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  Microsoft’s Cross-Platform Ad Play  
Posted 2007-07-30 by Tony Walsh
Advertising Age looked into Microsoft's "Live Anywhere" ad strategy last week, finding that audiences are being offered to advertisers by demographic or game preference rather than by platform. Live Anywhere spans the Xbox 360, Windows PC, and according to Ad Age, mobile spaces. One identity is tracked across platforms, so Live users could be targeted by personal details--such as age, sex, and location--submitted when signing up for Microsoft services. As far as I can tell from using Xbox Live in San Francisco and Toronto, users are already being targeted with local ads based on where the system is accessed (common in internet advertising).

The Ad Age article quotes an analyst, who says Live Anywhere is "easy to leverage for advertisers. You can integrate advertising that won't be intrusive, [and] you can also target ads more effectively." Well, sure, you can integrate non-intrusive advertising, but from personal experience, Xbox Live is cluttered with banner ads, demonstrating that the people in charge don't care about intrusion. Given that Microsoft's ad play results from last year's purchase of Massive--an in-game advertising company with a habit of ruining games--I doubt the power to target gamers across platforms will be used responsibly.

When I first subscribed to Xbox Live, there weren't any advertisements. Now, the service is littered with blatant ads, yet the service still costs me sixty bucks a year. A brave new wave of cross-platform ads may soon wash over Live Anywhere, but what benefit do gamers receive?
  links for 2007-07-30  
Posted 2007-07-30 by Tony Walsh
  AdSense For Games?  
Posted 2007-07-20 by Tony Walsh
Google AdSense is coming to games, according to notes Kim Pallister of Microsoft Casual Games jotted down during the Casual Connect conference. AdSense, in case you aren't aware, is Google's widespread ad-serving program, in use here at Clickable Culture and zillions of other blogs and web sites. It's easy to set up and can be quite profitable with enough clickthroughs.

I'm glad to hear that AdSense is coming to games. Hopefully the system will be as easy to implement as Google's traditional AdSense program--embedding code directly into Flash or Shockwave games would be ideal. One benefit of embedded ads is that it actually makes piracy of AdSense-equipped games profitable for the creator--the more exposure the game gets, the more potential revenue. AdSense inside games could also work well inside Facebook (although I've heard clickthroughs on Facebook are abysmal). Any way you slice it, the development is good for indie game-makers.
  ‘Toontown’ to Aim Ads at Kids  
Posted 2007-07-09 by Tony Walsh
Mediaweek reports that Disney's cutesy, award-winning Toontown is moving from a subscription- to ad-supported model by the fall. Toontown users are considered too young to handle unfiltered text chats, so how could it possibly be appropriate to advertise to this young audience? I hope part of Disney's plan is to continue to offer subscriptions to those parents who can afford to keep Toontown ad-free for their kids.
  ‘Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames’ Released  
Posted 2007-07-09 by Tony Walsh
Ian Bogost's latest book, Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames, looks at how video games make arguments, offering a theory of rhetoric for games, and covering a wide range of example games with an eye towards politics, advertising and learning. It's now available through Amazon and MIT Press.

Bogost is an assistant professor at Georgia Tech, and founding partner of Persuasive Games, a firm which recently entered into a publishing relationship with the New York Times, creating newsgames for the paper's online op-ed page. I'm particularly looking forward to Persuasive Games (the book), as one of the colleges where I teach part-time will make persuasive games one of its main areas of investigation this fall, and because most of the games I've worked on over the years have had an educational or marketing agenda.
  links for 2007-07-08  
Posted 2007-07-08 by Tony Walsh
  Gnomes Rain From Azeroth’s Skies  
Posted 2007-07-04 by Tony Walsh
The skies of Azeroth rained gnomes today, but none survived the impact, according to a reader of Raph Koster's blog. The gnomes left behind corpses arranged to spell out the name of a web site dealing in virtual gold sales--an effective means of advertising third-party services Blizzard (creator of the Azeroth setting) is firmly against, allegedly carried out using client-side hacks (another Blizzard no-no). Gamers on the official Warcraft message boards reported the gnome-rain fell on at least several servers.

This is the most spectacular case of corpse graffiti I've ever heard of. Although World of Warcraft added weather effects over a year ago, "raining gnomes" wasn't on the list. I'd probably re-subscribe if gnome-rain was a regular occurrence. Anyone got the weekend forecast handy?

Continue reading: Gnomes Rain From Azeroth’s Skies
  ‘The Office’: The Game  
Posted 2007-06-20 by Tony Walsh
Casual games publisher MumboJumbo announced today that it will bring a game based on The Office to platforms including PC, Sony PSP, and Nintendo DS. I presume this will be a game version of the American version of the British TV series... sounds terribly unfunny already, but it gets funnier.

According to an official press release, MumboJumbo's CEO says that he looks forward to working with NBC Universal "to ensure that the thematic elements of 'The Office' are closely approximated in the development of the video game." Note that he didn't say that the game itself will carry forth the themes of the TV series, but that these themes will be approximated during development. Given this, I have to wonder if the game will ever actually be completed, or if a bumbling middle-manager on the development team will royally cock things up. Hilariously, of course.

MumboJumbo threatens to develop a game "that combines the quirky characters and humor of the show with a proven, addictive game mechanic..." I'm curious about what sort of proven, addictive mechanic we might be so lucky to play with. What could it be? Matching things? Lining things up into rows? Arranging pairs of complimentary shapes? Wait, I have it: Smoke-breaks.
  Buy Creds in Doppleganger’s ‘Music Lounge’  
Posted 2007-06-13 by Tony Walsh
Brand-friendly microworld The Music Lounge now offers in-world currency called "Creds" for sale at a rate of 10 Creds to one U.S. dollar. According to an official press release, the currency can be purchased via major credit cards or earned "by taking an in-world job such as promoting clubs or events or signing up friends to join." Creds will be used to buy branded virtual fashions from Kitson boutique and Rocawear designs.

The introduction of an in-world economy (and previously-announced user housing) brings The Lounge closer to direct competition with larger virtual worlds such as Second Life, There, and Kaneva. I wonder if Lounge-maker Doppleganger has anticipated the creative ways in which users may try to get their paws on virtual currency without spending real cash. Yes, I'm talking about escorts and furniture whores.
  Games for Lunch, Breakfast  
Posted 2007-06-07 by Tony Walsh
Kyle Orland has set great expectations for regular game criticism with his new blog, Games for Lunch. One game, one lunch-hour, one review per day. Orland's "playlog" (plog?) attempts to determine if a game's worth playing after an hour, a fair enough pursuit. If a game can't grab a player in 60 minutes, is it worth playing? In my experience, not usually.

If you're the type to skip lunch, I recommend games for breakfast. Or rather, I would recommend games for breakfast if they didn't come printed on Pop Tarts. Kellog's and Hasbro teamed up last year to provide over 200 edible Trivial Pursuit questions for distribution through the Pop Tart platform. Brings new meaning to tabletop games when one can eat the playing pieces, doesn't it? Given the shelf-life of "food" such as Pop Tarts, I reckon you'll be able to enjoy edible Trivial Pursuit for decades to come.
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