How Technological Developments are Making In-game Advertising More Powerful Than Ever


Do you remem­ber what made the sum­mer of 2016 spe­cial? In Lon­don, you couldn’t walk past a mon­u­ment with­out bump­ing into (some­times lit­er­al­ly) a group of teenagers immersed in their phones, try­ing to cap­ture a Bul­basaur. Poké­mon Go was the mobile game that took the world by storm, lead­ing to $1 bil­lion in-game upgrades with­in the first 200 days of its launch. The game’s suc­cess might have slipped since its heady open­ing days, but with a steady install-base and reli­able rev­enue streams, Poké­mon Go is still arguably the most suc­cess­ful mobile game ever. Most notably, it pushed the poten­tial for Aug­ment­ed Real­i­ty in gam­ing to new heights and set the bar extreme­ly high for competitors.

The beau­ty of Poké­mon Go was its unprece­dent­ed abil­i­ty to merge the vir­tu­al and real worlds. Play­ers raced to vir­tu­al Poké­mon placed in strate­gic loca­tions, from the Win­ston Churchill stat­ue in Par­lia­ment Square to Water­loo Bridge, encour­ag­ing them to leave the house and inter­act with oth­er peo­ple. Tech­nol­o­gy has allowed games to immerse their audi­ences in more sur­pris­ing and real­is­tic expe­ri­ences than ever before, and brands are wak­ing up to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of tap­ping into them.

Over the next cou­ple of days, the GamesCom con­ven­tion will be held in Cologne, Ger­many, and the dis­cus­sion will sure­ly turn to the indus­try devel­op­ments set to make in-game adver­tis­ing even more inter­est­ing for brands. For exam­ple, the immi­nent roll­out of 5G will reduce laten­cy in tech­nolo­gies like Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty (VR) and Aug­ment­ed Real­i­ty (AR), lead­ing to more engag­ing, real­is­tic, and unin­ter­rupt­ed expe­ri­ences. PlaySta­tion and Xbox are already inves­ti­gat­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties in AR, and Apple has acquired a start­up that pro­duces holo­graph­ic lens­es, demon­strat­ing its own enthu­si­asm for the pos­si­bil­i­ties open­ing up in this space. 5G will also make game stream­ing more reli­able, pro­vid­ing a boost to an already health­ily pro­lif­er­at­ing indus­try of game stream­ing plat­forms, includ­ing Twitch, Google Arca­dia, and Apple Games.

Tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies see the evolv­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties of gam­ing, and mar­keters are start­ing to as well. For one thing, the rise in online and mobile gam­ing has helped to make in-game adver­tis­ing more tar­get­ed. And the rise of VR and AR is cre­at­ing in-game adver­tis­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties in com­plete­ly new for­mats, like the option to spon­sor a Pokéstop in Poké­mon Go. In-game adver­tis­ing is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­nect with con­sumers while they are high­ly engaged, emo­tion­al­ly charged and open-mind­ed to new pos­si­bil­i­ties. And the tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ments that are rip­pling through the indus­try promise to make these expe­ri­ences even more real­is­tic and uninterrupted.

For brands wish­ing to cap­i­talise on in-game adver­tis­ing, the secret is get­ting as inte­grat­ed as pos­si­ble with the nar­ra­tive of the game. Oppor­tu­ni­ties are much more sophis­ti­cat­ed com­pared to the ear­ly days of “badg­ing” a bill­board, or plac­ing a prod­uct in the lat­est zom­bie apoc­a­lypse game. Nowa­days, brands have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to embed them­selves in a game, espe­cial­ly through tech­nolo­gies like AR, which make it pos­si­ble to fuse a game’s nar­ra­tive with the out­side world. In Poké­mon Go, for exam­ple, gamers are engag­ing with a tan­ta­lis­ing over­lay of real and vir­tu­al worlds. So in spon­sor­ing a Pokéstop, brands are able to embed them­selves in the aspi­ra­tional fan­ta­sy of the game at the same time as remain­ing tied to the real world, mak­ing the call to action much more direct and tangible.

Brands should also ensure that their pres­ence in a game is con­struc­tive rather than dis­rup­tive. Play­ers turn to games to immerse them­selves in a dif­fer­ent world, and brand­ed con­tent needs to dri­ve them for­ward, not hold them back. If there is an action they need to take that inter­rupts their expe­ri­ence, they will per­ceive this neg­a­tive­ly. That’s why many mobile games have learned to offer option­al video adver­tise­ments in exchange for tokens that help gamers lev­el up, pro­vid­ing them with an incen­tive to engage with the content.

In-game adver­tis­ing offers pos­si­bil­i­ties for brands to engage with con­sumers in ways that are both unprece­dent­ed and excep­tion­al­ly pow­er­ful. For brands will­ing to find the right way of insert­ing them­selves into games, the oppor­tu­ni­ties are more valu­able than ever. As with any new for­mat, brands sim­ply need to spend the time strate­gis­ing the out­comes they desire from their invest­ment, rather than jump­ing on the band­wag­on for the sake of it. And they need to spend the time devel­op­ing a con­nec­tion that is rel­e­vant and action­able, but also seam­less and contextual.

Toccara Baker

Posted on 08-19-2019

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