US Advertising in Gaming Market Report 2021
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“A good game is a good game, regardless of how it was funded. Players know that making amazing games is difficult and expensive, and they’re willing to accept unobtrusive advertising…

US Advertising in Gaming Market Report 2021

£ 3,695 (Excl.Tax)


This report provides comprehensive and current information and analysis of the US Advertising in Gaming market including US Advertising in Gaming market size, anticipated market forecast, relevant market segmentation, and industry trends for the video game market in the US.

Current market landscape

Advertising in gaming is an effective way to reach players; nearly two thirds of gamers recall having seen in-game ads over a three-month period. Among players who have seen any video gaming related advertising, three quarters have taken action as a result. Marketers do need to offer an incentive to spur a response, and in-game rewards are motivating:

  • nearly two-thirds of gamers say they would be willing to take some outside-of-game action in exchange for in-game reward.
  • 36% are willing to make a purchase.

Digital advertising spending, including video gaming and esports advertising, surged in 2020 and remains at heightened levels more than a year after the onset of pandemic related lockdowns. Over the last year, gamers increased their playing time, spurring greater investment from marketers to reach this audience. Even as the US recovers from COVID-19, digital advertising spend is expected to remain elevated.

Future market trends in advertising in gaming

While players are increasingly open to advertising in gaming, marketers must consider the platform, game and audience in their ad strategy. For example, 31% of 18-34 year old female gamers report completely quitting a game because of an ad. These young women gamers aren’t just choosing a method to avoid ads, they’re abandoning the game entirely, shutting down an entire channel to reach them.

Non-gaming brands have significant opportunities to reach gamers; 77% of players are open to sponsorships from other industries outside of gaming. Entertainment and food and drink brands have more general appeal, but even financial services and the automotive industry garner interest.

Read on to discover more about the advertising in video games consumer market, read our Gaming Trends: 2021: Incl Impact of COVID-19 – US – December 2020 report, or take a look at our other Gaming Market research reports.

Quickly understand

  • Digital advertising trends across the video game industry.
  • Key advertising strategies and opportunities in the video gaming space.
  • Player exposure and reactions toward advertising in games.
  • Player preferences and attitudes toward industries and brand sponsorships in the gaming space.
  • In-game advertising market size, in-game advertising market share, gaming advertising spend, and gaming advertising revenue.

Covered in this report

Brands include: Google, Apple, Android, Epic Games, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, ESPN, Reddit, Twitter, Blizzard, Riot Games, Amazon, EA, Rockstar, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox, ZeniMax Media, Bethesda Software, Nintendo Switch, IMDB.com, Refinery29.com, Twitch, Valve Corporation, Activision, Raven Software, Samsung.

Games include: Fortnite, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Overwatch League, Apex Legends, League of Legends, Valorant, Grand Theft Auto (GTA), Raid Shadow Legend, Civilization VI, Minecraft, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Resident Evil 7.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

This report, written by Brian Benway, a leading analyst in the Gaming and Entertainment sector, delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

A good game is a good game, regardless of how it was funded. Players know that making amazing games is difficult and expensive, and they’re willing to accept unobtrusive advertising into their play space if it means a better game. They even encourage it in some cases, but advertising in gaming is not the same as advertising in traditional media – reaching younger generations requires a different approach. There’s more to advertising in gaming than product placement and smart brands will seek to engage a sense of discovery.

Brian Benway
Gaming and Entertainment Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • This Report looks at the following areas
    • Definition
    • Market context
    • Economic and other assumptions
    • COVID-19: US context
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways
    • Market overview
      • Figure 1: Gaming industry digital advertising spend, by quarter, 2018-Q2 2021
      • Figure 2: Top sites for gaming industry digital advertising, by percentage of spend, 2018-July 2021
    • Impact of COVID-19 on gaming
      • Figure 3: Short, medium and long term impact of COVID-19 on gaming and advertising in gaming, 2021
    • Opportunities and challenges
    • Keep it social and be a good influence
      • Figure 4: Gaming ad exposure – Gaming media ads, by gender and age 18-34, 2021
    • Advertising in free-to-play games is a go, but not for players who have paid to play
      • Figure 5: Attitudes toward ads in games, 2021
    • A challenging environment: there are growing pains, but they will pass
    • Speaking of, mind the ladies
      • Figure 6: Gaming ad reaction – Stopped playing a game because of an ad, by gender and age, 2021
    • Bringing up the next challengers – eSports
      • Figure 7: eSports viewership and gaming ad exposure – eSports competitions, by area, 2021
  3. The Market – Key Takeaways

    • 2020 gains continue rolling through 2021
    • Social sites are on top for gaming ads
    • Who is gaming, and how do they feel about brands
    • There are growing pains, but they will pass
    • Modern audiences require modern marketing
  4. Gaming Industry Digital Advertising Spend and Trends

    • Tough year for traditional advertising revenue – Video games, esports grow
      • Figure 8: Advertising revenue growth, by media, FY2019 vs FY2020
    • Halfway through 2021, gaming digital ad spend remains at COVID-19 levels
      • Figure 9: Gaming industry digital spend in millions by month, 2018-July 2021
  5. Top Sites for Gaming Advertising

    • Social media is the place to be for the gaming industry
      • Figure 10: Top sites for gaming industry digital advertising, by percentage of spend, 2018-July 2021
  6. Target Audience – Profile of US Gamers

    • Who plays video games?
      • Figure 11: Profile of US gamers, by key demographics, 2021
    • Mobile attracts the largest audience
      • Figure 12: Gaming devices used, 2021
    • Almost half of gamers play every day
      • Figure 13: Frequency of gaming, 2021
    • Gamers more likely to play to relax and unwind than to compete
      • Figure 14: Reasons to play video games, 2021
  7. Market Factors

    • COVID-19 curtails traditional advertising spend, digital marketing booms
      • Figure 15: Total US digital advertising expenditures and fan chart forecast, at current prices, 2016-26
    • Prize pools for esports growing, demonstrating increased sponsorships
    • Mobile gaming advertisers challenged by Apple’s opt-in for data sharing
    • Apple’s Epic Fortnite battle continues
    • A side note on Epic and player perception
    • Industry discrimination, harassment in gaming prompts action
    • Sponsors walk away after high-profile discrimination lawsuit
    • Targeted harassment toward women in gaming threatens to alienate gamers
  8. Market Perspective

    • Gaming audience grows, diversifies, becoming more engaged
      • Figure 16: Attitudes toward video games as entertainment, 2011-20
    • Gamers becoming more open to in-game advertising
      • Figure 17: Awareness and reaction to in-game advertising, 2015-20
    • Multicultural young adults embrace digital and video gaming streaming
      • Figure 18: Media viewed in average week – Adults 18-34, by race/Hispanic origin, 2021
  9. Brand Strategies and Opportunities – Key Takeaways

    • Free-to-play games are big advertising spenders
    • Console manufacturers focus on software and services
    • They aren’t called influencers for nothing
    • The future is in the cloud
    • A coupon in the mail isn’t as much fun as a game
  10. Top Gaming Advertisers

    • Riot Games, EA and Rockstar lead publisher spending
      • Figure 19: Top 20 gaming industry companies, by digital spend, 2018-July 2021
    • Top digital creatives support a wide range of playstyles
      • Figure 20: Top gaming industry creatives, by digital spend, 2018-July 2021
  11. Gaming Console Manufacturer Digital Presence

    • Software sells the hardware
      • Figure 21: Console manufacturer digital spend in millions, by month, 2018-July 2021
    • Sony leads in digital spend with focus on social media
      • Figure 22: Sony interactive entertainment digital spend in millions, by month, 2018-July 2021
      • Figure 23: Top Sony interactive entertainment digital ads, 2018-July 2021
    • Microsoft Xbox focuses on Game Pass across channels
      • Figure 24: Microsoft Xbox digital spend in millions, by month, 2018-July 2021
      • Figure 25: Top Microsoft Xbox digital ads, 2018-July 2021
    • Nintendo focuses on games over services
      • Figure 26: Nintendo digital spend in millions, by month, 2018-July 2021
      • Figure 27: Top Nintendo digital ads, 2018-July 2021
  12. Advertising Strategies and Market Opportunities

    • Wielding the influence of gaming influencers
    • Opportunity to reach younger generations
    • Where are gamers’ eyes, and what do they see?
      • Figure 28: Premier video game streaming sites in the us, 2021
      • Figure 29: The most watched games on Twitch, 2021
    • Bountiful Twitch opportunities
    • Getting a head in the cloud
    • Subscription services matter to major players in the gaming industry
      • Figure 30: Gaming services use and interest, by active gamer segments, 2020
    • Who will be the “Netflix” of gaming? Could it be Netflix? Maybe.
    • Rising to the cloud: opportunities in the sky
      • Figure 31: Samsung and Xbox Game Pass, 2020
    • Advergaming, blurring the lines
    • Engaging entertainment makes it memorable
    • Advergaming isn’t new but continues to become more sophisticated and fun
    • A good game is a good game, regardless of how it was funded
  13. The Consumer – Key Takeaways

    • Game recommendation nesting doll approach
    • Gamers have a curious nature
    • Sharing with friends is second nature
    • Bring on the non-gaming brands
    • Gamers want ads and sponsorship that expand content
    • Free-to-play gaming is an advertising white space
  14. Gaming Ad Exposure

    • Video game advertising reaches the majority of players
      • Figure 32: Gaming ad exposure, 2021
    • Non-gaming brands can reach players with in-game ads
      • Figure 33: Gaming ad exposure – In-game ads, by gender and age 18-34, 2021
    • Opportunity to entice women to new games while playing games
      • Figure 34: Gaming ad exposure – Ads for a different game while playing a game, by gender and parent status, 2021
    • Social media tops passive gaming exposure
      • Figure 35: Gaming ad exposure – Gaming media ads, by gender and age 18-34, 2021
    • If you build it, they will come
      • Figure 36: eSports viewership and gaming ad exposure – eSports competitions, by area, 2021
  15. Gaming Ad Reaction

    • Gamers support marketing that piqued their curiosity
      • Figure 37: Gaming ad reaction, 2021
    • Men more apt to click to learn more after exposure to gaming related ads
      • Figure 38: Gaming ad reaction – Look up a product or click on ad, by gender and age, 2021
    • Gamers avoid ads in a way that fits their lifestyle
      • Figure 39: Gaming ad reaction – Ad prevention measures, by generation, 2021
    • Young women react more negatively to advertising
      • Figure 40: Gaming ad reaction – Stopped playing a game because of an ad, by key demographics, 2021
  16. Actions for In-game Exclusives

    • Most gamers will engage with sponsored ads for a reward
      • Figure 41: Actions for in-game exclusives, 2021
    • Save the best promo opportunities for the best games
      • Figure 42: Actions for in-game exclusives – Make any purchase – NET, by key demographics, 2021
    • Sometimes it’s OK to let players feel like they cheated a little
      • Figure 43: Actions for in-game exclusives – Referrals and social media posts, by gender and age and gamer segments, 2021
    • The Kids Meal effect: appealing to parents through children
      • Figure 44: Actions for in-game exclusives, by parental status, 2021
  17. Marketing in Gaming

    • Gamers support a wide range of sponsorship opportunities
      • Figure 45: Marketing in gaming, 2021
    • Authentic brand sponsorships that help guide young adults
      • Figure 46: Marketing in gaming, generational trends, 2021
    • Lean into guy interests, but don’t leave ladies out in the cold
      • Figure 47: Marketing in gaming, gender and age and race/Hispanic origin indexed to all, 2021
  18. Preferred Gaming Enhancements from Sponsors

    • Gamers want sponsored content to expand their options in games
      • Figure 48: Preferred gaming enhancements from sponsors, 2021
    • Women encourage enhancements to their creativity and individuality
      • Figure 49: Preferred gaming enhancements from sponsors, by gender of 18-34s, 2021
    • Sponsorship opportunities for techies and race fans
      • Figure 50: Preferred gaming enhancements from sponsors, by interest in select industries, 2021
      • Figure 51: Xbox One S Lamborghini Custom Console, 2016
    • Handheld gamers overwhelmingly support new in-game content
      • Figure 52: Preferred gaming enhancements from sponsors, by platform, 2021
  19. Attitudes toward Brands and Gaming Sponsorships

    • Ads need to represent value to gamers and to publishers
      • Figure 53: Attitudes toward ads in games, 2021
    • Sponsorships are necessary, but could be more impactful
      • Figure 54: Attitudes toward video game sponsorships, 2021
    • Give gamers what they want: brand support for their favorite games and players
      • Figure 55: Attitudes toward brand support of gaming, 2021
    • Brands can be creators and customizers to deliver unique experiences
      • Figure 56: Attitudes toward brands and customization, 2021
  20. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Sales data
    • Consumer survey data
    • Marketing creative
    • Abbreviations and terms
    • Abbreviations
    • Terms

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