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A sign of changing times in the video game industry is that audience reach is becoming talked about as well as unit sales.

Until now, publishers’ interest in statistics ended at the checkout. They wanted million-selling games, and unit sales just about summed up their revenues.

But in-game advertising is becoming more of a factor and games are becoming more like broadcast media with their online capabilities.

In television, media planners and buyers use reach to help figure out how much they are prepared to pay for advertising spots.

The greater the reach, the more they would pay, hence video game publishers wanting to know just exactly how many people are playing their games.

Online advertising networks such as Microsoft’s Massive should be able to provide accurate figures, but what about social game play in the home, rentals, used sales and games just being passed around among friends?

Enter Interpret and its Gameasure tool. Interpret was started by three former members of Nielsen’s interactive practice. It interviewed over 5,000 gamers about their playing habits and has produced its first report.

It suggests that Call of Duty 3, for example, which has sold more than 2m units in the US, has actually been played by 9m gamers.

It also says they prefer Gatorade over Sprite and like chewing gum.

Activision, the game’s publisher, is Gameasure’s first client and can presumably use this information to attract advertisers and higher rates.

“The market has matured, media planners are becoming more and more important and they need this data,” Michael Dowling, Interpret co-founder and chief executive told us.

“We can provide both the reach and a deep profile of gamers.”

A challenge for Activision though is the limited number of advertisers selling World War Two products. A trailer for Casablanca on DVD and an old Coke ad are all that immediately spring to mind.

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