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Why there is no one-size-fits-all game genre for advertisers
June 13, 2022
Ever wondered which game genre would best match your brand's advertising? Matt Jablon, US sales director at Anzu.io, shares his thoughts on why advertisers shouldn't stick all their eggs in one basket when it comes to in-game ads.
Let’s play a game. You’re an advertiser, you’ve just heard of in-game advertising, and you’re super excited to get your brand featured in the best games. You want the best game that reflects your fantastic product or service, right?
So, where do you look first? What kind of game do you want to be associated with your brand? How do you know what genre will work best?
Choosing the right game to fit your brand can be a game in and of itself – overwhelming at first glance, but over time, as you get used to your new environment, things start to make sense and open up around you. Less Dark Souls and more Super Mario Odyssey, for the gamers among you.
Using our expertise in gaming and in-game advertising, here we will guide you through:
- the tricky (but not impossible) decision of which game genre to showcase your ads in
- why there is not just one genre that will be the only good choice for you
- how your decision will be influenced by three equally important factors: audiences, games, and brands
Gamers aren’t the same
Gamers are from all genders, geos, economic backgrounds, ethnicities, sexualities, and walks of life. With over 3.1 billion gamers worldwide, it’s not surprising that there’s no one default ‘gamer’, as we’ve found in our previous research.
As gamers differ, so do the game genres they prefer to play. For instance, female gamers tend to prefer a wide range of genres, with almost two-thirds favoring adventure games, over half enjoying role-playing games (RPGs), and two in five preferring action and MMORPG (massively multiplayer online RPGs), demonstrating plenty of crossover into typically “male-preferred” genres.
But don’t fall into the common trap. Just because one genre is the most popular with your target audience doesn’t mean it’s the only genre they’re interested in. Anzu’s research proved that different genres speak to different motivations for players – while action is the most played genre overall, sports and racing come in second and third. Even though RPG is the least played genre, it still reaches 33% of gamers. On average, gamers play three game genres each, meaning they don’t exclusively play one genre.
What’s the lesson here? No one game genre will fit your brand’s advertising, just as gamers choose not to play only one genre. Play around (pun intended) with as many genres as you see fit – but remember to stick to each game's advertising guidelines and age rating, and make sure your ads make sense contextually within the game. Otherwise, you’ll stand out for all the wrong reasons.
Games aren’t the same
With AAA studios typically gaining worldwide fandoms practically overnight with bated breath and sleepless nights before their new game launches, it’s tempting to go for the biggest, best, and most renowned games when it comes to in-game advertising. Just look at the hype in the lead-up to Cyberpunk 2077’s launch. But Unity’s latest report argues otherwise. Positioning indie games are the up-and-coming darlings of the game industry, Unity praises indies for “driving innovation despite their limited resources”, touting Valheim, Twelve Minutes, Death’s Door, and Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion as some of the best indie games created on the platform within the last 12 months.
A similar story goes for the action genre - which is revealed to be half of all US gamers’ favorite game genre in Anzu’s US gaming report. Even though action is the most popular genre among gamers, many advertisers avoid it due to concerns that action games often include some level of violence. Violence in gaming is certainly a topic that Anzu has faced many times before. By avoiding it, advertisers risk losing out on reaching a vast number of diverse and engaged players.
Brands should consider games on a contextual basis rather than violent or non-violent, much like films and TV. After all, if brands are willing to associate with horror franchises like Friday The 13th or Halloween, well-known for their violence and gore, why should associating with them in hugely popular violent games like Battlefield be any different?
On the opposite end of the scale, casual games are often far more accessible and deemed appropriate for all ages. As a result, research found that casual and hypercasual games lead the way in terms of average active users among top games, including arcade, simulation, and puzzle subgenres. Hypercasuals, in particular, were responsible for a third of all mobile game downloads in the first half of 2021!
So, what’s the lesson here? Don’t rely just on one genre when you’re choosing a game. Yes, the action and casual genres are extremely popular, but it is an enormous brush to tar such a wide variety of games with!
Choose the most relevant option for your brand. Do your research. Ask yourself what your brand’s main audience is and what type of games they like to play the most. Does the ad fit in with the context of the game?
If you’re struggling to do this yourself – maybe you’ve never dipped your toes into gaming before, or perhaps you don’t know an Xbox from an egg box – find an in-game advertising solution like Anzu, whose job it is to help advertisers decide on what works based on past experiences with similar brands.
Brands aren’t the same
The world would be an incredibly boring place if all brands were the same, and the same goes for advertising strategies.
During Anzu’s research into gaming audiences, respondents were asked to match particular game genres to different ad categories. Interestingly, the simulation genre came out on top for many categories - from Consumer Tech to Fashion - and the action genre only took the top spot for the Automotive ad category. (Remember what we said earlier about action games?)
“There’s low-hanging fruit in terms of clients and advertisers in TelCo brands, Tech, Consumer Goods brands, and in the tech space [that would suit in-game advertising],” said Michael Manning, product manager at Xaxis, during an Anzu webinar on the UK gaming audience. “But there’s relevance for all verticals. We can break down how certain genres of games index for certain types of users and audiences, which will be interesting to see, but gaming is a “broad church” and that means there’s relevance for all kinds of client verticals.”
Neil Pummell, UK sales director at Anzu, agreed, adding that “there are brands that are going to have natural synergies and gaming strategies with a natural link,” and that in-game advertising is open to most brands in most cases.
Celebrate and utilize differences to maximize success
So, how can brands approach different games to see what works best for them? How can they guess which genres of games their marketing investments or activations are best suited for?
There’s no simple one-word answer to these questions. Otherwise, let’s be honest, every brand would be in every game all of the time - much to gamers’ chagrin.
Instead, choosing a game genre to feature your ads in depends on the game’s audience, the games themselves, and the brands that are being advertised.
We’ll leave you with some final top tips:
- Mix and match game genres based on trial-and-error, and contextual advertising to find the best fit for your brand’s messaging.
- Remember to give things a fair shot. Just because a game contains violence or at first, doesn’t seem brand-safe or an odd choice, it doesn’t automatically mean it won’t succeed. Look at DHL, whose mascot became an overnight icon to the DOTA esports world.
- Apply your brand in unexpected ways, and dare to be different. It may just come up trumps for your advertising campaign.
Curious to see which games your brand would be best suited to? Get in touch with the Anzu team today.