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Microsoft unit to place ads in Webzen games

Massive, the software maker's newly bought ad unit, signs deal for promos in the Korean companies online games.

South Korean video game company Webzen on Tuesday said it struck a deal in which Microsoft's newly acquired Massive advertising unit will place promotions in two of its upcoming titles.

The ad deal, which is a first for online game maker Webzen, marks Massive's entry into the Asian market, the companies said. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Games included in the deal are "Huxley," set for release next year, and "All Points Bulletin," due in 2008. Those titles, which are set in virtual urban environments, are so-called massively multiplayer online games that can support thousands of players at once.

Massive sells advertising to companies such as Coca-Cola and Honda Motor, and helps them place their online promotions in slots created by game makers.

The company's technology allows advertisers to run their online campaigns in specific geographic areas and for specific periods of time, rather than buying a spot that is written into the game software.

The new advertising medium--which by some forecasts, could grow into a $3 billion-plus global market by 2010--promises to connect advertisers with the sought-after young male audience that tends to favor the Internet and video games over television and other traditional media.

Online advertising has fueled growth at major Internet companies like Yahoo and Google, and video game makers are hoping that revenue from online advertising also will help transform their industry, where the cost of making ever-more sophisticated games is climbing fast.

"For us, it's a revenue stream, but it also offers some realism for the game," said Cindy Armstrong, chief executive of Webzen America.