RealTime IT News

Games People Play

With banner click-through rates falling over the past year, marketers are looking for other ways to attract eyeballs. Games are just one of the online activities, which are now providing opportunities to those looking to veer away from traditional banners.

Media Metrix's latest data labels gaming as the 5th "stickiest" online activity, with users averaging over 80 minutes per month.

According to Chris DiCesare, Group Product Manager for Online Games at Microsoft, this stickiness is one of the major reasons advertisers are turning to local sites such as Zone.com and Real.com games.

"When you come to the Zone's homepage, you know it's a sponsored game, but it's caught on in terms of popularity and people look past the fact that you're playing an ad," says DiCesare. "People look at it from the standpoint of 'is it fun?'"

This factor has proved very profitable for Zone.com, as 75% of their revenue is now generated via sponsorships, while 25% still comes from traditional banners and e-commerce.

"People are just more apt to play a fun interactive game, then they would clicking on a banner with an ad message," says DiCesare.

The two major revenue streams from this type of marketing are customizable games and major online events.

Customizable games have been very successful for large advertisers such as Toyota, whose game was among the top 10-15 drivers on the Zone.com, averaging approximately 1.5 million unique users monthly.

This type of marketing, however, is not solely reserved for advertising's big guns. Local online beauty-supply outlet Vain.com, is conducting a cooperative agreement with local Video Game company Zombie for the release of Super Bubble Pop on Real.com this spring.

The novelty of releasing a video game and a hair product that shared a name drove the decision to release and co-market the two products. Both Zombie and Vain had planned to release new products in late 2000/early 2001.

Over the summer, the owners of the respective businesses decided that it would be fun to work together and release the respective products under the same name. Victoria Gentry, President and CEO of Vain.com, helped Zombie's President, Mark Long, with the game design process and in doing so, found additional inspiration for the hair product.

"Having two products with the same name adds twice the impact, particularly since the products are so different," says Jessica Lee, Outreach Coordinator at Vain.com.

"The game being released on real.com means a lot of exposure for both companies," says Lee. "Vain's site will be linked in both the install and most likely the download section of the SBP game area. Real expects a million downloads of the game, so the SBP game, and potentially the hair product, will reach a very large audience."

According to DiCesare, besides customizable games, Major Online events, which Zone.com has recently been experimenting with, have shown tremendous potential.

The Zone recently hosted the Virtual Golf Association Tour. Using Microsoft's Links2000, Zone followed the PGA tour, holding realistic online competitions at the same courses as those on the real tour.

The Virtual Golf event turned out to be such a success that, according to DiCesare, the revenue from that single deal was equal to the revenue that Zone had generated in the previous year on everything from ad banners to sponsorships to e-commerce.

As advertisers continue to look beyond traditional marketing opportunities on the web, the gaming arena will surely continue to see growth.

"Gaming is becoming more mainstream," says DiCesare. "We're seeing everyone from major portals like Yahoo to other major companies like EA and AOL coming into the games business for the first time. From our standpoint, we're excited, because it legitimizes something we have believed in for four or five years."