5 min read

What are In-Game Ads? The Definitive 2023 Guide

Sarah Wheeler
Sarah Wheeler
Updated on
December 15, 2021
Intro to Ad Serving

Expected to be worth $257 billion by 2025 with 2.5 billion gamers worldwide, gaming is a profitable industry with high ad monetization potential. And, yet, in-game advertising is relatively small: by September 2021, ad spend within video games drove $421 million year-to-date, while Twitter earned $3 billion in ad revenue all by itself.

Gaming platforms often resist in-game ad monetization for fear of disrupting the user experience. When there were rumors of EA launching TV-like ads, fans were livid. People were outraged at the thought of seeing annoying pop-ups while playing their favorite games.

In-game ad monetization, however, doesn’t have to involve terrible banner ads. There are many opportunities for user-friendly ads that natively integrate into the gaming experience. In this article, we define in-game ads, present opportunities for integration, and discuss how to launch your own in-game ad platform.

What are in-game native ads, and who uses them?

In-game native ads are ads inserted within gaming experiences. Ads could appear on in-game billboards, involve featured avatar items, and include brand-sponsored levels, all uniquely personalized to players.

Many game publishers already monetize with in-game native ads, like:

  • Nintendo: The third largest global gaming company, Nintendo partnered with Mercedes-Benz to include their GLA SUV as a cart in Mario Kart 8, a move to incorporate sponsored items within the in-game experience and drive new revenue.
  • Epic Games: Fortnite is Epic Games’s battle royale game. In it, you can alter your avatar’s appearance with different “skins.” To drive revenue, Epic Games enables brands to sponsor these skins, such as Marvel’s Fortnite x Avengers event.
  • Electronic Arts: By placing billboards within virtual soccer stadiums (FIFA) and basketball arenas (NBA 2K), EA Sports monetizes their in-game experience with ads. You can view these as the in-game equivalent of real-life digital-out-of-home advertising.
  • Meta: Though Meta’s virtual reality platform is still nascent, ads are Facebook’s main revenue source, driving $28 billion in Q2 of 2021 alone. Unsurprisingly, Meta is already testing out VR ads.

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