Monday, June 26, 2006

Brand Manager's Log: The ads have landed

[Image to return shortly]
Eventful day today, all things considered. At 2am this morning, we introduced ads into BOTS, its still in invite-only closed testing but I thought I'd sneak an image out for Branded Newb.

As you can see, the ad is in the lower left corner, a dead space for gameplay since the camera always focuses center on the player's character. As you may or may not know, we've been trying to figure out a model to provide full version quality games for free (see last paragraph). Its too early to gauge player response to the system but I'm pretty excited about the potential. I think it's a great compromise for players that want excellent entertainment value at zero cost.

Of special interest to me as a brand manager is what this does to the overall perception of the game. As I think we're really a frontrunner in this space, I wonder if we're in a new category of games or a hybrid of existing offerings. Without a doubt, we are at a level way above that of Flash puzzle games on websites. However, are we perceived to have the same value as a triple-A title but we just happen to have ads? How we are placed in a player's mind is very important to my job as I don't want to offer the game with a cognitive disconnect.

Finally, the word "free" has been driving me batty lately. We are about to launch some advertising and let me tell you, the word "free" is a bag full of nitrogylcerin bouncy balls; you want to be really careful how you release it. For a brand, "free" bestows instant value to the consumer and yet also immediately sucks value from your brand. Somehow, you want the net effect to be positive. I'm going to test some creative copy with the word in it and see how it goes. I'll report back if I find anything interesting.

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