The (Surprisingly) Long and Strange History of Digital Advertising in Video Games (Part 2)

VR headset and keyboard.

The Strange History of In-Game Digital Advertising (Part 2)

In part one of our look at digital advertising in video games, JumpSIX Marketing looked at some of the earliest examples of how advertisers attempted to integrate ads into primitive games. As time has gone on, video games have turned into a major industry, from console gaming to mobile games you can play on the go. Digital advertising in games is still adapting to the changes in technology and the industry itself. In part two, we’re going to look at more recent examples. We’ll also be looking at the potential future of in-game advertising.

The Next Generation of In-Game Advertising

With the foundation laid in the 1990s for digital advertising in video games, the new millennium saw the gaming industry take another significant step up in mainstream popularity. The first few years of the 21st century saw video games move from the realm of stereotypical nerds, to an accepted pastime, to a multi-million dollar industry. This meant even bigger opportunities for advertisers to reach established and new audiences alike.

Online Games and Dynamic Advertising

Connectivity made some major changes in the way games were played. Online multiplayer experiences, once exclusive to PC gaming, became the norm for almost everyone picking up a controller. This connectivity also presented a unique opportunity that advertisers are still wrestling with to this day.

Dynamic in-game ads first emerged in the late 2000s through a technique similar to display advertising. These dynamic ads used similar targeting methods and would show up as in-game banners to games with online functions, changing depending on who was using the ad space. A great example of this was one in which online-enabled games like Burnout Paradise, Need for Speed, Skate, and Madden NFL 09 were used to run dynamic campaign ads for then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008.

Modern Cinematic Games and More Traditional Product Placement

Product placement has been a staple of in-game advertising from the early days, but the increasingly cinematic nature of video games has allowed better integration of product placement. Not only are branded products featured in the same way they would be a major movie, but they can also represent useful or unique gameplay mechanics.

2008’s Metal Gear Solid 4 gave you an official Apple iPod in-game, allowing you to select music from past games in the long-running franchise or developer commentaries you could listen to as you played. 2016’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, another entry in a hugely successful game franchise, had your character use a Sony smartphone to take pictures during the game that would help solve puzzles.

Mobile Gaming and Pay-to-Play

No conversation about digital advertising in video games is complete without addressing mobile games. The mobile gaming industry has become a major money maker and has offered endless opportunities for advertisers. In-game ads, banner ads, and pay-to-play with specific branding are all features packed into short, convenient, and addictive time-killers that can be accessed with a few swipes of the thumb. Even people who don’t consider themselves gamers likely have at least a few favorite time-wasters installed on their smartphone.

Where Is This All Going?

Even in two blog entries, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the past and present of digital advertising in video games. What about the future? Video games are rapidly evolving and we’re only now seeing virtual reality gaming take off, after more than a few false starts. The more immersive and interactive video games become, and the more ubiquitous they are in daily life, the more opportunities emerge for creative marketing and advertising.

Digital Advertising and the Future of Entertainment

Whether you’re up-to-date with your gaming habits or the concept of video games remains a mystery to you even now, it’s hard to deny their potential when it comes to digital advertising. In fact, the ever-increasing digitization of the world we live in is always opening up new opportunities in reaching new people. If you want to make the most of these opportunities, contact JumpSIX Marketing today.

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