Games People Play

Imagery Media hit the big time in 2003, when Clear Channel Radio hired the interactive animation studio to create an online video game to promote top New York City radio station Z100 and its lead DJ, Romeo. More than two years later, the game, Romeo on the Run, is still getting 1 million hits a month from listeners who head to the station’s Website for entertainment. “It’s a commercial that will go on forever,” explains Justin Kennedy, Imagery Media’s director.

Husband-and-wife duo Justin, 34, and Carmen Kennedy, 32, founded Brooklyn-based Imagery Media in 2003 after leaving their jobs in entertainment law and interactive media production, respectively. Recognizing the looming opportunities in online games, they used a $3,000 investment from a business associate and $1,000 of their personal savings to secure their first office space in Manhattan. Then they wooed an animator and a programmer to join their new firm.

At the outset, the couple focused on using Flash-a Web-based animation tool-to produce and sell online games. Success came quickly when Clear Channel called, which led to a string of other projects.

Today, the firm employs 12 and has an impressive client list, including companies such as Cartoon Network and FedEx. Fees from custom advergames-interactive games designed to promote a company’s brand-totaled $550,000 last year. Revenues are projected to hit between $650,000 and $800,000 in 2006.

Imagery Media is successful in part because it recognized the allure of online entertainment during its infancy. The U.S. market for online PC games, as computer video games are categorized, is expected to reach $1.2 billion this year and grow to more than $2 billion by 2008, reports Schelley Olhava, an analyst with market research firm IDC.

The company recently expanded into e-learning services, which now accounts for 50% of its business. This growth mirrors the nationwide increase in companies using e-learning, reports the American Society for Training and Development. The organization’s State of the Industry report for 2005 found that the use of technology-based learning has quadrupled in the last six years, increasing from 8.4% of all training to a projected 32.5%.

The Kennedys decided to include e-learning in their repertoire when they were contacted by Canon, a manufacturer of 35mm and digital cameras and other imaging products. At Canon, online courses for employees currently make up about 33% of the company’s training offerings. But Canon expects that percentage to climb to 50% by year-end. Canon chose to outsource some of its e-learning projects to Imagery Media “because of the interactivity they build into their programs,” explains Chuck Reinders, assistant manager of curriculum development in educational services.

Such positive results from interactive media clients are fueling new opportunities for Imagery Media. “The industry is still growing exponentially, and we’re right at the forefront,” says Kennedy. “We want to be the Coca-Cola of online gamers, where everyone thinks of us first when they think of online games.”