The Big Wide World of Video Game Advertising

Last updated:
June 16, 2022

Animal Crossing, Fortnite, NBA 2K; are just some examples of video games within the gaming industry that have revolutionized advertising in this new age. Hi there, my name is Josh Horvath of and today we will be diving deep into the world of game advertisements and how they impact the video game industry. Although the concept itself, product placements, and game ads within different virtual worlds seem relatively daunting and perhaps difficult... we will learn how this is not the case in this age of digital marketing and ads. 

Was Advertising Always in Video Games?

The short answer to a long answer is that it is a bit of a mixed bag; on one hand, the first video game ever created by Physicist William Higinbotham in 1958 that depicted a table tennis-like experience did not. As time went by throughout the years and increased exposure to different forms of video games gained steam, the idea of transitioning from video ads to game advertisements gained momentum; this idea came to fruition starting primarily in the 1980s with the introduction of the Advergame.

For those unaware, Advergame is a term given to a game that is made with the sole purpose of advertising a product or business; the first such example was Tooth Protector by Johnson&Johnson for the Atari 2600, created in 1983 with the purchase by mail-order only to customers and has subsequently made the game one of the rarest games of all time.  Fast-forwarding to the 90', a new age in-game advertisements gained momentum and awareness, this was most prevalent in ways such as mail-in orders and direct sponsorship for demo discs on different gaming platforms such as the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. Ads in games took shape in different games of that time such as Crazy Taxi, released in 1999 for the PS1.

Different Types of Advertising in Video Games

Online video games of all genres have advertising within different spheres; however, ad placement in games is a topic that must be understood. It's simple in principle, placing your ad and bang, you're set... but is it that simple?


As mentioned before, advertising in gaming began in the late 1970s and the early 1980s with advergames; but that is not all that exists in the world of in-game advertisements. In-Game Advertisements, or IGA for short, is the broad term given to ads in games, advergames on the other hand are a form of IGA; a subdivision if you think about it.


Beginning off, advergames as previously mentioned were games built with the sole purpose of advertising a company, service, or product. In recent times, an example of this included Wendy's 'Smokey Shroom Sprint' as a way to promote their new mushroom-based burger. According to Gamify, Smokey Shroom Sprint was a month-long campaign for the said burger that was played by nearly 30 thousand people.


Secondly, we have the beginning of IGA's: Static Advertisements. The easiest way to explain this is you imagine a painting, it doesn't move or anything other than being there, that is what you have with Static Advertisements. Mostly prevalent in sports games such as hockey where game developers could place ads on the boards, this was similar to other sports games such as baseball where you have ads statically placed on the outfield walls that could be seen during home run animations.


Lastly, we have the complete opposite of Static Advertisements... Dynamic In-Game Advertisements. Without the technical know-how, it is what the initial first part said, it is just the opposite of Static; NBA2K by 2K Sports has made use of this in recent times as part of their My-Career campaign. While there is the use of static, the use of Dynamic can be seen in the product placement of Gatorade bottles that are shown throughout the video game and in cut scenes in the aforementioned MyCareer. Having your product showcased nowadays in dynamic ads can be a very competitive scene but also very lucrative, with State farm having the 'Assist of The Game' as an achievement in the NBA2K series.


Advergames where you are making your own game, Static Ads where they are just placed and don't interact, and lastly Dynamic.. where the possibilities are endless, which form of game ads will you choose for your business today.

Target Audience: Who's In Your Market?

So perhaps you have chosen which form of ads inside video games that you would like to proceed with, but you wouldn't necessarily place a beer commercial inside a kid's game would you? What are the different types of gamers that you will be targeting, based on research we can find roughly four types of gamers that would fit your market.

According to Bartles Taxonomy; created by Richard Bartle in 1996, there are currently 4 main types of gamers that advertisers will market out to; Achievers, Explorers, Socializers, and lastly, Killers. 

Achievers do as the name implies, they play to achieve anything and everything; every achievement to speedrunners. Roughly only 10% of all gamers make up this personality, with most popular games consisting of Looter Shooter First Person Shooters such as Destiny and Call of Duty, or even MMORPG games such as World of Warcraft or Lost Ark where they seek to get the best equipment.

Looking through every part of Los Santos in Grand Theft Auto, exploring the vast open seas of Sea of Thieves, Explorers make up the next personality. These are the players that love to explore, love the game's story and everything about the lore of the game itself with eventually mastering the game itself. Similar to the Achiever, Explorer gamers only make up roughly 10% of all gamers outs there. 

Everyone loves a good chat, meeting a new buddy to go on a raid with; that brings us to the Socializer. Bartles Taxonomy describes the socializer as the most popular personality of all gamers, with roughly around 80% of all players out there! This is also where the majority of advertising will happen as players in this genre like to partake in things together and see each other in games. Popular games within this genre will primarily be non-competitive such as Minecraft, Terreria, and Cities Skyline.

Last but not least on this list is perhaps the most aggressive of this bunch, but don't let that discourage you from advertising in these games; the Killer. These are the gamers that truly and honestly only care about themselves and their enjoyment within the game. Their main goal is to simply be the very best among all players.


Throughout this brief blog, we have discussed many features along with the history of advertisements within online games; once thought crazy and unprofitable.. grew into an ever-growing business trend that continues to grow and adapt to the world ever-changing marketplace.

So what's next for advertising in gaming you ask? We can look forward to more Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality concepts taking place where you can attend virtual concerts and events held by different companies. One such innovation is the Metaverse, which was created and popularized by Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg which is and will be an expansive virtual reality world which as mentioned, allows users to experience, shop and do multiple activities that once could only happen in person. Mobile Gaming will also take more pronounced space in the video game ecosystem with an estimated 2.5 billion users in 2020 according to SocialPetas 'Mobile Gaming Industry Statistics and Trends for 2021'.

Exploring the different forms of advertising in gaming to who exactly is in your target market, we have taken a brief view into the world of video game advertisements. Will you be using Dynamic In-Game Adverting to market to Socializer gamers in the latest game mode on Fortnite? There is a world of substantial opportunities that await advertisers of all industries for all potential genres and all potential markets. Explore all the different possibilities that await you as you seek out new and expanding features such as mobile gaming and the metaverse while sticking to tried and true formats such as static in-game ads. Throughout this blog, we sincerely hope that if you have learned even a tiny bit, we will call that a success and a pleasure for you to read. Good luck and enjoy the wonderful world of video game advertising.

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