Even before the world went into lockdown and sporting events were cancelled, the talk of in-game advertising was getting louder. However, in-game ads are not new. The first product placement in a video game was back in 1978 with Adventureland where they used this platform to advertise their upcoming game, Pirate Adventure. FIFA have also had brands on billboards around the pitch since their first instalment of the popular football series in 1994.
eSports is growing
Interest in eSports has been growing and this isn’t expected to stop. According to research by Green Man Gaming, in 2019, eSports reached 443m viewers and by 2022, is expected to reach 645m. This is more than Baseball, American Football, Rugby and Golf. eSports global revenue grew 54% in 2019 compared to 2018. This is higher than the USA’s MLS league and the EFL Championship. It is expected to be over $1.4bn in 2020.
This growth is in comparison to traditional ad formats. Audiences in traditional media channels such as TV and radio are in decline. Traditional digital ad formats such as pop-ups, banners and auto-play videos are also losing popularity with the increase of ad-blockers due to them being annoying and intrusive.
Brands can be creative
Globally, gamers spend an average of 7 hours and 7 minutes each week playing video games. This is valuable time that brands can take advantage of sharing engaging content with their target audience. Whilst playing video games, gamers are focused on their game so there is no chance of them scrolling quickly through and missing an ad. As the ads are in the game, gamers are unable to use ad-blockers. Brands also have full control over where their ads will be seen to ensure they are in a brand-safe environment. This is unlike social advertising where brands are not always aware of where their ads are showing.
Gaming publishers place ads in natural environments as they don’t want to lose gamers due to disruptive ads. However, they still have a high viewability without annoying the gamer. The placement of ads can even increase the realism in some games. Sports games which have a number of ad placements around stadiums in real-life can be replicated in the game. In cases like this, gamers will expect to see ads.
Brands can also be creative with their in-game advertising. There is more to just billboards. DHL teamed up with ESL One and Dota to appear in an eSports tournament and were integrated in the world of Dota. Fast-food chain Wendy’s also showed that you don’t always have to pay big money to gain great results from eSports. They entered the world of Fortnite and instead of taking on the other players, they located and destroyed the freezers in the burger restaurants in the game. (It’s useful to know that Wendy’s doesn’t use frozen burgers in their restaurants). They then live-streamed this on Twitch for millions to watch. Their campaign against the freezers in the game went viral and they were being mentioned by gaming influencers and even their competitors.
Take advantage of influencers
Influencers have been key in the growth of eSports and they have played a major role in pushing eSports to the mass audience. One of the most well-known eSports influencers, Ninja, currently has 5.5million followers on Twitter and now streams exclusively on Mixer, where he has almost 3 million followers. After becoming a professional Fornite player, he signed a sponsorship deal with Redbull and one of his streams gained 600,000 views when he took on Drake on Fortnite in 2018.
Add these numbers to the numbers that the biggest eSports events reach and you can see where brands should be looking to for advertising. In 2018, the League of Legends World Championship finals had over 100 million fans watch online. The Super Bowl in the same year received just over 98 million views. With the world currently in lockdown and sporting clubs and competitions turning to eSports to keep their fans engaged, a whole new audience is now being introduced.
It’s important for brands to stay relevant as audiences’ attitudes change. In-game advertising can offer many benefits for brands and also open up new revenue streams for gaming publishers. As they work together to come up with new creative ways to reach their audiences, we can expect to see the growth of in-game in the advertising space.