Google snags AdScape for $23 million, source says

Deal will help the search giant expand its online ad-serving system to a growing game market.

Google is buying in-game advertising company AdScape Media for $23 million, a source familiar with the deal who asked to remain anonymous said Friday.

Representatives at Google and AdScape declined to comment on "speculation and rumor."

Buying AdScape gives Google technology that will allow it to serve ads to yet another market, the fast-growing video and Internet game industry. In-game ad revenue is expected to reach $200 million this year and as much as $700 million by 2010, according to Parks Associates and Yankee Group Research, respectively.

Google's biggest hurdle will be Microsoft, which last year acquired Massive, one of the largest in-game ad providers. In this area Microsoft has a rare advertising advantage over Google, thanks to thriving sales of its Xbox 360 gaming console and a long list of gaming titles, according to analysts.

Other rivals, such as IGA Worldwide and Double Fusion, are bigger and have more venture capital backing and, thus, would have been more expensive to buy, analysts said.

AdScape "has a technology, but not much of a market presence, so the price will be significantly lower" than it would have been for one of the other companies, Michael Goodman, a program manager at Yankee Group, said last week.

AdScape has one patent issued and 15 patents pending, according to Eva Woo, vice president of marketing at the San Francisco-based company. AdScape was started in Ontario by Dan Willis, a former engineer at Nortel. Chairman Bernie Stolar was formerly president of Sega America and Sega Entertainment.

Google has been rapidly moving into new ad markets such as print and radio over the last 18 months. Its automated online ad-serving system performed so well that fourth-quarter profit nearly tripled.

The Google-AdScape deal has been rumored to be in the works since last month when The Wall Street Journal reported it. Red Herringreported on Thursday that the deal was being finalized.

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