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12 Dimensions of Gaming Advertisement – Closing Keynote from Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell at iMedia Breakthrough


Nolan and me (okay, me and Nolan, or is it I and Nolan, or… umm?)

This was the closing keynote at iMedia Breakthrough:

The best ad vehicle for Chuck E. Cheese was one 11 year old boy. “The viral nature of an elementary school – you can’t believe that it can be as good as it is.”

(Note his presentation actually said 11 Dimensions, if you read that somewhere else, but it was numbered wrong and there are really 12).


1. uWink (his company)

2. Coin operated games – massive in late 70s, early 80s, fell off cliff. They didn’t understand their marketplace. They wanted to have one on one relationships with players, but that relationship was better at home. The only things left are things you can’t get at home. See: Dave & Busters, Chuck E Cheese. “You can win hundreds of thousands of tickets, you can turn them in, and you can get a whistle.”

Dance Dance Revolution: massively successful. Progenitor to Wii. Interfaces between 1-2 million US kids every week.

3. Mobile Mashups: used at uWink – you have big video display in a mall, and anyone who walks by can play trivia game with mobile phone. Underutilized, cheap, easy, fun. You’ll see a lot in the future.

4. Augmented Reality – in next 10 years, major area of experiential advertising. With your mobile phone, as you move around, it tells you what’s in the store, what’s on sale, “the fact that there’s a bad guy in there you can shoot.”

These will all bring new sets of gameplay and ad opportunities. “We don’t have to shoot people. It just happens to be fun.” For people who are against violence: “When you have bad guys from another planet, you have to shoot ‘em.” “I don’t get the objection to shooting people who are already dead.”



5. Casual Game Wrappers (Neoedge) (his company) (and yes he has 2 ):- most efficient ad opportunity you can have (admits his own bias)

6. Game Widgets – more and more important

7. Social Media Widgets

8. In Game Placements

9. Advergames – underutilized game system going forward.


10. Smart Phones

11. Proximity Games – games that become aware of each other. Masses of people in malls can run around having a good time. “Burning Man for everybody in a mall.”

12. Premum Marketing – can buy stuff in games. Would love to buy with points. Having points provided by advertiser is cool.

Rest of his talk:

“There’s such a thing as too much innovation.” Showed prototypical arcade game in 1970 – “shifting synchronous digital counters technology”


1970: Atari Started (Syzygy)

1972: Pong Coin op introduced

1975: Consumer Pong ships

1977: Atari 2600 VCS

on Chuck E Cheese:

The animals are a fraud. They’re there for the parents. Kids can say they’re there for the animals, subtle way for parents not to think they’re spending tons of money on game tokens. The ads were secondary about the games. The name came about because you have to smile three times when you say Chuck E. Cheese.

Another fun fact: Chuck E. wears shin guards. Kids think it’s fun to beat the heck out of him. “The job of being Chuck E. in that costume is not a good job.” “If you find a male employee who wants to be in the Chuck E. Cheese costume too often you have a problem.”

On his gaming startups

uWink: it’s about social gaming – Chuck E. Cheese for adults, but more so a part around the table. Touchscreen on every table, automated food ordering too. Game bar turned into automated restaurant. Food delivered by “entertainment directors.” Most of time when you want something different, it’s not the kitchen that messes up, it’s the waiter, so this removes that friction. Has ads on the touch screens.

NeoEdge Networks (he’s chairman of the board): big gap between amount of time spent on casual games and advertising in it. Pre-roll, interstitials make sense for games.

MetaTix: another gaming company where he’s on the board.

[He kind of lost his fire at this point… he had this amazing spark the entire time and then started going through the motions.]

On Education

Game players score 7-15 points on IQ tests than non-game players. Beneficial effects of game play for kids under 20 stop at 2 hours a day. Don’t let kids play more. More than 4 hours: people get dumber than non-gamers.

Next project: a high school using games/tech that eliminates the classroom and teaches kids how they want to be taught, using technology.

Also, physical movement enhances the brain’s ability to learn. Forcing kids to sit still hurts kids.

On Emerging Technologies

Four different technologies can separate foreground, background images –

3 years from now you won’t have a remote control on high end TV sets. It’ll be gesture.

Conductive tattoos: electronic circuit put into your body – can text message just by moving fingers.


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