Video game product placements and tie-ins are nothing new. From Doritos snacks popping up in a stealth shooter to Verizon billboards showing up roadside in a psychological thriller, the examples are as goofy as they are numerous. This points to a healthy and growing advertising medium.
But few expected French fashion house Louis Vuitton to partner with Riot Games.
Riot Games is the maker of League of Legends, a popular esports game. Louis Vuitton designers created a travel case to hold the physical trophy. The two companies will also create digital in-game items together.
Sponsorship and in-game ads have come from expected places. Game and hardware producers. Snack companies. Hip energy drink makers. But mainstream brands like BMW, Nike, and Pepsi have also bought in-game product placements or sponsored esports teams.
The audience for these ads is surprisingly broad. Esports viewers and competitors are typically young and male, but those playing games of all kinds are more diverse.
More than 2 billion people play some sort of game on their mobile phone. These “casual” games have little in common with esports favorites. They are simpler and require less time. And men and women across age groups play them. This makes mobile games particularly fertile ground for advertisers.
The methods for advertising in mobile games are growing in sophistication. Adweek recently reported on the popularity of “rewarded ads.” Say a player runs into a special item. They can either pay for it or watch a 30-second ad. In-game purchases are becoming less popular so these incentivized ads are often the next best thing. They also have the advantage of allowing the player a choice of when they watch it, in contrast with full-screen pop-ups or awkward product placements. Players prefer rewarded ads as a way to support developers, according to a recent survey by gaming engine developer Unity.
Video games and the media market around them are growing fast. Spending on games themselves grew by over 50% from 2013 to 2018 reaching close to $36 billion in the US. However, ad spending in and around games is still just a fraction of what is spent elsewhere.
Interesting new partnerships will probably continue to show up but it will be years before the video game industry has a chance of rivaling other advertising markets.
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