Google Games Patent Filing on Targeted Advertisements

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Last month, news leaked out that Google was buying Adscape Media, which specializes in providing advertising within games. It appears that Google was already working on how to show ads during gameplay, and how to collect information about the users playing those games.

Batter at the Plate, with Toyota ad on the wall behind batter and catcher

A new patent application from Google looks at ways of determining user information for use in targeting ads, and determining and serving relevant ads in video games. They take into account a person’s interests and gaming behavior by monitoring and making inferences from their online gaming activities.

Using information from user-video game interactions to target advertisements, such as advertisements to be served in video games for example

Invented by Shumeet Baluja
US Patent Application 20070072676
Published March 29, 2007
Filed: September 29, 2005


Information about a person’s interests and gaming behavior may be determined by monitoring their online gaming activities (and perhaps making inferences from such activities). Such information may be used to improve ad targeting. For example, such information may used to target ads to be rendered in a video game being played by the person.

When is information collected?

1. Registration Information – Gamer information may be collected at the time of registration of a game, a gaming console, or during online gaming subscription registration.

2. Game play tracking – may track selections made during the course of game play. In a Formula One racing game, a player may make selections about the type of car they are driving, who the driver is, the racing track used to compete upon, car colors, types of tires, etc. In a first person shooter type game, a player might decide to play as a “medic, a mercenary, an engineer, a warrior, a thief, a wizard, an alien, etc.” In sports games, choices about teams chosen, stadiums played at, and players selected might be remembered.

This kind of user input might help select relevant advertisements. Someone drives a racing car from Dodge, they may be show ads for Dodge cars. They pick a Miami sports team, and get ads for tickets for events in Miami. A Beastie Boys soundtrack selection might trigger rap or hip hop ads rather than Britney Spears.

User selections may not be the only behavior that triggers certain advertisements:

If the user has been playing for over two hours continuously, the system may display ads for pizza-hut, coke, coffee and other related goods.

Some more indepth analysis of game play may determine other ads being shown:

For instance, users that spend a long time bartering instead of stealing in a game may suggests that they are interested in the best deals rather than the flashiest items so the system may show ads reflecting value. As another example, users that spend a lot of time exploring suggest that they maybe interested in vacations, so the system may show ads for vacations. As another example, users that spend a lot of time chatting instead of fighting or performing other activities in online games suggest that they like to chat, so the system may show ads for cell phones, ads for long distance plans, chat messengers, etc.

Where would ads be shown during games?

  • First person shooter games – ads could be displayed at vending machines, billboards, posters on walls, a TV screen that the character walks by, etc.
  • Racing games – advertisements could be placed on the car or on signage or billboards along the streets and racetracks, or maybe even announced on the virtual adio of the car that the player is driving.
  • Sports games – advertisements may be displayed on score boards and along the sidelines of the court/field. Ads may be inserted as textual or spoke dialog, as an audio clip in a virtual radio, etc.
  • Online action-adventure and role playing games (RPGs) – Simulated real world-like environments where gamers may roam vast environments provide many locations where ads might be displayed. For instance, gamers may roam and interact through large city markets (e.g., stop for food at a McDonalds, get a haircut, go to a night club for drinks, buy a car, buy property, move through the city using a cab/bus/subway, buy goods from various stores, play a video game in an arcade, etc.), thus providing many potential spots where ads might be displayed just as in real city markets.

The patent application indicates that it could collect some pretty detailed information about user behavior:

Examples of information that could be useful, particularly in massive multiplayer online RPG’s, may be the specific dialogue entered by the users while chatting or interacting with other players/characters within the game. For example, the dialogue could indicate that the player is aggressive, profane, polite, literate, illiterate, influenced by current culture or subculture, etc. Also decisions made by the players may provide more information such as whether the player is a risk taker, risk averse, aggressive, passive, intelligent, follower, leader, etc. This information may be used and analyzed in order to help select and deliver more relevant ads to users.

How would an advertiser get feedback, from gaming ad placments? One way would be to provide the gamers with a chance to provide a negative or positive response.

For example, in a Simms type game, the ad might be a character saying “Want to listen to the new Coldplay album.” A response such as “yes”, “sure”, “absolutely”, “you bet”, etc. could indicate a positive user response to the ad (like a selection of a text or banner ad on a Webpage), while a response such as “no”, “nah”, etc. could indicate a negative user response to the ad (like clicking the close box of an ad on a Webpage).

Those user actions in response to ads could be tracked and used for billing or ad scoring, and treated as an ad selection or conversion, and collected for determination of conversion rates.

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13 thoughts on “Google Games Patent Filing on Targeted Advertisements”

  1. Pingback: OneMedPlace » Blog Archive » The Future of Online Health: Interview with Aaron Wall
  2. Too bad for Google that game websites used behavioral targeting advertising long before their patent was applied for.

  3. Hi Mike,

    Only time will tell if the patent office decides that what Google has submitted in their patent application is new, nonobvious, and useful – which are some of the hurdles that a patent needs to go through before it is granted.

    It does look like one of the compelling reasons for Google to have acquired Adscape Media was because of their long list of patent filings in this area, and likely the expertise of the people who worked upon those. My first link in the post leads to a post that I wrote where I listed a good number of Adscapes patent filings.

  4. I can just see Google making a killing with this. There are so many places in games to advertise inconspiculously. Yet again, Google shows that it can climb to the top of yet another market.

  5. Hi Eric,
    We’ve seen a patent application and an acquisition of a company that appears to understand advertising in games, but I haven’t seen Google actually offering advertising within games yet. Will we?

    It’s possible – the gaming market is huge. Can Google be innovative in the area? That’s some thing that they claim to look for when entering a new area – if they can add something new, that people might want, then it may be worth pursuing. Can they be innovative when it comes to advertising in games?

  6. Sheesh advertisements keep creeping up into all aspects of our lives. The movies and shows we watch now have them everywhere. Our videogames, too? It’s beginning to become a bit too much. If a game knows about me and has special targeted ads for my favorite soda or whatever, that’s just getting creepy.

    it does also seem like a kind of obvious/unoriginal patent application, too…

  7. Hi SamS,

    It’s not surprising that people would want to advertise in games considering how popular gaming is these days. I’m siding with you on the fact that it is kind of creepy.

  8. What will Google do next? Well this blog post give you that answer! THis is crazy, is there anything Google Hasn’t done? With their release of the g1 mobile it goes to show what they are capable of!

    I would like to see how this will be implemented, maybee with a nice bag of cash to the top game produces would be a good start. I would like to see how this works and what depth they are willing to take it.

    I have already seen advertising in online multiplayer based applications but within game is a totally new standard.

  9. Ads in games is a profitable idea for any game development company or to an ad-servicing agent. However, companies should put it mind that ads should not be adverse to the game play experience. As long as games provide good entertainment and wouldn’t have significant distractions, this idea suits me just fine.

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