NEWS - Friday, June 18, 2004

Viacom To Put Ads In Games

A Reuters story posted today reports that entertainment giant Viacom is looking into the viability of advertising in video games. The company sees in-game ads as one possible way to jump into a $10 billion U.S. game industry. Viacom, which owns significant entertainment players like CBS, MTV, and Paramount, has previously remained tepid in its forays into interactive entertainment. While Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone has made personal investments in publisher and developer Midway Games, his actions have not been on behalf of Viacom. Analysts have speculated that Redstone's investment may presage Viacom's re-entry into gaming after minimizing its investment in Simon and Schuster Interactive last year. "I think the jury is in, people are spending a lot of time in interactive," Viacom Chief Financial Officer Richard Bressler is reported as saying. "The interesting thing for us is to figure out if there's a market for advertising in video games." Just what would such advertising entail? Gamers are already familiar with "sponsorship" and product placement in games, which typically is included without much disrupting the game experience (it isn't surprising to see advertisements for Coca-Cola in an action game's modern city, for instance). But could the promise of high ad revenues from giants like Viacom encourage developers and publishers to find even more ways to sell products in games? Only time will tell, though we would guess that advertising would need to remain either inconspicuous if presented in-game, or separated into pack-in advertising included with a title. If nothing else, such interest on the part of companies like Viacom is a good indication of how formidable the video game market has become, and bodes well for the industry's future.


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