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Football simulations and racing games are only the first pitstop for in-game ad evolution
25 August 2020 12:11pm
COVID-19 has made such a colossal impact on gaming, the phenomenon now has its own Wikipedia page. As content hungry consumers have sought new entertainment sources and ways to connect, the industry has gained a sizeable army of global gamers.
Unsurprisingly, brands have followed the mainstream boom closely; lured not only by the promise of huge exposure among hard-to-reach audiences, but also new creative possibilities.
In-game ads that seamlessly weave into design and appear in natural spaces — such as racetrack and stadium hoardings — are a no-brainer for brands keen to meet consumer calls for less intrusive messages. The fact ads can be traded programmatically and delivered in vetted high-quality environments is an added bonus for efficiency and brand safety.
But while integrated ads in football and racing games offer plenty of enticing engagement opportunities, this isn’t all the future holds for gaming or native advertising. Technological advances and even wider adoption are gearing up to drive both far beyond this first pitstop.
What’s in the gaming crystal ball?
Gaming isn’t just gaining recognition among brands; the likes of Google, Amazon, and Facebook are also moving in at speed. As well as providing a powerful signal of confidence in the industry, this increasing interest from major digital heavyweights looks set to significantly boost gaming growth.
Leading industry forces are already striving to build an ecosystem where ‘everyone wins’. Ensuring brands reach engaged gamers, developers can harness new revenue streams without disrupting the user experience, as gamers continue to enjoy ever-more enticing virtual worlds. As long-standing gaming giants face stronger competition, progress towards making this vision a reality will accelerate; including the creation of a universal framework for non-interruptive ads that can be implemented across channels.
Cloud tech removes play limitations
Rivalry among gaming, e-commerce, and social media goliaths might be dominating the cloud-gaming spotlight, but it’s not the most interesting development in this area. Innovations using cloud-based software, services and processing capacity will be what transforms gaming.
With multiple cloud tools to choose from, developers will be able to super-charge their creations and push virtual boundaries; going beyond the limitations of single servers to build more complex and captivating environments that can accommodate vast numbers of players. Meanwhile, users will benefit from increased accessibility to high velocity games via browsers without the need for expensive consoles, as well as enhanced interactivity. See, for instance, Ubisoft’s partnership with Twitch on its new Hyper Scape title, which enables streams to offer direct interaction for viewers, such as voting on their next move.
And for brands, there is the double prospect of greater advertising range as reduced barriers to entry fuel higher casual gamer numbers and diversity, and opportunities for interactive tie-ups in highly immersive games and streams that keep players hooked.
Esports takes a mobile turn
Esports has grown into a highly sophisticated arena where, on average, buying the necessary PC gaming kit can cost up to $2,000 . Traditionally, this has made competition the preserve of a select few, but that is starting to change. As devices have become smarter and developers have adjusted AAA titles for mobile, participants and viewers have migrated to their smartphones; especially in Southeast Asia. In 2019 alone, Garena’s mobile Free Fire series attracted more than 2 million concurrent viewers, and the SEA Games added two new mobile games. At a global level, research predicts a “meteoric rise” for mobile esports over the next five years.
Once again, this means territory expansion for developers, users, and brands. High demand for mobile-friendly titles will bring a new avenue of revenue for game creators. An alternative way in will lead to increased use for competitors and viewers. And for advertising, there will be more scope for partnerships and sponsorships across esports apps that don’t necessarily mean investing in producing limited edition lines, as showcased by Gucci and Louis Vuitton.
The age of VR and AR is here
Gaming’s use of augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) has jump-started in recent months, with a shift to mass adoption that is many levels above Pokémon Go. In the first few weeks of lockdown, demand for headsets hit unprecedented heights; with stocks of Oculus Rift S and Quest headsets running completely dry in the US. Now, the combined VR and AR market is on track to see growth of $125.19 billion by 2024, thanks in no small part to an increase in advanced gaming.
As 5G paves the way for faster streaming and loading across screens, and more streamlined play at home and on the go, the promise of ultimate gaming immersion and engagement no longer seems so distant. And this in turn means closer connections between players, games, and interactive native ads are set to be an imminent reality.