Google, the leader in online search and advertising, is muscling in on video game territory — though it won't exactly be in the form of a shoot 'em up game.
Google was set to announce Wednesday it is launching the beta version of "Adsense in Games," a technology designed to put relevant advertising links in Web-based games.
It is an expansion of Google's Adsense program, which matches ads to the content of websites. Similarly, Adsense in Games will show, for example, ads targeted at young men in sports and action games. The ads themselves would be videos that players watch before or after a game, or after completing a level.
Adsense in Games lets Google offer advertisers "yet another place" to reach customers, said Christian Oestlien, senior product manager at the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.
Google's entry into the gaming space has long been anticipated and could be a hedge against slippage in online advertising from the economic downturn. Google bought Adscape Media, a small in-game advertising company, in early 2007, less than a year after Microsoft bought in-game ad company Massive Inc.
Google's chief rival, Yahoo Inc., already offers ad-supported, downloadable games. Double Fusion and NeoEdge, two in-game advertising companies, are selling video ads integrated into the games.
Even so, Jameson Hsu, chief executive of San Francisco-based online gaming network Mochi Media — which is working with Google to provide in-game ads in Europe — said Google's entrance into video game ads is "validating the market."
"It's a very big milestone," he said.