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Wrap-Up: 2006 GDC Focus On Game Advertising Summit

Held on Friday at the San Francisco Marriott Hotel, the GDC Focus On: Game Advertising Summit was dedicated to the state of in-game advertising and product placement, and Gamasutra was there to provide the most significant keynote and panel highlights.

Wrap-Up: GDC Focus On Game Advertising Summit Held on Friday at the San Francisco Marriott Hotel, the GDC Focus On: Game Advertising Summit, organized by the CMP Game Group (also creators of Game Developers Conference, Game Developer magazine and was dedicated to the state of in-game advertising and product placement. Gamasutra was there to provide keynote and panel highlights, compiled below.

- In the event's keynote, Microsoft's Kevin Browne commented in detail on the post Massive-acquisition plans for in-game advertising, urging for one standardized industry game ad-serving format.

Browne, the General Manager of Xbox New Media and Franchise Development at Microsoft, noted that the company's wholly owned Massive Inc. subsidiary is "reaching out to Sony and reaching out to Nintendo" to help get a standard for in-game ads, and commented that completely different ad serving technology would simply not work, he believed: "We're going to hold ourselves back."

- In addition, as the event started, Macrovision's Trymedia division and in-game ad firm Double Fusion announced a new downloadable/casual in-game ad offering via the Trymedia Network of online portals, ISPs and e-commerce sites. The new offering will be part of 'try-and-buy' downloadable games, and enables advertisers to effectively sponsor the game's trial period.

- Returning to the conference, a lively analyst session discussed some of the leading results of their research into in-game advertising, noting that large separate markets are already at play in the game advertising market.

Michael Cai of Parks Associates pointed out some key statistics from some of his recent research, particularly citing research on whether consumers would like to see ads in games as long as it helps enhance game play. Interestingly, in the 18-34 male market, 29% strongly agree with that statement, and 25% strongly disagree, and for 35-54 females, 19% strongly agree and 35% strongly disagree - showing strong differences between 'core' and 'casual 'gamers.

- At another key panel at the Game Advertising Summit, senior execs gathered from the major in-game advertising companies, including Nicholas Longano from the Microsoft-owned Massive, Inc, Jonathan Epstein of Double Fusion, Justin Townsend of IGA Worldwide, and Chris Gilbert of AdScape discussed the state of in-game advertising.

Gilbert tackled the Massive acquisition head-on, noting additional interest from publishers and others from the publicity, but notes it's "added some additional complexity." Double Fusion's Epstein, one of the companies perhaps to be most affected, commented wryly: "Certainly these are interesting times", and suggested that publishers benefit the most from a cross-platform solution.

- Finally, Nielsen VP Emily Della Maggiora presented some particularly interesting new stats she's researched on in-game ads per platform. Specifically, when asked if they felt games were more realistic with real ads placed in them, 29.7% of Xbox 360 owners strongly agreed, vs. just 14.3% of PS2 owners and just 11.4% of PC owners. Even more so, an extremely significant 50% of Xbox 360 owners said that real in-game ads make them more interested in the game, versus just 29.9% for Xbox and less than that for PS2.

While a large number of ad-friendly X360 titles and the 'hardcore' nature of early adopters may be part of the reason for these stats, they are still significantly interesting, and provided a suitably eye-opening ending to the event.

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