REDWOOD CITY, Calif: The world's largest video game creator, Electronic Arts, has entered into potentially lucrative deals with two in-game advertising companies: Microsoft's Massive and IGA Worldwide.

While video-game ads date back to Neolithic times - 1989 at least - these two deals break new ground.

No-lifers immersed in such pastimes as EA's road-racing game Need for Speed will see the usual billboards lining the virtual streets. In the upcoming edition, as previously, the billboards will feature real ads - but this time with a dramatic difference.

Live ads streamed via the internet will display different ads on the bilboards each time a player switches-on the game. Likewise, Massive will be streaming ads into Xbox 360 and PC versions of the EA game, alongside three other yet to be announced titles.

Rationalizes EA's vp of online commerce Chip Lange: "Some areas naturally support the advertising. If you drive around an urban environment and there's no advertising the space feels naked, and if the advertising is dated the game feels old."

IGA plans to inseminate its futuristic war game, Battlefield 2142 with changing ads. The game is scheduled for release later this year.

But although the dollar signs are flashing in the eyes of both companies, they have yet to sign a single advertiser. Lange, however, is philosophic: "We've taken our time getting to here," he says. "We're beginning the learning process, as is the industry."

Data sourced from Washington Post Online; additional content by WARC staff