Marketing

Growth Of In Game Advertising: Obnoxious Or Genius?

April 11, 2024
A person playing a game on play station, which just the playstation remote, TV and speakers visible in the image

In-game advertising, also known as IGA, is a marketing practice that places advertising inside of video games It must be something recent, you might think, but it has actually been around for a long time. The first known application was in 1978, when Adventureland included an advertising promotion for its next game, Pirate Adventure.

Since that time, a lot has changed: improvements in technology have brought more devices with gaming capabilities, such as smartphones and tablets. This has also grown the general audience of people who play games, growing by a steady 5–6% year over year.

With the growth of gaming, in-game advertising has grown accordingly and is expected to continue expanding. The industry was valued at $6.71 billion in 2021, and it is estimated to grow to $12.32 billion in 2028.

The methods of in-game advertising vary tremendously, and many options are available. For example, branded items, billboards, character skins, pop-up videos, or large-scale events. Each option has its pros and cons, but the great thing is that it provides a choice to select the best option for a specific scenario.



Advergaming

A term that is used for advertising in video games is advertising. It’s similar to in-game advertising, but there are some key differences. In games, advertising and advergaming have the same goal of promoting a product or service but go about it in different ways.

Advergaming is a practice where games are developed from scratch with the sole goal of promoting a certain brand. Advergaming games are usually quite simplistic and can be played on a lot of devices since they don’t need strong hardware to run, reducing development costs.

A perfect example of successful advergaming is the game Shrimp Attack by KFC Japan. It wanted to promote their new shrimp dish and did so very successfully by creating a fun and engaging mobile game. Players had to defend the KFC’s chicken kingdom’s castle from the shrimps, doing so successfully would reward players with a voucher for a KFC restaurant.

The campaign and game were so successful that the product sold out halfway through the planned runtime and had to be cut short. Find the full success story here.



Is it good practice?

In game advertising and advergaming reach an audience that’s in a very different state compared to other media platforms like Netflix or YouTube, where viewers are more distracted. When people play games they’re fully engaged, active and passionate which creates an opportunity. If you can successfully target the players in game, the positive brand association, brand awareness and reach can be immense.


Implementation is key, a well designed promotion ensures that it fits with the model and theme of the game. Consumers understand and expect that free to play games have more advertising since the game is free. However, when it comes to triple A games whose prices have been going up the last few years, with recent announcements indicating 70 USD videogames are here to stay, reception of in game ads for these titles is drastically more critical.


Players will complain endlessly about advertisements that are intrusive in a game they paid €60 for. This doesn’t mean that ads in triple A titles are a bad idea because if it’s implemented correctly with the story and world of the game, great success can be had. Nielsen found that 36% of gamers who saw an in game advertisement bought, talked about or researched the marketed product. Moreover, the majority reported that in game advertisements did not distract from their playing sessions. It does, however, remain a fine, fine line to walk.



Examples: the good and the bad

Let’s dive into 3 examples of in game advertising, some good others not so much.


1. Top: Fortnite
Fortnite revolutionized the gaming industry on multiple fronts, including in game advertising. In 2019, it was declared to be the best platform to promote products by Polygon. The producer Epic Games went all out by making promotions part of the game through playable characters, items and events.

These limited time events were very unique and described by some people as ‘gaming history’. The most well known example is when the famous rapper Travis Scott held live events in Fortnite, which were attended by 12 million players. Everyone talked about it, leading to millions of views on YouTube and streaming platforms, countless news articles and social media interactions.


Product placements were also well received. For example, players had the chance to unlock an exclusive pair of Nike Jordan sneakers which their player model could wear and show off to others. When the new John Wick movie came out, the main character was playable.


Thanos the Villain of the Marvel Avengers movies was also playable, NFL team outfits were available so you could represent your favorite football team in the game. All these promotions were very successful and the beautiful thing is, all of these product placements fit in with the diverse world of Fortnite.

This level of in game advertising was never seen before and made waves with how well incorporated it was with the game. However, executing this level of advertising is very expensive and time consuming, something only recommended for sizable brands that have sufficient resources and budget.



2. Flop: Battlefield 2042
This triple A game was released last year and featured static display ads from Logitech which did not go well with the players. The original reception of the game wasn’t good, consumers expected a lot better from such a renowned franchise. By finding these in game advertising banners, people felt that more effort was put into making ads than producing a good game. As a brand, this negativity around your promotion is something you probably want to avoid.

Logitech is a brand that’s very popular with PC gamers for their peripherals such as gaming mice, keyboards and headsets. Likewise, the Battlefield franchise is also beloved among PC gamers, so Logitech did manage to target their audience with this game.


However, the banners in itself were not very creative and didn’t fit with the overall theme of the game. The game is set in the future year 2042, so why would there be a display ad about a gaming mouse that came out in 2014?


Could this have been implemented in a better way? Well, if the banner showed off a futuristic and imaginary mouse from Logitech in the year 2042, it would fit in with the overall context and actually intrigue players, a missed opportunity sadly. It was reflected by the public opinion, some online comments that were massively upvoted stated: “please tell me this is a photoshop” and “this makes me want to get rid of my Logitech G502 with it being advertised in such a broken game”.


3. Top: Rocket League
The very popular multiplayer game Rocket League is about playing football with a bunch of cars, so the creators had the genius idea of merging the worlds of Hot Wheels and Rocket League together to bring fans of one franchise to the other and vice versa.


Hot Wheels is a beloved toy car brand and the Hot Wheels cars perfectly fit with the world and style of Rocket League, the deal was described as a match made in heaven. Fans of both franchises were really excited and had a positive reception to Hot Wheel cars becoming part of the Rocket League game.

A year later Hot Wheels released a real life playset of the rocket league game via RC cars in a miniature stadium. This method of in game advertising and collaborating has proved to work very effectively, Rocket League has continued to draw other big brands to their game, most recently it announced a partnership with one of the most famous and legendary car brands in the world, Bugatti.


Another example is when Nike released a new football boot last summer, it went all out with promotion and part of that was a collaboration with Rocket League. It provided in game Nike branded items and hosted an invitational tournament with the best pro players and teams of Rocket League.  


Side note: the campaign also utilized 3d billboards in London’s Piccadilly Circus to promote the collaboration, check our previous blog on 3D billboards to find out why they are so effective at grabbing attention.

To conclude

The key takeaway of all of this should be that in game advertising can be an extremely effective advertising strategy, but only if you fully understand your market. Determine what games your target audience is playing and provide interesting branded content that fits with the game.

If executed correctly the gains in brand awareness can be monumental. It means that players are experiencing the promotional content as part of the game thereby not hampering the user experience. Players will be fully focussed on the content of the game and thus the branding too, it just has to be integrated, appropriate and fun.

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