In-game ad firm Double Fusion thinks so

Can in-game ads aid level design?

To some developers, in-game advertising is either the dull brother to digital distribution or that thing their publisher keeps banging on about but they don’t have time to think or care about.

But in-game ad firm Double Fusion says ads can become a key aid to environment designs as well as developers’ business, helping inform the creation of game assets and interfaces via the smart use of player behaviour data.

According to Frank Sagnier, the European MD of the ad firm (pictured), advertising placed in game environments can help monitor what locations are popular, visited often, or ignored by players – with the resulting data not just showing how much revenue games generated by each ad but also aid designers’ creation of in-game areas. In-game ad companies that have dynamic networks monitoring game sessions and activity within levels generate data that is proving invaluable to studios, added Sagnier.

“We’re talking to people in development who are asking how to design their game better for both ads and in general,” he told Develop.

“For masively multiplayer games and virtual worlds we have developers asking us to look into where players
are going and what they see. We can track the ads to see that players are going to certain spots.

“It’s difficult to know what environments work when you’re designing a game in a vacuum, but when it comes to MMOs you can update the game based on player behaviour. Really, consumers can control the design of a game. Because we can track the data on what they are looking at and doing, we can help developers design their games better.

“Developers are starting to realise that there is having a benefit to having this tool running underneath their game.”

The comments came as the company launched its Fusion.runtime technology, a new tool that lets publishers retroactively add marketing to games and does away with the development needed in implementing in-game ads. That technology has proven both a boon for publishers – letting them release free versions of back catalogue games that are ad-supported, for instance – and a warning for developers.

The ‘just-in-time’ approach of Fushion.runtime is described as “designed to break through the code integration barrier” and an answer to developer concerns that agreeing with a publisher (or being forced) to implement in-game ads means another thing added to the list of things to do before a game ships.

The technology can put 2D and 3D ads straight into a game by accessing the textures used by a game engine. Anything can be integrated, and the technology already has partners amongst traditional publishers, MMO developers such as NCsoft and casual games studios like Oberon Media. The fact that games can be monetised once out of a studio’s hands is both a blessing and a curse for studios, which DoubleFusion acknowledged, adding that now developers should acknowledge and barter for the power of in-game ads before publishers completely dominate the revenue stream.

“One of the reasons why advertising is viewed with scepticism by developers is that they think of in-game ads as interrupting their work, like a TV ad or a pop up.

“Certainly, the capability is there to do those with our technology, but the best ads are those that are integrated into the game by developers themselves, subtly,” added business development director David Miller, who explained that traditionally its publishers that organise in-game advertising, but added that the opportunity exists for studios to now take a slice of the profit as well as do the work integrating product placement and the like.

Pointing out that given there is a lot of talk over IP ownership, securing revenues from in-game ads might be part of those negotiations with publishers, he said: “If developers are worried about not profiting or benefiting then they need to start negotiating over the revenues for them.”

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