updated 4/5/2006 8:39:14 PM ET 2006-04-06T00:39:14

Advertising has been creeping into video games in the past few years as virtual billboards that hawk real-world products like soft drinks and computer gear.

The publisher of online science-fiction game Project Entropia is taking the idea one step further by giving players the tools to put up their own advertising in the game.

The latest release of the game, created by MindArk PE AB of Sweden, features advertising billboards. Through a PowerPoint-like system, players create animated ads and buy time on the billboards.

So far, the ads have been promoting player-organized in-game events like fashion shows and hunting competitions, as well as businesses like stores and hunting grounds, said Marco Behrmann, MindArk's directory of player relations.

MindArk said it was the first player-oriented advertising tool built into a game.

In another virtual world, Second Life, players who master its tools can create almost anything they want, including advertising, and enterprising players have created their own ad-exchange program on a Web site.

MindArk also announced a collaboration with New York-based Massive Inc., which distributes ads from companies like The Coca Cola Co. and Warner Bros. for inclusion in more than 100 games. Ads distributed by Massive will show up on billboards in Project Entropia.

Project Entropia has 400,000 registered users, far behind the 5.5 million users for the most popular online game, World of Warcraft. But Project Entropia has a sophisticated economic model, including a virtual currency, convertible to real-world dollars at a fixed exchange rate.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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