Gaming is no longer the sole domain of geeky guys with programmer’s pallor: 44% of online gamers, and 40% of gamers in general, are women. Over half are between 18 and 49, and “extreme gamers” devote 45 hours a week to games. Salivating yet? Good, because here’s a pretty meaty bone: in-game advertising has reached a point where ads can improve the gaming experience.  Two case-in-points:

If you ever played The Sims, then you know it’s the perfect landscape for outdoor marketers: it’s all about inventing a place where Sims can interact, and their experiences are more real when their theatre marquees, for example, actually feature current films. Electronic Arts (EA) is currently seeking sponsors for The Sims 3, which comes out in February ’09. It wouldn’t be hard to slip a catchy virtual billboard into an in-game park or highway.

Virtual outdoor ads aren’t the only way to get into the game. Amazon and Rockstar Games partnered to shill popular MP3s in Grand Theft Auto IV. Today the average Grand Theft gamer can sit back in his “stolen” car, turn up the radio, and use an in-game mobile phone to buy songs he likes—totally on impulse.

Are gamers receptive? Overwhelmingly, yes: 82% of them respond positively to contextual in-game ads. Surveys also say gamers are more influential consumers than their less playful peers.

Ready to leap? Call EA. And keep an eye out! Google’s preparing an “AdSense for Games” product that’ll make it easy to plug ads in from an online interface—which is bound to flood this market.

The Point: Get in the game! Transcending old-school boundaries of gender and age group, gamers have two things in common: cash to burn, and clout with peers. Strike while the iron is hot!

Cheers, Skip

Source: MarketingProfs newsletter 11/13/08