Videogame players get fully immersed in gaming worlds replete with advertising and brand messages. When Sony launched Everquest II in 2005, it made it possible for captivated players to order a Pizza Hut pizza without ever leavin

g the game. At the time, the news was widely reported in the gaming and general media as one of the most blatant examples of in-game advertising. Since then, the interest in in-game advertising or “game-vertising” has not abated. In February, Google entered that market as part of its expansion in all things advertising. Google acquired Adscape Media, a company which “offers dynamic delivery of advertising with plot and storyline integration. Adscape Media supports sophisticated demographic and geographic targeting and also provides a robust reporting interface for marketers” according to a company statement. All the new partners have said is that they are “in discussion with many in the game development community and hope to partner with both large and small game publishing companies.” The purchase was Google’s response to Microsoft’s incursion in the field of in-game advertising. Last year, the maker of the Xbox acquired Massive, its own in-game advertising arm. The company’s technology tracks gamers’ actions and serve them ads on billboards and signs inside the game. According to Massive, more than 50 titles for the Xbox 360 and the Xbox are now part of its ad network including Ubisoft’s “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2” and Microsoft’s “Crackdown”. That number is expected to reach 100 titles by the end of the year. At the time of the purchase, the president of Microsoft’s entertainment and devices group Robbie Bach told that ad messages in games could be very effective. “They get it, and they may not even know they got it,” he said. However he warned, “Make sure whatever you do doesn’t interfere with the game playing experience. Do not interrupt someone when they are gaming. It is a very immersive experience.” As advertisers struggle to find alternatives to traditional media, games are looking like an attractive option.  It is estimated that 20 million of the more than 25 million 12-17 year-olds in the U.S. are gamers. But more interestingly, videogames are no longer reserved to teenage boys. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average game player is 30 years old and 43% of all gamers are women, a marketer’s dream. “Now that in-game advertising has been proven effective, brands with seven-figure budgets for this year have been approaching the major players. This supports the general expectation that the market will grow by 40 percent to 50 percent in 2007. The latest market-size estimates for 2010 range between $1 billion and $2 billion,” wrote Justin Townsend, CEO and co-founder of in-game advertising company IGA Worldwide in a recent column in MediaWeek. Even if Mr. Townsend can be suspected of being over-enthusiastic, in-game advertising is a promising “niche.” Isabelle Boucq for Atelier