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Advertisers Will Pay for Your Next Power Up

Tap Me’s founder Joshua Hernandez says mobile game functionality will soon be sponsored.
February 28, 2011

The idea behind Tap Me’s new in-game advertising platform is simple: most advertising is annoying, intrusive and breaks the user out of the game world. So why not allow brands to sponsor things that gamers want anyway, and which are already integral to a game?

If Tap Me succeeds, your next in-game power-up could be sponsored by anyone from Nike to Johnny Walker

The idea isn’t so different from buying gold in multiplayer games or doohikies in Farmville, except that instead of you ponying up the cash, some advertiser has chipped in a few pennies so that you can get a power up like an extra life or a speed boost or, well, pretty much anything.

So imagine your in-game avatar is about to start its race across the game world. Want a speed boost? OK, here’s one for free – but it’s got the Nike logo plastered across it. Want the ability to fly? Why not let Red Bull give you wings? It’s not hard to see how brand advertising could integrate with a mobile game.

If Tap Me’s new advertising platform takes off, it could have big implications for everything from how mobile games are priced to where advertisers are directing their digital ad spend. In order to explore these implications, I fired off an email to Joshua Hernandez, who is announcing the launch of the developer side of Tap Me today, at the San Francisco Game Developer’s Conference.

Tech Review: Is an in-game advertising platform like Tap Me going to lead to free games, even conceivably?

Joshua Hernandez, founder of Tap Me: Free was an inevitable path that the content on the web couldn’t escape from, and, yes, I believe mobile apps will eventually take the same path. We also believe Tap Me will become one of the standards for advertisers to interact with gamers, thus creating a viable revenue channel that developers can put in their revenue-generating toolbox.

TR: Do you see your in-game metrics suite being used to tune games (make them harder / more difficult / more fun)? [Tap Me includes an in-game metrics platform to allow advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their spend, and to allow developers to tune their games.]

Tap Me: Game developers have used in-game metrics to perfect their games for quite a while now, usually rolling their own platform. Social games specifically rely heavily on metrics to optimize monetization in game play. However, as a whole the industry has not even begun to tap into the real power that in-game metrics can provide.

Imagine if each game could not only dynamically adjust difficulty based on a player’s abilities, but use those metrics to match players with other players or issue specific content based on their skill level to increase their fun and play time, etc.

Tap Me’s platform will marry that utility to the performance and optimization of advertising in game developers’ content.

TR: Gawker founder Nick Denton has said that the real revolution of the web (for media) was the advent of measurement. That this totally disrupted the way it was created. Obviously we already have measurement for sales of games – how do you see in-game metrics changing the way games are developed?

Tap Me: I would add the data point of accessibility to really drive Nick’s point home. It is one thing for AOL to measure their traffic as a business, but the bigger value-add is knowing when an explosion of individuals will visit the site and start clicking, which could help understand how to drive even more traffic because of services such as Google Analytics.

Games will inevitably follow the same path, and metrics will be a catalyst not only to helping monetize the content but to design better games, predicting what consumers will want and, most importantly, maximize the fun an individual player can have.

TR: Will you have any sponsors at launch? Who?

Tap Me: […] The company will be announcing some very strong brand partners throughout the year.

TR: The example you give on your developers page is that a sponsor could e.g. give a player an extra life. What other things could be accomplished in-game? Is the sky the limit?

Tap Me: This is the beauty of the Tap Me platform. The power is put in the developers hands and the sky is indeed the limit. For the first time ever game developers can meta-tag their game content and make it available to advertisers so that it can be fulfilled and served up in a way that is natural and in context of the games. (We do encourage developers to keep it simple, though, to help focus on keeping brand sponsored-attributes in context of the game; i.e.: power-ups, new levels, variable-based objects like speed or health, or timed-access to goods or in-app purchases, etc.)

TR: Are there any rules currently about who can advertise in games? Could we eventually see liquor / cigarette / etc. sponsors in games?

Tap Me: It will depend on the game’s target audience. Tap Me’s goal is to give both sides, developers and advertisers, control so that a brand with a family image can opt-out of first person shooters and a mom focused casual game can opt-out of men’s products.

Follow Mims on Twitter or contact him via email.

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