The following article was originally written in 2017. I've decided to move it here. Although it's been 3 years since I conducted the survey, I think the results are still valuable and likely still accurate.
89.9% of gamers will watch an ad if the first thing they see is interesting gameplay.
Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the 2017 Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. My session, Breaking Ad: The Formula for Winning Video Advertising, explored ways to improve video ad metrics based on data from real world tests. One perk of being a speaker is a complimentary conference pass, and since this was my first GDC I took full advantage of it and attended as many talks as possible.
One of the sessions I attended, Quantic Foundry’s The Anatomy of Gaming Motivations: What We Learned from 250,000 Gamers (awesome presentation by the way), got me thinking about how gamers would respond to a survey on video ads. So, after GDC wrapped up, I fed my curiosity and put together a short survey.
The survey was very simple, containing 5 questions about the participant’s identity and 5 questions about their feelings toward video advertising (you can see the full list of questions at the bottom of this article). I shared the survey across several gaming-focused subreddits and Discord servers. 1,041 gamers took the survey between March 3rd and March 9th, providing a 4% margin of error with a 99% confidence level (assuming a gamer population over 1 billion in size).
Disclosure: I included an optional incentive for survey-takers in which one randomly chosen participant (who opted for the incentive) would receive a $50 gift card to a video game marketplace of their choice.
- 90.3% of participants identified as male
- 8.3% of participants identified as female
- 1.4% of participants identified as neither male nor female
- 47.4% of participants were 20 to 29 years old
- 35.6% of participants were 10 to 19 years old
- 14.6% of participants were 30 to 39 years old
- 1.9% of participants were 40 to 49 years old
- 0.5% of participants were 50 to 59 years old
- 49.1% of participants were from the United States
- 9.1% of participants were from the United Kingdom
- 7.9% of participants were from Canada
- 33.9% of participants were spread across 72 other countries
Types of Gamers
- 61.1% of participants identified as mid-core gamers
- 27.1% of participants identified as hardcore gamers
- 11.8% of participants identified as casual gamers
Regularly Used Gaming Platforms
- 91.6% of participants regularly game on a PC (OS not specified)
- 46.5% of participants regularly game on a mobile device (e.g. phone, tablet)
- 45.3% of participants regularly game on a stationary console (e.g. PlayStation, Xbox)
- 26.2% of participants regularly game on a portable console (e.g. Nintendo 3DS, PS Vita)
- 1.3% of participants regularly game on a type of device that was not listed
According to the survey results, 63.9% of gamers are indifferent towards video game video ads, agreeing that their decision to pay attention to an ad depends on whether or not it looks interesting. Furthermore, only 20.4% of gamers absolutely hate video game video ads and always skip them when they can. The remaining 15.7% sincerely enjoy video game video ads.
The Importance of Gameplay
One of the takeaways from my GDC presentation was the importance of showing gameplay and in-game experiences in your video ads. This point is echoed by the survey data showing that 90.2% of gamers enjoy seeing gameplay most in video ads, followed by 4.0% of gamers who wish to see other people playing the game. 2.7% of gamers prefer in-game cinematics while 2.3% prefer exclusive animations that use in-game assets. Quotes from journalists or user reviews are least preferred with only 0.8% support.
89.9% of gamers will watch an ad if the first thing they see is interesting gameplay. 28.9% will pay attention if they immediately see a high-quality cinematic (regardless of its origins), and only 12.4% will consider watching if the first thing they see is an influencer (YouTuber, streamer, etc.) who they recognize and respect. If the first thing they see is a logo for the game or a logo for the developer/publisher, only 12.3% or 25.6% are likely to continue watching the ad, respectively. In line with what gamers least prefer to see, only 5.3% are intrigued by immediately seeing a quote from a journalist or user review.
When gamers watch a video ad or trailer, 66.8% say they notice gameplay the most, while 25.1% primarily notice the artwork/graphics and only 8.1% find that the music and sound effects stand out more than the previous elements.
Interestingly, 69.4% of gamers admit they rely most on user reviews when making a purchasing/downloading decision (regardless of if the game is free or paid), but when it comes to video ads only 0.8% of gamers prefer to see quotes from journalists or user reviews.
10.8% of gamers make their purchasing/downloading decision based on the game’s trailer, while 10.2% base their decision on the game’s screenshots. Only 9.6% of gamers will rely the game’s written description.
- The majority of gamers are open to watching video ads; 63.9% claim indifference toward video ads, admitting they’ll watch them if the game looks interesting.
- Gamers respond best to gameplay in video ads; 89.9% will watch an ad if the first thing they see is interesting gameplay, and 66.8% notice gameplay in ads and trailers more than they do artwork/graphics, music and sound effects.
- When making a purchasing/downloading decision, user reviews are the most influential factor on a game’s store page (69.4% of gamers rely on user reviews), while trailers, screenshots and written descriptions carry virtually the same weight.
- Only 12.4% of gamers will consider watching an ad if the first thing they see is an influencer (YouTuber, streamer, etc.) who they recognize and respect, and only 4.0% prefer seeing other people playing a game.
I encourage you to apply these findings to how you approach video advertising for video games, but remember that there will always be exceptions to these results. For example, if your game is a multiplayer party game, you’ll probably want to show people playing your game.
Full Survey Questions
What is your gender?
How old are you?
Which part of the world are you from?
- (A list of countries sourced from listofcountriesoftheworld.com)
What kind of gamer do you identify as?
- Casual gamer
- Mid-core gamer
- Hardcore gamer
Which platform(s) do you regularly play video games on? (check all that apply)
- PC (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.)
- Stationary Console (e.g. PlayStation, Xbox)
- Portable Console (e.g. Nintendo 3DS, PS Vita)
- Mobile Device (e.g. phone, tablet)
What is your general opinion of video advertisements for video games?
- I like seeing video ads. They teach me about new games that I might not learn about otherwise.
- I’m indifferent. If I see a video ad I might watch it or I might not, it depends on how interesting it looks.
- I hate them. I never pay attention to video ads and I skip them when I can.
When looking at a video game, whether it’s free or paid, what impacts your purchasing/downloading decision the most?
- The game’s trailer
- The game’s screenshots
- The game’s user reviews
- The game’s written description
When you watch a video advertisement or a trailer for a video game, what do you like to see most?
- Actual gameplay
- Quotes about the game from journalists or user reviews
- Other people playing the game
- Cutscenes or non-playable cinematics from the game
- Animation using artwork from the game, but made specifically for the video (i.e. not from the game)
When you encounter a video advertisement for a video game, what has the best chance of convincing you to pay attention to it? (check all that apply)
- Immediately seeing interesting gameplay
- Immediately seeing a high quality cinematic (regardless of if it’s taken from the game or not)
- Immediately seeing a YouTuber, Streamer, or other game-focused entertainer that you recognize and respect
- Immediately seeing a quote from a journalist or user review in the form of text
- Immediately seeing a logo for the game
- Immediately seeing a logo for the game’s developer or publisher
When you watch a video advertisement or a trailer for a video game, what stands out to you most?
- The gameplay
- The artwork/graphics
- The music and sound effects