The Need-to-Knows from IAB's Gaming Upfronts 2023

This week, industry experts came together on one stage at IAB Gaming Upfronts 2023, all with one shared goal: revealing exclusive, eye-opening insights on gaming audiences, the ways we advertise to them, and the reasons why gaming communities are more relevant than ever.

Written by
October 20, 2023

This week, industry experts came together on one stage at IAB Gaming Upfronts 2023, all with one shared goal: revealing exclusive, eye-opening insights on gaming audiences, the ways we advertise to them, and the reasons why gaming communities are more relevant than ever. 

Going supersonic with audio-based gaming ads

Kicking off the day, the first talk delved into the realm of gaming ads composed entirely of audio. We discovered that a whopping 90% of mobile gamers indulge in gaming as a means of relaxation and escape, with 70% also claiming cognitive benefits. With links being found between mobile games and the brain's pleasure hormones, it’s no surprise that disrupting a gaming session with jarring ads is a recipe for disengagement.

Armed with a keen understanding of user experience and game dynamics, advertisers looking to get into audio ads must strategically weave them into games at opportune moments, enhancing the gaming experience rather than acting as a disruption. The verdict? A cheerful gamer is a receptive one, with 60% expressing a preference for audio over other in-game units. Sounds promising.

The halo effect around fan-favourite IPsThe mobile game experience has traditionally been viewed as a budget alternative to PC and console, lacking the premium quality associated with AAA IPs like Call of Duty. However, with 69% of PC and console gamers now believing that mobile games can be premium experiences, it’s clear that times are changing — and franchises like Call of Duty are making their way onto the mobile app store.

While many in-game placements are yet to be available in online PC and console games, there are multiple opportunities for advertisers once these premium games are adapted for mobile. As more fan-favourite IPs are made free-to-play and available on-the-go, the halo effect means you can expect attention-rich environments with mind-blowing opportunities for in-game ad engagement.

Why marketers should up their gaming spendMore than ever, the stereotype that gamers are all teenage boys seems completely out of touch. In fact, gamers in their 30s and 40s are more likely to play every day than those in their 20s. Lumen and Dentsu emphasise that gaming is now enjoyed universally, and with in-game ads scoring a staggering 98% in viewability, marketers should be doing everything they can to raise their gaming budget.

The reason for this disparity? A lack of education. Many advertisers still hold the outdated belief that gaming is a murky, unpredictable unknown — but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Essential gaming trends brands need to understand

First, consider which games make sense for your brand, or as Nicola Clarke of Twitch put it, “know where to hang your hat”. Some brands suit calm, cosy games like Animal Crossing, yet some don’t. 

Games as a Service (GaaS) is another huge upward trend in the industry — games like Fortnite, Apex Legends, World of Warcraft, that keep players engaged over long periods of time by regularly releasing new content and keeping the experience fresh. They represent some of the most committed and engaged player-bases, with 83% of EA’s revenue coming from GaaS titles alone.

Leading titles like GTA Online (2013) and Minecraft (2009) show us that “old does not mean irrelevant” and that while new games often see the most engagement, they may not be suited for longer term gaming strategies.

Venatus on why gaming is the ultimate ad engagement platform

Last, but certainly not least, Venatus and GWI presented key data and findings from their exclusive report on unlocking gaming communities. 

Jermaine Abel, Director of Sales EMEA at Venatus, shared that gaming is not only common across different age groups, but actively shared between generations. Parents are now playing games with their children for more than 90 minutes per week, representing a powerful opportunity for brands to advertise to the entire family unit. 

Venatus on stage at IAB Gaming Upfronts

Laura Ballesteros, Head of Agency Sales Strategy at Venatus, and Charlie Staples, Senior Research Manager at GWI, uncovered how 42% of gamers now consume content away from the game each week, with that number increasing to 60% for console gamers. Platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and gaming websites see consistently impressive engagement — so away from the game ads have real potential to amplify campaign reach for advertisers. 

Dan Webb, Owner of, joined the team on stage to share his insights as a popular gaming publisher. Ten years ago, gamers needed a dedicated console or gaming PC, but nowadays all you need is a smartphone and you have access to AAA, free-to-play experiences. The barrier of entry has never been so low, which translates directly into engagement reaching an all-time high.

Venatus panel at IAB Gaming Upfronts

An incredible event overall, IAB UK's Gaming Upfronts 2023 provided a valuable glimpse into the ever-shifting landscape of gaming and advertising. As the industry continues to grow and change, adapting to these evolving trends will be essential for any brand seeking to connect with today's gaming communities.