EA Revs Up Live Ad Engine With Microsoft Deal

Electronic Arts, going wide and deep with in-game advertising, announced Wednesday that it will use Microsoft’s Massive in-game advertising division to put ads in its sports titles.

The titles include the Xbox 360 and/or PC versions of the biggest sports video games coming in the fall, including “Madden NFL 08,” “NASCAR 08,” “NHL 08,” “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08” and “Skate.”

Big Endorsement

Although EA is just one of 41 game publishers using Massive’s ad technology, the announcement is a big endorsement for in-game advertising.

Cory Van Arsdale, chief executive of Microsoft’s Massive division, said EA is embracing in-game advertising on a broad basis.

The commitment to use Massive’s systems throughout the sports line represented a significant expansion of the relationship between the two companies, which have been working together since Microsoft acquired Massive in spring 2006.

Matchmaker for Ads

Massive serves as a matchmaker for ads, among other things. It sets up a network of game publishers and another network of advertisers. It gives companies like EA a set of tools so they can embed locations for live ads in their games.

These spots are meant to be integrated into the landscape of the game so gamers will find them believable. When the gamer plays the games without an Internet connection, they see standard stock ads.

However, if they plug the machine into online services such as Xbox Live, Massive can change the ads that appear on the locations. It essentially can feed brand new ads on a timely basis into the game via a download that the player doesn’t see. Whenever a player passes by that location, such as an electronic billboard in a sports stadium, the ad may be different.

Van Arsdale and other advocates of in-game advertising say well-done ads make a game seem more realistic because gamers see images and ads that they ordinarily would see in a real sports stadium.

The ads can also be a potential gold mine of revenue that game publishers wouldn’t ordinarily receive, and the ads enable the advertisers to reach gamers who aren’t watching TV or other media.

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