Video games have more than doubled their ad spend since the start of the pandemic
Video games have been the saving grace of many people confined to their homes during the coronavirus pandemic—and the rising popularity is providing a jolt to the ad industry.
A new study finds that ad spend within the category–on game titles, consoles, video game retailers–has more than doubled since the social distancing began in the U.S. The uptick comes amid increasing competition in the sector with video game companies vying to fill screens, no matter the device.
Intelligence and sales platform MediaRadar found that the gaming category spent $46.2 million on ads in April when the pandemic was in full swing, compared to only $21.4 million in January 2020, before the pandemic struck the U.S. For the same period last year, ad spend increased by only 18 percent. The report covers spending on TV, digital, social and mobile, but did not break out the send on each channel.
"The video game industry is a significant beneficiary of the free-time some consumers now have during the pandemic,” Todd Krizelman, CEO and co-founder of MediaRadar, said in a statement. “Advertisers are taking note of the shifting tastes in media consumption and are aggressively moving to get in front of this captive audience.”
Individual games for consoles and computers had the most dramatic increase in ad spend, according to the study. Spending by game titles increased by 60 percent in the period, from $10 million in January to $16 million in April. The top five game titles by ad spend–"Final Fantasy VII," "Best Friends," "Doom Eternal," "Forge of Empires" and "RBI Baseball 20"–spent a combined $7.6 million on ads in April.
Even without commuting, consumers are still spending a lot of time on their phones, so it’s no surprise that mobile games also saw a large increase in ad spend. The ad spend of mobile games increased from $5 million in January to $9 million in April. The top mobile game advertisers–"Candy Crush," "Raid: Shadow Legends," "Adventure Academy," "June’s Journey" and "TerraGenesis"–spent more than $7 million in April.
Meanwhile, game retailers—including those that sell online—increased their spend from $5 million in January to $9 million in April. The top five advertisers by spend includes: Gamefly, which mails game rentals for a monthly subscriptions; and e-commerce stores PlayStation Store, G2A and Steam. Finally, GameStop is the only retailer with physical stores that made the top five. In all, the those brands spent $6.8 million on ads during April.
Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox were the top game consoles by ad spend. In total, those three spent $3 million on ads in April.
Gaming is coming out of a quarter of record sales. Between January and March of 2020, consumer spending on video games hit $10.9 billion, a nine percent increase over the year before, according to a NPD Group report last week.
The NPD Group report found that the top selling games included: Nintendo Switch’s "Animal Crossing: New Horizons," "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare," "Doom Eternal," "Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot," "Fortnite," "Grand Theft Auto," "Minecraft," "MLB The Show 20" and "NBA 2K20."
Out of the top-selling games, only Nintendo’s "Animal Crossing: New Horizons" and "Doom Eternal" were among the top paying advertisers.
Video games have become so popular that they are driving a surge of gamers and players to streaming channels such as Twitch. Competitive video gaming, or esports, has been growing in viewers and brand interest, even as other marketing channels have taken a hit during the pandemic. Brands like BMW, the Almond Board of California and Zenni Optical have recently entered the arena. On Wednesday, Four Loko announced it would sponsor the esports team Beastcoast.