Guy Ben-Dov On Anzu’s Responsibility To The Metaverse

To celebrate Anzu’s growth and the fantastic work the company is doing worldwide, the entire global team descended on Tel Aviv for a week of in-person catch-ups and a fun-filled offsite on the edge of the Sea of Galilee.

We took this opportunity to catch up with a recent addition to team Anzu, Guy Ben-Dov, who joined earlier in the year, to get his thoughts on all things gaming, where he sees Anzu fitting into the metaverse, and what the future holds for in-game advertising.

Itamar Benedy and Guy Ben Dov Anzu offsite
Anzu's EVP Business Development HD Games Guy Ben-Dov (right) with Co-Founder & CEO, Itamar Benedy (left) during the Anzu off-site at the Sea of Galilee.

Thanks for taking some time out of your busy week to talk to us. Firstly, remind us what you do at Anzu and your current focus.

I’m the Executive Vice President of Business Development, HD Games at Anzu, and I’m responsible for all the PC, console, and gaming metaverse titles that monetize with Anzu.

I’ve been working within the games industry for a long time, and it’s exciting to see how fast the industry has evolved over the past few years. It feels like we’ve been waiting for gaming to go mainstream and for advertisers to begin taking it seriously – finally, I feel like that time has arrived.

Much of the work my team and I do is educating PC and console games publishers on the vast opportunities that advertising offers. Mobile games have already been monetized with advertising for years. However, monetization within PC and console games has traditionally been pay-to-play. We’re now helping many leading PC and console game studios to unlock the potential that in-game advertising offers.

Ubisoft, Saber Interactive, My.Games, Toplitz Productions, and Amelore are some of the incredible studios we currently work with. It’s been amazing to see game publishers from around the globe approaching us, and asking how they can integrate our ad placements into their titles after learning about the incredible success stories from many other top game publishers.

Dakar Desert RallyAnzu's in-game advertising SDK technology has been integrated into Saber Interactive's highly-anticipated racing title, Dakar Desert Rally, launching later this year.

We’ve heard you speak a lot about relevancy recently. Can you elaborate a bit more on this topic and why it’s important for both publishers and brands when it comes to advertising in games?

At Anzu, we’re trying to bring real value to brands, presented in the best and most respectful way possible for players. We have a responsibility to be the trusted bridge between real-world brands and digital universes. All stakeholders are highly aware of that responsibility today. If something looks or feels wrong, social channels like Reddit, Discord, and Twitter are just a click away, and players are ready to feed back on anything we do.

Quick gains that don’t consider the player are not something that ever works out for brands or developers – we’ve seen this happen many times. That’s why we’re not trying to make something that doesn’t feel right, or smash two puzzle pieces together that clearly don’t fit.

Instead, we’re a responsible platform that cares about the privacy, security, and legality of what’s being shown to the gaming audience. Gaming is unlike any other advertising channel, and players are aware of how they are being marketed to and who by. This means brands need to ensure that their message and content fit the environment and complement the play. Otherwise, it can result in devastating consequences.

Don’t just take it from me, though. We interviewed hundreds of gamers recently as part of a research project looking at what the gaming audience looks like in 2022, and what their feelings are towards in-game advertising. When asked what advice they’d give advertisers looking to advertise in games, the most popular answer across all age groups was ‘always make your advertising as relevant as possible to the environment’.

Golden rules of in-game advertising from gamers in US and UKThe golden rules of in-game advertising, according to Anzu's research from US & UK gamers. Download the full report.

We can’t not talk to you about the metaverse, which seems to be a term that is on everyone's lips nowadays! Where do you see Anzu fitting into this space, and do you think the company adds value?

The short answer is that Anzu adds value to the metaverse from an advertising, game development, and content creation side. My team’s mission is to help metaverse creators monetize their creations in a sustainable way that works long-term.

Put yourself in the shoes of a game developer. Suppose you have built a gaming metaverse experience, an online game, or a sandbox environment. In that case, Anzu’s there to help you create another revenue channel based on immersive in-game ads, allowing you to monetize your investment.

We’re safe and responsible and align with the rules set out by advertising industry bodies like the IAB, platform guidelines, and our love for the art of game creation. We see our most significant pushback where there is the most tension – between our responsibility to help brands reach Gen-Z and Gen-Alpha through the metaverse, and the value in helping metaverse creators monetize their creations. There’s always this air of cynicism - “You’re just trying to make money!”, “You just want to have brands everywhere!”, “You’re just the middlemen!” But this is where our values are – we’re responsible, and every move we make is accounted for.

Every day, I see more and more metaverse environments emerge. Some will succeed, others will not, but they’re all metaverses. They’re creating sections of the metaverse (or their interpretation of the metaverse) and need to monetize on the opportunity. What’s being created is tons of content, with lots of it delivered and offered for free to encourage people to start spending time there.

Many of these environments, however, are costly to maintain, and this is where Anzu comes in. We’re helping these creators monetize their experiences. One example of this is the work we are doing in the metaverse. We’ve partnered with select gaming metaverse platforms’ top creators to help them monetize their experiences, so they can continue to grow out their corners of the metaverse and deliver fun and engaging experiences.

ANZU OFF-SITE 2022 (185)Guy Ben-Dov (right) with Anzu's VP Business Development Chris Vincelli (left).

Finally, where do you see the future in-game monetization heading?

Playstation and Xbox will go all-in on in-game monetization to support the enormous investment that AAA titles now require. Console games need to be more accessible to the larger population, and to do that, developers and platforms need another revenue source. As they're going down the route of offering many AAA titles as part of a monthly subscription in Game Pass and PS Plus, business models need to adapt to our new economy.

In-game ads will become commonplace for PC and console titles, just like they have with mobile. Most titles within the top 10 charts are all free-to-play - Fortnite, Call Of Duty Warzone, Apex Legends... F2P titles are trying to find revenue models that can help them sustain their growth. Some work and some don't, like loot boxes. Native, in-game brand integration, where it makes sense, is a sustainable and widely-accepted revenue source.

We also have to remember, above all else, that it is about the players. We are all gauging players' feedback and responses to how brands are integrated within the metaverse. There will be a path ahead where the right balance of brand placements and ad integrations will be reached. We have a lot of data to support our ideals and strike a balance that matches players’ experience while maximizing monetization opportunities.

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Nick Woodford

Nick works as Anzu's Content Lead. As a gamer with a background working in AdTech, he has a unique perspective on the industry and the in-game advertising sector.

Nick Woodford