Ads for the players: getting in-game experiences right

Posted on: Thursday 26 March 2020 | James Draper - Founder and CEO, Bidstack

How can in-game advertisers ensure that ads don’t just work for their environment, but fully integrate within it? Bidstack’s CEO James Draper takes a look

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Gaming was always destined for the mainstream. The growing variety of platforms and games has seen the number of video gamers reach 2.6 billion globally, and market value is on track to hit $500 billion by 2025. With such rising appeal, it was only a matter of time before the world of gaming sparked advertiser attention. 

But while advertising can provide vital revenue for game developers, there is still a delicate balance to be found between ads and content. Having worked for decades to build captivating experiences and devoted audiences, developers don’t want to risk losing gamer favour with interruptive, annoying ads.


No time for disruption  

The advertising industry is aware of rising consumer demand for better online experiences. For three years, around one-fifth of internet users have made their feelings about intrusive ads clear via blockers - especially those aged 18-24 - and avoiding certain ad types remains among the top reasons for doing so. The expectations of gamers are no different. 

Aside from parallels with the young ad blocking demographic, players share low tolerance for disruption: see the reaction to unskippable ads on the NBA 2K19 loading screen. In lieu of official guidelines, advertisers and developers must set the bar for non-intrusive ads that put players first. 


A subtle route to attention 

The best in-game option is following the native advertising lead. Designed to blend with environments, these ads achieve impact through contextual relevance; making them perfect for gaming. 

By seamlessly integrating ads with game design, developers and advertisers can ensure high visibility but avoid breaking immersion by ensuring ads only appear in spaces players would expect advertising in the real world. For instance, that could be pitch-side hoardings in stadiums for football games or outdoor billboards in open-world games.  

The benefits of this considered approach run in all directions. Consumers are uninterrupted, with ads enhancing, not diminishing experience realism. Advertisers have the opportunity to reach highly engaged gamers who are completely absorbed by play via tailored, unblockable ads. And for developers, ads provide crucial income that helps fund future production, without compromising quality.

Of course, there are risks to manage. Ads must be vetted to ensure they are truly relevant to each game, not just gamers. Advertisers should also choose placements carefully; selecting sources that maximise brand safety by scanning inventory to detect and remove fraudulent content. Bidstack, for example, recently acquired PubGuard for exactly this purpose. 

But the most essential ingredient for in-game success is a consistent focus on the players. If advertisers and developers want to make the most of fast-expanding gaming audiences, they need to ensure ads don’t just work for their environment, but fully integrate with it.


Written by

James Draper

Founder and CEO, Bidstack

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