Google set for leap into in-game ads

Google looks to be stepping up its efforts against rival Microsoft once again as rumours abound that search giant Google is in talks to snap up in-game advertising company Adscape Media.

While the acquisition remains little more than rumour at the moment, it would not be an unexpected move. Adscape has made no secret of the fact it has been in talks with third parties about a potential acquisition, and for Google it would appear a natural next step.

Last year Microsoft bought in-game ad server Massive for $400m (£220m) and with the launch of its Vista operating system, which links into its Xbox 360 gaming platform, Microsoft looks to be stealing a march – at least against Google – in a sector that analysts predict will be worth between £700m and £1.8bn by 2010.

Investment in the sector in recent months has been huge. Last month US in-game advertising network Double Fusion secured $26m (£13m) for an expansion plan (MW December 21). In the last MWi (MW November 30), we reported that the first ad network for casual games, called MochiAds, had launched while IGA Worldwide also secured a $5m (£2.7m) investment from Intel Capital last year.

Google is already looking to move into print and television, and late last year it filed a patent application covering the allocation of ad space on a network of electronic billboards. Any virtual ad-serving system for digital outdoor could also be used to serve in-game ads and the technology would certainly fit well with the 3D world that is Google Earth.

And with Adscape sporting a reported price tag of between $20m and $30m (£10m-£15m), it could be a bargain buy for Google.

IGA Worldwide vice-president for Europe Ed Bartlett says: “Primarily it would be a technology buy for Google. MSN bought Massive, but unlike Google it has a gaming platform. Adscape would suit casual gaming; we serve above-the-line style ads dynamically into existing games titles and they don’t compare. Gaming is very different to, say, print.”

Whatever the outcome, adds Bartlett, this is “another validation” of the in-game ad sector.

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