Davis’ 1UP Network. “If you can find them in a game, that’s terrific. If they’re not in the game they’re on the site; a place that’s dedicated to them.”

Inventory on 1UP.com during E3 sold quickly. “The demand for E3 coverage is so strong that we’ve actually pre-sold much of our E3 coverage already,” said Becker. “There may be some sponsorship opportunities around, especially for non-endemic consumer accounts, which is something we’re targeting more these days.”

Advertising on 1UP.com and GameVideos.com is dominated by endemic advertisers for the duration of E3.

That’s not to say non-endemic marketers aren’t welcome. “We are really committed to making compelling advertising packages available to non-endemic advertisers…We feel we’ve reached a point where we have an audience that is interesting to non-endemic advertisers, and we’re talking to them every day now.”

GamesRadar.com, a site that launched in March, plans to build a special E3 Web site combining editorial and technical resources from its U.S. and U.K. properties. The site’s publisher, Future U.S., is also the publisher of the E3 Show Daily. The print trade editions will be helmed by the editor-in-chief of Future’s trade-focused Web site, Next Generation.

While there are differences in the balance of endemic and non-endemic advertisers among gaming Web sites surrounding E3, it’s generally agreed that while consumer marketers can buy across the site most of the year, the most natural placements are sponsorships throughout the duration of the show.

“Around E3, it’s the showcase for the industry,” said Becker. “To date, that’s where our focus has been, in the endemic space.”

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