Making Money Online: Game Creators

Bringing targeted advertising into game playing in a realistic manner is Adaboy's goal. Jacquie Kubin reports on the benefits to game creators.

Adaboy (www.adaboy.com) has teamed up with gaming Web sites to create a new revenue stream for game creators -- advertising dollars. Working within the gaming environment, Adaboy technologists use patented Targeted Message Technology (TMT) to put ads into the texture, or face, of online games.

Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Adaboy is relatively new to the Internet space with the September 1999 release of the proprietary TMT platform. Still in the early stages of growth, the company has so far brought advertisers to only a handful of games, but it is actively working on agreements with developers and entertainment destinations, such as online malls and gaming sites.

An example of ads tailored to the user in an online card game. All photos courtesy of Adaboy, Inc.

The company is unique in that it promotes a win-win situation for all parties involved, particularly the game developer looking to establish a name, and the advertiser looking for a specific audience.

"Traditionally, smaller and independent game developers have had a hard time making a living as the game goes to the shelf and then is sold for a limited period of time," says Barbara Pearson, Director of Marketing, Adaboy, Inc. "Adaboy gives the online game developer a revenue stream that goes beyond play-value, providing ongoing revenue for the creator."

Guaranteed Target

Advertisers investigating this new broadcast arena might be surprised to learn that forty-eight percent of online gamers, according to Forrester Research, are women; and more than 60% of that number are between the ages of 25 and 44. For advertisers, Adaboy-enabled games work as a targeted vehicle, sending specific messages -- such as GNC Vitamins for Women -- to this fast growing online group while showing other product ads to youth, male and teenage players.

An advertisement incorporated into the gaming environment of The Matrix.

This is accomplished when a user signs up for free games from the Adaboy Web site or Adaboy host gaming sites like Free Play USA (www.freeplayusa.com), Real Games Free (www.realgamesfree.com), Best Women's Game Site (www.realfreegames.com) and the College Free Stuff site (www.collegefreestuff.com). The Targeted Message Technology is triggered when those users create an ID and password, providing their gender, zip code and birth date. The sign-in process also requests, but does not require, a player's name and e-mail address and provides enlistees the opportunity to request only family safe games and to either ban or accept tobacco, liquor or adult in nature ads.

"We refer to each game player as a qualified lead," says Pearson. "We target the advertising based on gender and sex, not by the game. Two people -- one male, one female, but each playing Matrix -- are going to see different ads."

This type of delivery channel is extremely effective in that the advertisement cost is based on the number of qualified views by a targeted audience demographic. Adaboy claims that advertisers are not charged just on views, but views by individuals meeting specific demographics. In addition, Adaboy provides post-delivery authentication reports including viewer breakouts, and length and frequency analyses allowing the advertisers to know which games their demographic plays most.

As with other Internet companies paving new ground, Adaboy has yet to establish a firm cost per thousand or commission structure but initial plans called for a $40-per-thousand-views charge to the advertiser. Those dollars are then divided between the game creator, the "host" web site and Adaboy, who expects to take approximately 20% depending on the quality and life expectancy of the game.

"For game developers, both the shareware and retail earnings models can be less than reliable and highly seasonal," says Pearson. "When games are Adaboy-enabled, the developers receive part of the advertising revenue every time a game is played, thereby producing an ongoing revenue stream."

Never a solitary moment when it comes to marketing.

Opening my first solitaire game, an ad for Fuenth Coffee (www.fuenthcoffee.com) hovered unobtrusively over the left hand side of the playing table. Two games later that ad changed to Interscope Technologies (www.dfdis.com), which provides Internet Solutions for Pathologists. Following the game, I was given the opportunity to view the sponsors of the advertisements including (in addition to those mentioned) Tickets.com, Star Gate Internet Service, e-spotmarket.com, Heinz foods, Commer Builder.com, Boston Market, Carrier.com, GNC Vitamins for Women and College Inn Soups.

Hoping to make Adaboy-enabled games the pastime of choice for online gamers, the site plans to offer high-scorer programs, giveaways, sweepstakes and prizes.

At present, the company is searching for sites to carry Adaboy-enabled games, including action games that could, for example, show a player a real advertisement on the side of a tunnel in a racing game. Not only does this make the game more real to life, it also provides a landmark for the player without being a distracting element.

Billboards virtually everywhere.

In addition to negotiations with a known teenage girl's site, the company also hopes to place Adaboy advertising messages within well-branded game sites and popular virtual mall destinations.

"Behind the scenes we are a young company working to establish relationships with branded game companies," explains Pearson. "In a way it is a bit like the chicken and the egg, they want to see the success, which we are experiencing, before committing."

Adaboy is looking for new, original games in which to embed their Targeted Message Technology. Game developers interested in an alliance with Adaboy should contact Neil Morrow at neil@adaboy.com.

Jacquie Kubin, a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist, enjoys writing about the electronic entertainment and edutainment mediums, including the Internet. She is a frequent contributor to the Washington Times and Krause Publication magazines. She has won the 1998 Certificate of Award granted by the Metropolitan Area Mass Media Committee of the American Association of University Women.

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