In-game ads: what Xbox and PlayStation can learn from mobile


Last week’s one-two punch of reports from Business Insider suggested that both Xbox and PlayStation are building in-game ad networks.

These moves make perfect sense. Sensibly done, advertising is a smart complimentary revenue stream for developers and platform holders – even Netflix is reportedly considering it. And brands will be falling over themselves to get in front of a console gaming demographic that’s still mostly untouched by in-game ads. 

So where should PlayStation and Xbox start? They’d be wise to look at how things are done here in mobile, where we’ve already learned the do’s – and many don’ts – of placing ads in games effectively.

The sentiment from folks at IronSource, Admix and GameBake is that ad networks in console games can’t just be bolted onto existing experiences; the smartest and most effective implementations will be carefully thought out from the beginning of the game’s production, offer non-intrusive ads, add real value to the player and be as relevant as possible.

Left to right: IronSource CRO and co-founder Omer Kaplan, Admix VP of global partnerships Stefan Adamczyk and GameBake CEO and co-founder Michael Hudson.

“Ads in mobile games became meaningful and successful revenue drivers because of how deeply they were integrated into the in-game economy, and the degree to which they provided concrete value to users in exchange for engaging with them,” says IronSource CRO and co-founder Omer Kaplan.

“For gaming giants looking to start leveraging ad monetisation, starting with user-initiated ad strategy like rewarded ads is the smartest place to start, even if it requires more design work up front working out how to integrate them seamlessly.”

Admix VP of global partnerships Stefan Adamczyk stresses the importance of product fit. “Get the right balance and number of ads for the type of game vertical and session length,” he tells us.

“Virtual worlds and runners naturally have more placements for in-play ads when compared to a 2D static game play scene. Be open to customisable executions, brands see strong value from these if the audience fit and environment is right. And don’t be afraid to experiment and A/B test.” 

GameBake CEO and co-founder Michael Hudson says PlayStation and Xbox should start cautiously, then think creatively. “If you aren’t thinking about your players’ experience from day one, then your chances of success with or without in-game ads are very slim. When placing an in-game ad, it doesn’t need to always be a billboard, get creative and think about places within your game that could be an ad placement.”

“We all know too well how annoying full-screen pop-up ads are, so what about TV screens, windows, bus stops and player skins? Intelligent ad placements can not only be non-intrusive but also give games a more realistic and life-like feel, whilst providing new ways for brands to reach users and for games to monetise.”

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