February 23, 2010

WildTangent Takes on Social Gaming

WildTangent, which has built a sizable footprint in the casual game space, is making a push into the exploding world of social games with the introduction of BrandBoost, an ad offering via which advertisers can subsidize virtual goods.

BrandBoost employs a tactic similar to what WildTangent has used for several years in casual games—where brands often provide free game play to users who are willing to watch a particular ad. In this case, the value exchange is for virtual items that are common to social games—i.e. weapons, power boosts or other virtual items designed to enhance game play.

WildTangent has begun rolling out the BrandBoost ad placements on Sony Online Entertainment’s Free Realms games, as well as the sites Outspark.com, and OMGPOP.com.

But the company is planning to announce an additional distribution deal with a major social gaming company in the coming weeks, according to Dave Madden, the firm's executive vp. Players, when visiting these games’ built-in virtual goods menus, have the option of paying for select items with real money and can select a "free” advertiser-sponsored item. In exchange, those users (who do not pay) must watch a video ad, such as the trailer for the upcoming adventure movie Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, a debut BrandBoost advertiser.

Madden called WildTangent’s "ads in exchange for games/goods" tactic as “the
most effective in-game ad model in the business,” because users understand up front that they are receiving something of value—and their gaming experience isn’t being interrupted.

And for developers, BrandBoost, this model helps them not only monetize their games, but also get people used to the idea of virtual good—and hopefully convert more players to paying customers. “This is an example of premium content being given out in small doses,” he said. “Game companies can dangle free stuff to get people to become buyers.”

WildTangent’s core business remains distributing games on PCs (including 75 million sold globally last year) and on gaming Web properties. With BrandBoost, the hope is to conquer social gaming, which carries massive potential.

“The scale of gaming on social sites is enormous,” Madden said.