Google AdSense: Coming to a Game Near You

By Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

Last night, Google announced the beta launch of its AdSense for Games program, which will focus on placing ads in casual flash games as well as some larger titles. This move doesn’t come as a huge surprise, since Google bought AdScape Media for $23 million last year.

In fact, one of the major players in this program, PlayFish, a company that publishes casual social games for social networking sites, has already been using Google ads since April. Its flagship game, Who Has the Biggest Brain, has been installed over 6 million times on Facebook. The ads are surprisingly unintrustive, as they come at the end of playing the game rather than at the beginning. So unless you want to play again, you don’t even have to sit through the short video ad.

However, bigger companies such as Konami have signed onto the AdSense program. Apparently they plan to place ads in popular titles like Frogger and Dance Dance Revolution. This is a little harder for me to wrap my head around than ads in casual, Internet-based games. Could we potentially be moving towards a model where games with ads are less expensive to end users than ad-free games? Would YOU be willing to put up with ads in your games (assuming everything from product placement to click-through ads)?

CNET has a good article that has experts in the field speculating about how well this idea will go over. I find myself thinking about it in a binary way–free games should have ads, and games I have to pay for shouldn’t. This is just how I’ve come to expect things, especially on the Internet, to work. I don’t mind ads that are there to keep me from having to pay for something (for example, the ads on PlayFish’s Facebook games don’t bother me at all), but as soon as I’m shelling out money for something, I get annoyed by ads. It feels the same as watching TV on (or even network TV) versus HBO.

Here’s a short video that lists some of the games that are part of the new Adsense Gaming Network. As you’ll see, there’s not only web-based games in there, but also several big offline titles.