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Top 15 most innovative in-game advertising companies

PostedAugust 11, 2022 16 min read
In-game brands - Xenoss blog

The growth of in-game advertising has been on everyone’s radar since the mid-2010s. Some AdTechs brushed this off as a temporary trend. Others were quicker to recognize it as a lucrative market.

Cut to 2022: In-game advertising companies are already rewriting the rules of programmatic advertising in mobile apps, console games, and even virtual worlds.

In this post, we spotlight:

  • In-game advertising market growth trends
  • Game publishers launching innovative in-game advertising platforms
  • Top in-play advertising networks and SSPs
  • Leading mobile game advertising analytics platforms
  • New in-game media buying providers

In-game advertising market overview

In-game advertising is a coming-of-age market positioned for supersonic growth in the next decade.

In-game advertising market size at a glance-Xenoss blog
Projection of the in-game advertising market growth

When done right, in-game advertising can secure higher engagement rates and longer time-in-view than other digital ad formats. As a creative medium, in-game advertising also opens new customer activation opportunities – from personalized virtual billboard campaigns to branded metaverse merch.

Unlike other digital ad types, in-game advertising also sits better with consumers.  Seven in 10 UK gamers feel positive or neutral towards organically embedded in-game advertising. Among console gamers, 22% are more likely to buy brands advertised in games.

That said, simple in-app banners or in-game pop-ups no longer do the trick. Many find them disruptive or annoying. Because gamers ignore, block, or publicly bash intrusive gaming ads, AdTechs strive to do better. That’s no easy task.

Inevitable third-party cookies deprecation on Android and current privacy settings on Apple also сomplicate ad personalization.

As Roman Garbar, Marketing Director at Tenjin, said so well:

In killing its IDFA in the name of privacy, Apple has drastically limited the user data available to advertisers. This means that games — for so long able to use IDFAs or other user information to link identities through deterministic attribution — can no longer figure out how to effectively acquire new players.

The changing data landscape, paired with rising interest in in-game advertising, prompts publishers to test new monetization approaches, experiment with new ad formats, and seek out new ad partners for selling out their inventory.

…and many innovative in-game advertising companies emerge out of this market turbulence.

In-game advertising companies - Xenoss blog
Top 15 most innovative in-game companies according to Xenoss research

Publishers with innovative in-game ad platforms

The AdTech industry has an ongoing problem with supply chain transparency. This leaves publishers short on revenue.

In-game publishers' revenue - Xenoss blog
ISBA – 2020 Programmatic Supply Chain Transparency Study

Crumbling user attribution and steep “cuts” prompt bigger publishers to develop custom in-game advertising platforms.

By doing that, you’ll be able to:

  • Become the sole owner of rich player data
  • Broker better ad partnerships with brands
  • Cross-promote your own titles for free

Here are five game development studios that expanded into operating an in-game advertising platform.

1. Azerion

Azerion in-game advertising publisher - Xenoss blog

Azerion was one of the first game publishers to expand into AdTech. With its proprietary technology, Azerion directly sells game advertising across its portfolio of 17,500 game titles.

Since then, they have engaged over 300,000 advertisers – and plan to get even more brands on board through new partnerships.

In January 2022, Azerion signed an exclusive deal with ZEASN – a technology provider of OTT and smart TV solutions – to offer CTV advertising to its users.

Around the same time, Azerion joined up with MediaMath – an independent DSP – to codevelop an advertising marketplace for programmatically selling premium mobile game advertising in AAA titles.

The two want to launch new dynamic, in-game advertising formats such as virtual billboards advertising at racetracks or stadiums, and also improve transparency in attribution.

 

2. Voodoo 

Voodoo in-game advertising company -Xenoss blog

Voodoo is a Paris-based game development studio founded in 2013. They launched over 100 successful hyper-casual games, including hits like “Helix Jump,” “Crowd City,” and “Snake vs. Block.” As of February 2022, Voodoo surpassed 6 billion downloads and has an engaged audience of 300 million monthly active users.

Massive mobile game success attracted a roaster of high-profile investors including Goldman Sachs, Groupe Bruxelles Lambert, and, more recently — the Chinese giant Tencent.

Now Voodoo is saliently making inroads into the AdTech ecosystem, Xenoss proudly helping them with our domain knowledge and engineering expertise.

In 2021, Voodoo acquired the mobile marketing automation platform Bidshake, which offers advanced user acquisition advertising solutions for the gaming industry. That’s a smart move, given that Voodoo has also been positioning itself as a publishing partner to other game developers.

To date, Voodoo has partnered with a host of other studios, including Storms, Mobile Premier League (MPL), and Electric Manta among others. This significantly increased Voodoo’s inventory and placed them in a good position for launching its own ad network.

In 2022, the company also teamed up with oolo – a data management platform for governing data relationships between ad networks and implementing operational controls of ad revenue.

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3. Skillz

Skillz in-game advertising company - Xenoss blog

Skillz is an online mobile multiplayer video game competition platform that offers developers another way to monetize mobile games – through brand-sponsored competitions. As of 2018, Skillz hosted over 800 million tournaments.

Apart from helping some 1,100 independent mobile game publishers with mobile game monetization, Skillz also codeveloped 550+ games.

Currently, Skillz boasts 30+ million players, 5+ million daily tournaments, and 30K+ game developers in its network. To further capitalize on its audience, Skillz acquired Aarki DSP in June 2021 to delight its users with new mobile game monetization strategies.

Aarki’s proven machine learning will pair with Skillz’s robust first-party data to create an unrivaled value proposition for game developers. The integrated ecosystem will unlock new connectivity points between consumers, developers, and brands, pairing the right impression with the right user at the right time, all while delivering a superior user experience.

Andrew Paradise, CEO, Skillz

Skillz plans to use Aarki to help its publishers acquire more users by running affordable app install campaigns or title cross-promotions. Then they’ll propose the best-performing games to their network of advertisers, which already has some big names like the NFL and UFC, among others.

That’s a shrewd, two-pronged approach to maximizing ​​in-game advertising revenues. Skillz profits from selling ads to its network of publishers – and separately pulls in cash from brands, advertising within its ecosystem.

4. Activision Blizzard  

Activision Blizzard in-game advertising company - Xenoss blog

Activision Blizzard needs no introduction as its biggest hits – “World of Warcraft,” “Call of Duty,” and “Candy Crush” – speak of the company’s reputation.

In 2022, Activision Blizzard made headlines once again after Microsoft extended them an all-cash $68.7 billion acquisition offer that’s likely to be finalized by the end of the year.

Gaming is the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today and will play a key role in the development of metaverse platforms. We’re investing deeply in world-class content, community, and the cloud to usher in a new era of gaming that puts players and creators first and makes gaming safe, inclusive, and accessible to all.

Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO, Microsoft. 

Yet, it’s not just the community Microsoft is after but also Blizzard’s extensive in-game advertising capabilities. Its AdTech arm, Activision Blizzard Media, has been drawing in high-profile sponsors for years with dynamic in-game advertising formats, best-in-class measurement solutions, and granular audience insights.

The network reaches  280 million players globally and millions of esports viewers. Their network also touts 98% ad viewability (well above the industry average) and 10.8X times greater message association than other mobile publishers. Blizzard is one of the Xenoss clients that decided to upgrade their AdTech capabilities with the help of our expertise.

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5. Super League Gaming

Super League Gaming in-game advertising company - Xenoss blog

Super League Gaming is a publicly-traded video game publisher, specializing in open-ended world games. Their most successful titles are:

  • Minehut – the largest Minecraft server host community in the world.
  • Mineville and Pixel Paradise – two Minecraft server worlds for consoles and tablets.

Separately, Super League Gaming operates two game streaming platforms – SLG.tv and Framerate – plus several branded social media channels with a large following.

By combining in-house AdTech development with strategic tech acquisitions, Super League Gaming has assembled an ecosystem of advertising, analytics, app development, and media production tools for its partners.

Their video game ad network includes:

  • A programmatic platform for dynamic and static in-game ads.
  • Performance measurement with geo, gender, and device audience breakdowns.
  • Content amplification for sponsored campaigns via live gameplay broadcasts and on-demand clips for social media.

As of 2022, Super League Gaming reports delivering over 1+ billion monthly ad impressions. The publisher also holds 30% of global Roblox audiences thanks to its 2021 acquisition of Bloxbiz – a Roblox advertising platform with 25 million monthly active users and an inventory of some 75 brand-safe games.

Bloxbiz acquisition also gave Super League Gaming access to an advanced ad viewability verification technology for 3D space. This puts them at the forefront of the metaverse advertising market.

Quote by Benjamin Khakshoor on in-game advertising - Xenoss blog
Insights from Benjamin Khakshoor, VP of Metaverse Products at Super League Gaming

In-play advertising platforms

Though in-game advertising platform development comes with unique technical challenges, the payoff is too good to pass on.

So new, purpose-built  emerged to connect eager advertisers with popular game publishers.

The following six companies stand at the vanguard of programmatic in-game advertising.

6. Anzu 

Anzu in-game advertising company - Xenoss blog

Anzu is a rising star in the in-game advertising space. Although founded only five years ago, Anzu has already proved itself to the industry by winning the Best Ad Tech Platform title from Digiday in 2022.

Features

  • Supports programmatic in-game advertising for mobile, console, PC, and Roblox.
  • Inventory from AAA game publishers like Ubisoft, Amelore, and Saber Interactive with Smart as its supply-side partner
Quote of Amit Triffon on in-game advertising - Xenoss blog
Insights from Amit Triffon, VP of R&D at Anzu

Klarna, HTC, NBCUniversal, Samsung, and 7-Eleven are among Anzu’s satisfied brand customers.  WPP, Sony Innovation Fund, HTC, and NBCUniversal can be listed among Anzu’s strategic partners and investors.

7. Bidstack 

Bidstack in-game advertising company - Xenoss blog

Bidstack has been around since 2002. The company initially specialized in DOOH advertising but pivoted to in-game advertising by 2018 as the niche took off. Bidstack IPO-ed the same year.

As of mid-2022, Bidstack reported £2.1 million ($2.5 million) in revenue for the first 6 months and is expected to hit £8.9 million by the end of the year.

Features

  • Custom-built SSP platform with programmatic capabilities (OpenRTB compatible) and direct deals.
  • In-play inventory is available across PC, mobile, VR, and console games. Supports in-play and in-menu ads, plus dynamic and static in-game advertising in racing, stadium, and open-world environments.
  • Offers advertisers anonymized, first-party user data for improved ad targeting.
  • Bidstack Marketplace has titles from publishers like InLogic Games, SEGA, Ubisoft, Dirt Trackin, Football Manager, and others.
  • Stellar ad quality management via PubGuard, a subsidiary company of Bidstack. Advertisers receive better data on ad placements and measurability. Publishers are alerted about subpar ad placements and low viewability.

Bidstack also cultivated a partnership ecosystem to further grow its in-game advertising network. They worked with Xaxis – a digital media company – to develop new in-game ad experiences like dynamic cityscape billboards, branded character skins, and contextually relevant spaces for the metaverse.

In 2021, Bidstack signed a partnership deal with Azerion, which became Bidstack’s sole external reseller.

Also, Bidstack appears to be testing white labeling for further revenue diversification. In 2022, they announced a 3-year deal with an undisclosed APAC company that will use Bidstack’s tech stack to create their own in-game advertising business.

Quote by Antoine Jullemier on in-game advertising - Xenoss blog
Insights from Antoine Jullemier, VP of Gaming at Bidstack

It looks like “in-game advertising as a service” might soon be the new trend in the AdTech town!

8. Frameplay

Frameplay in-game advertising company - Xenoss blog

Frameplay is a newer entrant, operating out of San Francisco since 2018. It’s an in-game advertising network built by gamers and for gamers. Jonathon Troughton, CEO of Frameplay, met his cofounder at the virtual battleground of PUBG.

Frameplay offers a self-serve, gamer-first ad buying experience with a strong emphasis on creating immersive game ads. Their first branded campaign was launched in Q4 2020 – and more will soon follow.

Features

  • Supported ad formats: image banners, custom objects, and video in-game ads.
  • Real-time campaign analytics for programmatically traded ads. Frameplay developed a unique mechanism for measuring time-in-view for video gaming ads. It estimates how long an ad impression is visible in gameplay. The impression will only be marked as “viewable” if it meets rigid viewability requirements.
  • Uses Oracle Moat to prevent ad fraud and minimize invalid traffic volume.

Frameplay also partners with GumGum –  a contextual-first global digital advertising platform – to ensure higher in-play game viewability and support custom ad experiences.

9. Adverty

Adverty in-game advertising company - Xenoss blog

Adverty is one of the biggest European in-game advertising companies. They have operated out of Stockholm, Sweden, since 2016 – and went public at the end of 2018.

Adverty’s bragging rights include an average time in view of 25 seconds per impression and 10X higher than industry average CTR rates for in-menu gaming ads. They also built a patented ad viewability system that allows advertisers to convert cost-per-mile into cost-per-minute for their campaigns.

Adverty’s state-of-the-art in-game advertising platform attracts big-name brands like Coca-Cola, Red Bull, Lenovo, and Asus, among others.

Features

  • Clickable and non-clickable image, in-menu, and video in-game ads, across all popular platforms (mobile, TV screens, AR/VR masks, smart glasses, and in the metaverse).
  • Exclusive inventory includes popular game titles from Mamboo Games, TapNation, Blayze Games, Wolves Interactive, Playducky, Gold Town Games, and others.
  • Multi-patented in-game ad viewability technology relies on ad size, time in view, and position on the user’s display to accurately estimate impressions. The algorithm uses specific methods for measuring ad viewing in three-dimensional gaming spaces and is based on user in-game motion.
  • Programmatic and direct selling. Advertisers can purchase in-game ads via a self-service online dashboard or through popular ad exchanges. All ads are compatible with IAB and OpenRTB standards.

Adverty also maintains close ties with other leaders in in-game advertising, such as the earlier-mentioned Super League Gaming (to access Roblox advertising inventory) and ​​Azerion – to access their catalog of some 16,700 game titles.

They also have a long-standing partnership with Verizon Media, where Adverty is the main supplier of in-play and in-menu ad forms. Smart, InMobi, and Livewire are also among Adverty’s distribution partners.

10. AdInMo

AdInMo in-game advertising company - Xenoss blog

AdInMo is a Scottish, in-game advertising startup specializing in click-free mobile game ads. They are a smaller player (compared to others on this list) but have already carved out a comfy spot in the in-game advertising market.

Features: 

  • SSP platform that supports direct and programmatic ad purchases using Deal ID and OpenRTB. Integrates with popular DSPs.
  • High scalability. Delivers over 1 million brand exposure minutes per day via programmatic in-game ad placements.
  • Supports geo-based and age-based targeting or targeting by game genre.
  • Measurability is ensured via IAB Standards. Advertisers only pay for 100% viewability.
  • Offers extra brand effectiveness metrics such as data on ad recall, purchase intent, and brand affinity. Typical brand exposure is 3.5- 5 mins per player per day.

AdInMo recently partnered with Apex Mobile Media to expand its reach to Canada, a mobile advertising company that operates APEX Gaming Network (AGN).

AdInMo also took an exciting turn by partnering with Lemma – a DOOH ad network, which now offers virtual inventory placements on AdInMo-supported properties.

Also, to position itself as a more attractive supply partner, AdInMo teamed up with NumberEight – a privacy-centered, on-device data intelligence platform. It allows AdInMo to collect live content and behavioral audience data using cookieless solutions, then shares it with advertisers in a compliant way.

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    Mobile in-game advertising analytics and measurement

    Ad performance measurement remains a blind spot for publishers and ad buyers alike.

    Though many DSPs/SSPs provide baseline analytics, standalone analytics solutions offer deeper insights.

    These three companies lead the race in the mobile game ad analytics space.

    11. AppsFlyer 

    Appsflyer in-game advertising company - Xenoss blog

    AppsFlyer is a top dog in the mobile analytics space. It primarily caters to app publishers who want to learn more about their audiences and improve user engagement metrics.

    Also, AppsFlyer provides in-depth insights into in-game ad performance and in-app purchases, as well as alerts about likely attribution fraud.

    Features:

    • Comprehensive insights on top media sources and user acquisition channels with the highest conversions.
    • Analysis of best-performing, in-game ad formats and frequent user purchases (with revenue projections).
    • Antifraud protection covers in-app purchases and cost-per-action (CPA). Bot blocking, anomaly detection, and personalized anti-fraud rules.
    • 360-degree view into gamer behavior with cohort reports and behavioral analytics.
    • Sync your attribution and marketing analytics data with other platforms via APIs and raw data solutions.

    To further improve its attribution and marketing analytics, AppsFlyer recently partnered up with Braze – a customer engagement platform. Using Braze data, AppsFlyer users can now access deeper audience insights and develop better retention and reengagement mechanisms.

    12. Sensor Tower 

    Sensor Tower in-game advertising company - Xenoss blog

    Sensor Tower supplies leading brands with market intelligence. They have a specific analytics offering for game publishers, which is already used by the likes of Warner Bros. Games, Net Case Games, and Unity.

    Features: 

    • Aggregated data from popular ad networks including Adcolony, AdWords/AdMob, Apple Search Ads, Applovin, Chartboost, Facebook, Facebook Feed, Instagram, Snapchat, ironSource, Pinterest, Unity, Vungle, YouTube, and TikTok.
    • Predictive in-app analytics to identify emerging user trends, boost user engagement, and increase CLV.
    • Competitor analysis using parameters such as Revenue per Download (RPD) or Average Revenue per Daily Active User (ARPDAU).
    • Advanced genre segmentation lets you analyze game performances by subgenre, setting, theme, IP, and other metrics to understand what drives app installs and revenue for the hottest mobile games on the market.
    • Creative Gallery with top-performing ad examples from popular mobile games. You can monitor other ad networks for mobile game monetization and measure the ad duration and impression count.

    Sensor Tower substantially increased its reach in Southeast Asia with the help of Niko Partners – a local market intelligence firm offering analysis of mobile gaming trends in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

    13. Mobile Action 

    Mobile Action- in-game advertising company - Xenoss blog

    MobileAction also offers a host of mobile app analytics solutions — from ASO intelligence to SDK optimization toolkit, plus comprehensive ad advertising intelligence.

    Features: 

    • Analyze the best performing ads, creative assets, and CTAs from 10+ ad networks.
    • Discover which ad networks other apps use to map the best hosts for your ad campaigns.
    • Identify new in-app marketing opportunities based on aggregated analysis of user behaviors.
    • Competitor creative and ad campaign analysis + benchmarking.
    • Ad creative conversion optimization toolkit you can also use to benchmark your creative against competitors.

    MobileAction also offers rich user insights jointly with Bango Audiences – an AI-driven user intelligence platform. Using Bango insights, publishers can increase revenue from user acquisition campaigns by 2X-9X times on average.

    In-game media buying solutions

    Thanks to creative ad formats and high user acceptance, in-game ads are now seen as the best way to monetize mobile games.

    In 2022, 94% of free-to-play mobile games will run in-game ads. The most-deployed ad formats are rewarded video ads (82%), interstitial video ads (57%), and banners (34%).

    Advertising in video games for PC and gaming consoles also keeps rising as bigger brands get comfortable with custom activation campaigns like the recent LV X League of Legends collaboration or Joe Biden election campaign on Animal Crossing.

    To fulfill that rising appetite for in-game advertising, new demand-side platforms (DSPs) and purpose-built ad exchanges materialize fast.

    14. Gadsme

    Gadsme in-game advertising company- Xenoss blog

    Gadsme is a Paris-based DSP/SSP, specializing in in-game video advertising and esports. They are now priming to become Europe’s next AdTech star.

    The team includes ex-AppLovin VP of Corporate Development, Simon Spaull; Nina Mackie, previously head of agency partnerships at Admix; and Antoine Clairet, former head of international growth at software company Happydemics.

    Quote by Simon Spaull on in-game advertising- Xenoss blog
    Insights from Simon Spaull, CRO and Co-founder at Gadsme

    In 2022, Gadsme raised an $8 million seed round from Galaxy Interactive and Ubisoft – and plans to channel the funds into further platform development.

    Features: 

    • In-play performance ad campaigns for dynamic in-game objects such as interactive banners, skins, custom rewards, etc. Such immersive ads come with no out-of-game redirection.
    • Supports mobile, console, and PC video game monetization. Compatible with programmatic and direct ad placements.
    • Patented technology for ad viewability that relies on the time on screen and click-through rates to generate viewability scores for ad placements.
    • Allows ad measurement via third-party attribution partners or via direct surveys for branding campaigns.
    • Full control over waterfall and price floor ad strategies. Advertisers can reserve specific inventory with Deal ID.

    Gadsme partners with mobile app studios like Voodoo, Ubisoft, Tilting Point, TapNation, and Lion Studios, among others.

    15. Pubfinity

    Pubfinity in-game advertising company -Xenoss blog

    Pubfinity is an ad network specializing exclusively in Windows UWP Games and apps.

    It was founded in 2019 by a former game developer, Sam Kaufmann, who used to rely on the Microsoft Ad Monetization platform for video game monetization. When Microsoft deprecated its ad platform in 2020, Kaufmann decided to occupy the newly vacant niche – and enjoyed great success as a result.

    Features:

    • Only programmatic ad platform for Windows games with a curated portfolio of 100+ games and over 3 billion monthly ad impressions.
    • Access to a unified ad auction that allows publishers to maximize fill rates and achieve the highest CPMs.

    Pubfinity has strong ties with Epsilon. The platform uses its cookieless Core ID solution to integrate with other DSPs and ad networks in both open and private marketplaces. Pubfinity is also part of  Epsilon’s Core Private Exchange.

    To increase its appeal to even more advertisers, Pubfinity pioneered an in-game viewability measurement solution for Windows and Xbox together with Oracle Moat. Post-adoption, Pubfinity achieved a 90% viewability rate on its video ads and substantially lowered invalid traffic rates.

    Final thoughts

    In-game advertising is a nascent market. As such, it still has plenty of opportunities up for grabs, especially for publishers with a growing collection of high-performing mobile titles.

    In particular, PC, console, and VR gaming can also draw in more metaverse-curious brands interested in direct deals and custom activation campaigns.

    You’ve learned what others are doing to succeed in this space. Now the ball is now in your court: What type of in-game advertising solution are you going to develop?