EA focuses on ad-supported video games

Electronic Arts are have decided to launch an ad-supported free online game. It will see the popular and successful game Battlefield, which has already sold 10 million copies worldwide, made available almost entirely free other than a limited micro-payments system. The previously PC only game, Battlefield Heroes, will only be available online or via mobile and for the first time won’t be sold in shops.

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The move is EA’s first serious approach at tapping into the new ad-driven revenue model beginning to be adopted in Western markets. It follows the previous success of a free Fifa game version released in South Korea, which netted over $1m a month from in-game sales.

The new approach is catering specifically to how users are consuming gaming with online gaming now reaching a massive audience. People now want to play and access games in new ways and that is as quickly and as easily as possible. Therefore is leading to an entirely new distribution model and pricing structure. It is believed that this is just the beginning in a sea of change.

It is interesting, as a direct comparison, to see how quickly the gaming giants and industry at large have been to adapt to how ‘online’ has changed their customers consumption habits compared to say the music industry which has been dragging it heals for sometime now and is currently paying the price.

As a measure of this market back in 2005, in-game advertising spending was $56 million, with current estimates predicting it could grow to $1.8 billion by 2010 (Massive Incorporated figures). Ad-agencies attentions are based in the need to target the male 18-34 demographic who are increasingly neglecting the TV for the video console. If you consider the average time people will invest in gaming environments any branding, whilst sometimes deemed as invasive by fanatical enthusiasts, will almost certainly gain access to the unconscious psyche of the gamer.

As the figures clearly suggest this is no longer a new arena. In game advertising is incredibly sophisticated. As an example even back in 2005 Irrational Games ‘Swat 4’ featured dynamic adverts (by way of Massive Incorporated technology) where ads were delivered to promote up and coming TV shows that were time and location sensitive.
Second Life, has seen many brands and products build a presence in their virtual world including the likes of Lego and Toyota and Everquest 2 offering the option to order food directly from Pizza Hut in-game.

I believe that this is one of the most exciting platforms to an advertiser. With the opportunity to really engage and demonstrate top class creative thinking. So watch this space!

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