Popular With Insiders
The online gaming segment is a crowded space to make a mark in - news and reviews, forums, and casual game publishers all get crammed into one category - so picking one site that rules them all isn't easy. But for personality, sharp commentary on the gaming space, and a nigh-unbeatable amount of gamer cred, it's tough to beat Penny-Arcade.com.
The creators of the Penny Arcade, writer Jerry Holkins and illustrator Mike Krahulik, who go by the alter egos Tycho and Gabe, have grown their site from a simple Web comic to an influential and important gaming community. The Web comic, which is the centerpiece of the site, is a raw, unapologetic take on the biggest stories in gaming thrice weekly, accompanied by blog posts that consist of more than three-panel depth. In addition to the comic, the site features an active forum community, and the authors sponsor a major charity, Child's Play, which buys toys for underprivileged kids, and a video game convention, PAX, which has a good shot at replacing the now-downsized E3 as the annual pilgrimage for gamers and developers.
On the advertising end, games such as "Empire Earth" and the "Splinter Cell" franchise have received the distinction of having banner ads touting their titles - drawn in the comic's style.
John Davidson, editorial director of the 1up Network, says that the site commands respect among gamers because it's viewed as a gamer's network rather than a part of the media. "It has a lot of cred because they speak from the heart and say what they think, and don't worry about pissing people off. They love games, and that comes across," Davidson explains.
In the news-and-reviews field, it's tough to beat 1up and GameSpot. The former is generally more mainstream in its presentation and has a host of ad options, including whole-site branding, while the latter has a bit more attitude in its editorial content, and produces a group of popular podcasts that have snagged a featured-artists page on iTunes.
Marketers looking for the pulse of the gaming community would be well-advised to check out the Evil Avatar Forums; as is the case with any Web forum, the content is unpolished, but gamers go there for rumors about what's going on in the industry and comment frequently and vocally about the issues that matter to them.
For casual games, PopCap is the place to be. While its traffic isn't as high as on the gaming properties of the major portals, chances are good that if you have a favorite casual game it was either created by PopCap or it closely models a game made by PopCap. "Bejeweled," "Bookworm," "InsaneAquarium," and "Zuma" are among the company's hits.