Is In-Game Mobile Advertising Here? Tap Me Says Yes. A Wealth of Anecdotal Evidence Says No.
Tap Me has unveiled an in-game mobile advertising platform that it says solves two problems that have hampered the mobile gaming ad market to date: it will make ad insertion easy and the ads will non-disruptive to players.
Certainly the details of the offering as described by Tap Me sound promising. Advertisers can buy audiences in aggregate across Tap Me’s network based on key attributes instead of per individual game title. They can also engage gamers in-context by awarding progress or integrating social media or both. For example, sponsors can send a message to a player’s in-box, encouraging the player to “get 5 of their friends to retweet a message to earn 1,000 points.”
The platform also lets developers create sponsored leader boards and obtain performance metrics. It also lets developers meta-tag and classify game content – such as for “endurance” or “speed” – so that advertisers can sponsor relevant content. Tap Me can also be used along side other ad platforms, such as iAd or AdMob, or integrated into virtual goods or currency systems.
Tap Me’s testing shows engagement rates of players choosing sponsored power-ups as high as 20%, and in certain games above 50%, the company says. Adrants, which has seen a demo of the platform agreesit simple to use an nondisruptive interrupted. “Advertisers can buy keywords across the network associated with game play such as speed, agility, reload, energize and have their ads appear during those non-play moments of the games.”
The gaming ad market has been sized as a $1 billion opportunity, according to recent figures from eMarketer. While much of that will come from the sale of virtual goods, ad spending total revenues will grow from 14.1% in 2010 to 20.5% in 2012, when it will surpass lead-generation offers as a source of developer revenues, it said. In another survey [pdf] by casual video game provider PopCap Games and Information Solutions Group, it was found that more than half (52%) of 2,425 US and UK mobile phone owners surveyed have played a game on a mobile phone at some time in the past, MarketingChartsreported.
In addition, about 33% of respondents have played a game on their mobile phone handset in the past month, qualifying them as “mobile phone gamers” for the purposes of the survey, and nearly a quarter (24.6%) have played in the past week, qualifying them as “avid mobile phone gamers.” Both of these categories also skew more favorably among UK respondents than US respondents.
Fully 83% of mobile phone gamers who own a smartphone said they’d played in the past week, compared to 58% of mobile phone gamers who own a feature phone.
Despite these numbers, there are signs that Tap Me may be entering the marketplace just as enthusiasm for the concept of an in-game advertising platform is waning, however. Microsoft has abandoned the concept after spending $300 million acquiring Massive, The Independent notes. Now it is concentrating on Xbox Live’s gamer-focused subscription service, which allows it to keep all ad revenue for itself.
Electronic Arts, meanwhile, has found its excitement over a Nielsen study last year showing that Gatorade ads in sports games increased sales of the drink to be premature. “We actually aren’t getting much from ad revenue at all. The in-game advertising business hasn’t grown as fast as people expected it to,” Ben Cousins, EA’s general manager told Edge magazine (via the Independent).
Ditto Bobby Kotick, CEO of rival publisher Activision Blizzard. “There was a time when we thought advertising and sponsorship was a big opportunity,” he said during a conference. “But what we realiz ed is our customers are paying $60 for a game or paying a monthly subscription fee and they don’t really want to be barraged with sponsorship or advertising.”