If you’ve ever played a free-to-play mobile game, you’re likely familiar with advertising in video games at its most basic. Banner ads and pop-ups dominate today’s mobile game industry and mobile games dominate advertising in video games – but things are changing.


In-game advertising today holds potential for ads on bigger screens and displayed in much more immersive ways in more complex game worlds – potential which is already beginning to be realized.


That’s important because it’ll unlock advertising to a larger portion of the world’s 2.6 billion gamers!


This is the present and future of in-game advertising: the stage that we’re on, and where we’re in the process of leveling up to. 🎮

Photo by Sam Pak on Unsplash

In-game advertising today

Were you unlucky enough to get sucked into the timesink and blood-pressure raiser Flappy Bird when it hit smartphone app stores in 2013? With 50 million downloads by January 2014, creator Dong Nguyen was reported to be making $50,000 in ad revenue a day.


Mobile game advertising has only grown since then.


Eleven years later, mobile game advertising still comfortably leads the pack in the video game advertising industry, making up a majority of the world’s over $100 billion revenue.


In the US alone, mobile game advertising is set to reach $7.41 billion in 2024, and $9.86 billion by 2027. In China, 2024 sees an estimate of $46.61 billion.


Recent innovations are increasingly allowing much more immersive in-game advertising than today’s typical, more intrusive ads.


Immersive advertising has existed for decades in the sports game genre. A football game with sponsored ads echoes the real world’s arenas. That kind of immersion is now achieved outside of the sports genre by new in-game advertising, which seamlessly blends digital advertising videos within game worlds.


That technology makes in-game advertising more plausible on consoles and desktops, where banner ads and pop-ups are seldom seen.

Photo by Onur Binay on Unsplash

New systems, new screens

Up until now, advertising in video games has been proven easier to integrate on so-called ‘hypercasual’ games, which are largely found on smartphones.


Hypercasual games don’t rely on easily-broken immersion, meaning a pop-up ad won’t cause a player revolt – as it very well could on a ‘hardcore’ game.


Hardcore games such as Call of Duty or Death Stranding have had precedents of sponsorship or product placement, however programmatic advertising with these games largely isn’t possible as such product placement has to be done with utmost care to avoid negative reactions (and even then, negative reactions to celebrity cameos in Call of Duty or to Monster Energy in Death Stranding aren’t hard to find.)


In-between of hypercasual and hardcore gaming, however, is fertile ground for the immersive in-game advertising that’s possible today.


An example is the $25.78 billion market cap game Roblox, available on PC, consoles, and smartphones, which has recently introduced programmatic immersive advertising.


The potential for free-to-play console games is clear, which is likely part of why Microsoft is expecting to make $1.4 billion from in-game advertising by 2030.


While console gaming has historically been exclusively for paid games (with the exception of now-archaic demo discs), free-to-play games on consoles have become a larger industry due to the increasingly internet-connected console gaming market.


As a prominent example, Xbox, owned by Microsoft, will be moving to a digital-only model. As focus on downloadable games increases, so does the potential for free-to-play gaming and with it, increasing opportunities for immersive in-game advertising.

A Roblox billboard, screengrab courtesy of adexchanger

Getting started with in-game advertising

With in-game advertising taking off, it’s an exciting time to get into video game advertising.


ShowHeroes works with Anzu to provide high-quality, immersive in-game advertising that respects the gaming experience while showing ads in the native gaming environment.


Get in touch with us to see how we can help take your brand to the next level!

Get in touch!

Contact our advertising team directly to find out how we can level up your advertising.