Google's Game

The big rumor in the in-game ad space this week is that Google is looking to enter the space with the purchase of Adscape, an in-game ad technology firm started by three industry veterans.

Adscape fits Google's general acquisition profile of companies that have a solid technical base to build on: it doesn't have a huge network like IGA or Massive Incorporated, but it does have a tech platform that offers something the other major in-game ad companies don't -- RVG, or Real-World/Virtual-World Gateway.

RVG allows for two-way communication between player and advertiser in-game, while (the company claims) not interrupting the gameplay experience. This platform allows Google to practice direct marketing -- its winning strategy since it launched AdWords -- in the video game medium. Currently, most in-game ads are solely an exercise in branding: an Axe billboard over Sin City in "Rainbow Six: Vegas" or a Sony Ericsson phone in Splinter Cell.

Google's entrance into the in-game ad space is a validation for the medium, just like Microsoft's purchase of Massive last year. But aside from giving the medium cred with a multi-million-dollar purchase, the search giant will almost certainly make in-game advertising desirable to a new spectrum of clients -- companies that are interested in selling, not just branding.

Google's typical modus operandi for the ad businesses it enters is to make buying accessible to the masses through its Adwords platform. So chances are, if the acquisition of Adscape goes through, in-game advertising could become available outside of blue-chip advertiser circles.

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