On Wednesday, October 8, Google released AdSense for Games. This announcement comes over a year after suspicion began brewing that Google would be introducing advertising into online games. According to comScore data cited by Google, 25 percent of Internet users worldwide play online games, totaling 200 million people. With AdSense for Games, advertisers will be able to target audiences with text, picture, or video ads within games. And, while information is scarce at this point, I imagine AdSense for Games offers similar customizability (i.e., what games will have the ads) to textual ads currently offered by Google.

However, before you jump from your seat in an effort to jump on this bandwagon, it should be noted that the implications of this data are quite inaccurate. If you equate this data to saying that “Google will be targeting 200 million active online gamers with advertising,” you are sorely mistaken. Due to the restrictions currently placed on AdSense for Games, only a sliver of games will be eligible. To be able to offer in-game ads through Google, a game must:

  • Be based on Flash.
  • Have over 500,000 game plays per day (though, one Google employee mentioned that games with 150,000+ per day may be eligible) 
  • Have over 80 percent of players based in the U.S. or UK. 
  • Additional restrictions apply. (See https://services.google.com/events/adsense_games to learn more.) 

Now, this is not to say that Google will not successfully monetize web-based flash games. In fact, I think this is a great idea and was probably inevitable in an age of free and immediate information. Furthermore, this is a great offering for most parties involved: advertisers that are able to understand their audience and construct text, picture, or video ads that relate to that audience will likely be quite successful. And while they may be few, I’m sure some game developers will score big on these prospects. As far as the players themselves go, it’s still too soon to say how they will respond.

But, one thing is for sure. The "200 million users" data offers little context for what the current market for this type of advertising is, when you consider the popularity of uneligible online games, such as massively multiplayer online role playing games (e.g., World of Warcraft, Everquest) and first-person shooters (e.g., Call of Duty, Halo). Also, most of the games that are Flash based will likely have a rough time scooping up 500,000 plays per day, with 400,000 of them based in the U.S. or UK. (That’s quite the challenge for game designers looking to monetize their products, especially those not supported by larger enterprises.)

Of course, Google may likely loosen the slack on these restrictions once a sufficient buzz has been developed (as it did with the once invite-only Gmail). If the exclusivity factor is played up right, players may enjoy the prospect that their favorite game was able to get in with Google.

To see a demo of how the in-game advertising might affect the gaming experience, check out this video below.

And with that, the only question remaining is this: even if Google’s offering is a hit and the popularity of Flash-based games skyrockets, will companies see a significant enough ROI to make the investment? I’d love to hear your thoughts.