In-game ad agency IGA Worldwide's European publisher relations VP and co-founder Ed Bartlett would have you know that his company is not out to get anyone.
"I used to be a game developer, so I'm not a big evil corporate guy," said Bartlett -- a veteran of Sega, Acclaim, and The Bitmap Brothers, among others -- during his talk during the Edinburgh International Festival.
"We are not spyware," he explained, calling that assumption "the biggest misconception."
"We're not evil," Bartlett added, for good measure.
IGA is apparently also not an ad agency, the veep claimed, despite the company's titular acronym presumably standing for "in-game advertising." Bartlett elaborated. "We don't represent brands; we work with them," he said. "We are gaming experts -- we know games from the ground up. ...We are pioneers."
As far as what the company actually does, Barlett stated it "owns advertising space in video games." Barlett said the company works closely with developers and publishers on its campaigns. "We're not looking to have billboards everywhere. We want to make sure they work in context," he noted. When dealing with advertisers, however, if offers the ability to treat in-game space on a per-segment, not per-game, basis. For example, a firm looking to advertise in racing games may choose not to buy space in specific titles, but rather in the genre, which would include numerous titles.
Barlett painted in-game advertising as an important factor in combating increasing development costs. "In [2001,] my last year as a developer, we saw 50-plus developers go out of business," he said.
As a particularly pronounced example of in-game advertising aiding an ailing developer, he pointed to Nadeo's TrackMania Nations
, which saw a poor 40,000 sales when first released as a traditional paid game.
After switching to a free, ad-supported model, it jumped to an excess of 9 million downloads, resulting in a huge number of ad impressions. A similar strategy is being employed for id Software's free web-based Quake Live
, a port of the classic shooter Quake III Arena
As in other media, ads are sold by impressions -- but unlike in other media, what constitutes an impression is dynamic, based on in-game factors tracked by IGA's software. "If you rush past [an ad] at 100 miles an hour, we don't count that as an impression," Bartlett explained, "but if you're breaking for a corner and your screen is full of a billboard, we do."
Perhaps most surprising is alleged gamer reaction to the practice. Apparently, some 82 percent of gamers believe that the inclusion of real-world brands in video games is not only acceptable but an enhancement to the game's reality -- a figure considerably exceeding IGA's own estimates.