When I first read on SeattlePi.com (Link) of Google’s announcement to embed Adsense inside so-called “casual games” , I figured there would be plenty of coverage and robust discussion. There is. Unfortunately, I’m not finding very much of it to be especially insightful.
On the one side you have some people claiming no one saw this coming… even though Google’s purchase of in-game advertiser Adscape last Spring should have clued in most everyone that they were looking to embed their ads as others have done before them. And on the other side are those who considered this development inevitable. Hopefully everyone reading this was in the latter group.
Not that any of that matters really because there are other issues to consider now. And Computer World got right to it (Link):
But questions remained about whether and how AdSense would be able to provide the same level of consumer targeting that advertisers prize — and are willing to pay for — with current deployments of the technology.
Let me start off by admitting that I don’t consider Google’s current targeting all that great. Out-of-context advertising still occurs. Yes, it’s getting better, but I don’t think the bar is so high that a system of similar quality couldn’t be incorporated into games.
What’s of particular interest to me is how Google might acquire relevant real-time data to appropriately target ads in games deployed on mobile devices.
Some time back there were reports that Google was buying up dark fiber, unused “information superhighway” infrastructure, much of which was put in place during the initial Dot.Com boom. The assumption seemed to be that Google might build a wireless mesh network using the network resources they were acquiring.
In the context of mobile computing, localized advertising using a mesh network could be especially attractive to a company like Google. For Google it’s the distributed yet centralized Long Tail of advertising; the potential of which really struck me back when PR firm Engage offered custom-coded Counter-Strike mods to independently-hosted server operators who delivered locally relevant Subway ads (reLink).
However, after the problems Google reportedly encountered (and apparently continues to encounter) in their effort to provide free wireless connectivity in San Francisco, the so-called “dark fiber network” rumors died down.
Still, hints of targeted, localized advertising gets my attention when I read obviously related news stories – such as that of the recently announced mobile-website version of Adsense which, for all I know, has components built into it that will eventually be used to serve ads in games.
Now, based on additional developments, maybe those rumors are ready to come alive again.
There’s been recent talk of Google’s intent to bid on the 700MHz spectrum here in the U.S. … assuming the Feds agree to their somewhat unusual “conditions”. Don Reisinger, over on C|Net, has a blog post titled “Could Google kill the cell phone industry?” (Link) that raises some interesting points. Only instead of leaving it there, ask yourself: “What might be the killer cell phone app? Is it really providing mp3’s as part of some pay-per-tune service?”
Personally, I’m thinking the killer app might be mobile, multi-player gaming. And for right now, I’m just talking simple, almost Pong-like games. Not the kind of thing I imagine a company like Trion has up its sleeve. That comes later (maybe after they get acquired).
In addition, I suspect Google is also anticipating a whole new kind of augmented reality-style gaming might emerge; something along the lines of Human Pac-Man. Games which might eventually benefit from really high resolution aerial imagery.
So maybe the rumored-but-confirmed Google Phone isn’t just a possible stab at the telco’s, but an answer to Microsoft’s own efforts.
One of the comments I did appreciate while surfing around, and which I think is worth calling out here, is something Tony Walsh wrote on the Clickable Culture blog (Link):
One benefit of embedded ads is that it actually makes piracy of AdSense-equipped games profitable for the creator–the more exposure the game gets, the more potential revenue.
That resonated with me because a) it relates to thoughts I had when writing my recent post on developments in the online video space, and b) it shows how piracy can benefit those who get nothing but a user’s Attention (a recurring argument I’ve made – e.g. reLink).
So what’s the takeaway? Simple. To address BizReport’s comment (Link):
It will be interesting to see how Google manages the relevancy of displayed ads and whether they are environment, or player, oriented.
I don’t believe it’s necessarily an either/or option. If Google can incorporate both – and I expect they can – then it’s the mobile gaming market that becomes much more interesting, in my opinion.
Google could partner with developers to deliver viral, mobile multi-player casual games with embedded region-specific, location-sensitive ad-targeting technology layered on top of keywords, filters and cellphone account information (among other things).
And Microsoft? Maybe they’re already on the same path with their “SenseWeb” program (reLink). They need to do something with Zune. And while the built-in wireless was a nice innovation, the “sharing” limitations were met with plenty of derision. Such limitations, however, probably go away in an embedded ad-supported business model. We’ll see. They’ve certainly given everyone notice to keep an eye out for coming announcements in this arena.