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WildTangent Boss Sours On In-Game Advertising

| 27 May 2008 18:58
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WildTangent CEO Alex St. John says he no longer believes in-game advertisements are an effective way to reach consumers, and has shifted to a new system he says "is a hell of a lot better."

WildTangent was an early pioneer in advertiser-supported gaming, using schemes including sponsored microtransactions and advertising via its game portals and services for hardware manufacturers such as HP and Dell along with in-game advertisements. However, according to a GamesIndustry report, St. John told the Wedbush Morgan Securities Management Access Conference that he no longer believed in the effectiveness of that system.

St. John said that while the majority of the market believes in-game ads represent the next big opportunity for advertisers, his company's experience has shown otherwise: "In-game advertising - WildTangent has patents on it, we did it very early on, we have a lot of in-game ads, we sell them - is not a very effective way because you've got to plumb the game, you've got an unproven method of measuring the value of that ad, that unit is not trackable."

"I have to say - after brilliantly pioneering the space and being a huge advocate of it - we've actually shifted models to one that works a hell of a lot better and is remarkably simple," he added. That new model works on a per-play basis that exposes gamers to a short ad prior to the start of a game in order to play it free. As an example, St. John described a situation in which players could either pay for the game or have the session paid for by a company like Coca-Cola.

"And if you say, 'I'll take the free play from Coke,' Coke plays a little 30-second video ad while the game is loading - that's the time you are sitting there waiting for the game to load anyway, it plays the Coke ad," he said. "It's not doing anything else. Then you go into the game and play it for free."

St. John claimed WildTangent's ad revenues increased 400 percent after it switched to the new system in 2007. "I came to the opinion that a lot of the in-game and some of these variations you've heard of out there - they're a lot of work, they take too much explanation, they actually don't make sense," he said. "Something as very simple as selling a game on a per session basis, and playing a pre-load video, works fantastically well for any kind of game."

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