180solutions Finds New Angle: Adware For Video Games

The advertising-supported software provider 180solutions said Wednesday that it acquired Full Armor Studios, a downloadable games development firm, in a cash and stock deal for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition will spawn a new component of the adware provider's Zango software, called Zango Games. Full Armor will continue to publish games under the Zango Games brand.

The company plans to offer consumers free access to Zango Games and other content--including screensavers, search bars, games, and movie and music utilities--in exchange for users' agreement to allow 180solutions to install Zango software on their computers. The program, unlike other adware programs, redirects users to the actual Web pages of its advertisers in a separate pop-up browser window when users request further info about goods and services online. These advertisers are sometimes the direct competitors of the company, product, or service that the user originally searched for.

Zango Games will focus on "casual games," which the company said are usually "family-oriented" strategy, puzzle, and adventure games. The company stated that it plans to pursue more partnerships with other game developers.

Todd Sawicki, 180solutions' senior director of marketing, said that Zango Games primarily targets females ages 25 to 44, the dominant demographic segment of the so-called "casual games" market.

But some industry observers believe the most likely downloaders are not adult women, but youngsters under age 18.

Ben Edelman, an independent adware and spyware researcher who has published several studies on 180solutions' software, predicted that Zango Games will be targeting children--"the people who most [often] download and play games."

If so, said Edelman, "this will not reflect well" on the company, should it be sued for nonconsensual installation. That's because many believe that minors aren't competent to enter into binding contracts such as license agreements.

For his part, Sawicki acknowledged the possibility that minors will download the adware, but stressed that the company specifically states in its end user licensing agreement that persons under the age of 18 should not be downloading Zango software.

He added that targeting children doesn't benefit 180solutions' advertisers, most of which sell products and services that require credit card information in order to make purchases.