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Testing Google Ads In Flash

I plan to pay my bills with the games I create as soon as possible. The first experiment I’m conducting in that regard is displaying advertisements within my games.

Is that a viable source of income for what I’m doing? What amounts of money can I expect to earn with ads? Will I be able to make enough money off this to finance a couple more games with the same business model or do I have to quickly move on to more promising ways of monetization?

Blank Billboard

©2011-2012 ~seraphunk

Basically, I’m about to make a similar step that Flash programmer and web developer Emanuele Feronato made five years ago. He started an experiment in 2007 where he tested how much advertisement money he could make with Flash games that took different amounts of time to develop.

He mostly used MochiAds, which I will check out as well. But for now, I want to see if I can get ads from the big one: Google’s AdSense.

Being a developer, one of the first things I want to know is how I implement Google ads into my game. This is how that went:

Using Google Interactive Media Ad SDK

Looking for how to integrate ads provided by Google in Flash applications yielded a link to the Interactive Media Ad (IMA) SDK. The IMA SDK is an Actionscript library by Google intended to display advertisements in videos and games rendered by the Flash plugin.

I have to say, so far I’m very happy with Google’s support for Flash developers. Google seems to provide official SWC libraries for many of their services. This makes connecting to and communicating with their backends from a Flash application very convenient so far.

One example for this is Google Analytics, which is complimented by the Google Analytics Tracking for Adobe Flash library. Even though the library is missing support for a few neat features of Google Analytics, it still provides the basic, important things. Also, implenting it gave me next to no trouble.

The same goes for the IMA SDK. Over the course of an afternoon I had a couple of sample ads running in my game, and that without having signed up for an AdSense account yet.

Also, so far Google’s SWCs work out of the box and don’t rely on any JavaScript functions outside the Flash application. This stands in contrast to the web version of Facebook’s Actionscript API mentioned in my last post. This is important for me as I want to be able to post my game to as many game portals as possible. This means I have to be independent of the respective setups provided by these sites.

First Results

By following Google’s tutorial, I was able to load and display a sample ad video from an external source. Give it a try yourself:
Sorry, either Adobe flash is not installed or you do not have it enabled
By clicking the button, you should be presented with one of two sample videos that are provided by the ad server I’m contacting.

Usually, you have to pass the IMA SDK a URL which is related to your AdSense account. As mentioned, I don’t have that account yet, since I have to sort out a couple of official issues first. But I was still able to test the technical side of this by using this URL:

http://ad.doubleclick.net/pfadx/AngelaSite/;kw=vastdemo;sz=468x60;tile=1;ord=[random number]

The tutorial provides another two test URLs in it’s sample code which provide different videos. With this, you can test whether the SDK works for you before you go through the trouble of signing up for an AdSense account.

Some Uncertainty Remains

While the first results are promising, there are still a couple of things I’m not sure about.

It seems the IMA SDK is intended for the use with “AdSense for videos” and “AdSense for games”, where I’m mostly interested in the latter, of course. How to sign up for AdSense for games isn’t quite clear to me, yet.

I have found different sign up forms for AdSense for games:

  • This form, which I found by changing the AdSense for videos URL given in the IMA SDK documentation.

    With this form, you seem to sign up for the “AdSense for games beta”, which is a little confusing, since the beta seems to have already started four years ago.

  • This form pops up when googling for “AdSense for games”.

    It still mentions “expanding the beta program”. It also mentions a minimum of 500,000 plays per day as a requirement to use the service, which really worries me. I hope that this information refers to early stress tests in the beta and is outdated as well.

  • I also stumbled upon this Integration Review Request Form, which you seem to fill out in order to have Google review your game and your IMA implementation.

Looking for further information about AdSense for games also yields this article, which manages to come off as a little weird just by it’s strange formatting.

So, I’m still not sure what I have to do to qualify for AdSense for games, but it seems the next logical step is to sign up for a basic AdSense account, as this seems to be the requirement for applying for any further services.

Another issue I have to think about is whether AdSense for games offers only video ads or simple, non animated ads as well. Especially if I want to offer my game in regions where broadband internet connections aren’t as prevalent, streaming video ads might be a problem.

All this remains to be seen, but I’m looking forward to finding out about it in my next steps.

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