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Game Makers Leveled Up TV Ad Investments in 2016

Gaming arguably changed the way the television device was experienced. From lean back to lean forward and scream.  So perhaps it should be no surprise that when it comes to attracting gamers (and reaching parents), gamers turn to the biggest screen where more than 90% of video is viewed: television.

To quantify just how the gaming industry leveraged TV advertising, we dug into the data from iSpot.tv (the real-time TV ad tracker that measures activity across the top 118 channels and provides attention analytics gathered from 10+ million TV screens).

What did we find? The video advertising landscape may be shifting but the gaming industry didn’t shrink its TV investment in 2016. It grew.

How big? Let’s start with reach: gaming commercials showed up on screens 32.6 billion times in 2016. That’s over 100 exposures per American, 4 ad airings per human on the planet.

Over the year, 79 unique brands placed 490 different creative spots on U.S. national television nearly 250,000 times, for an estimated media value of $661.8 million.

That’s roughly an extra $625k a week, $32.6 million (or 5.18%) increase from 2015, when 65 brands placed 406 different spots for $629.2 million.

And the creative spots game makers churn out is (perhaps unsurprisingly) sticky– with an industry view rate of 88.6%.

Keeping Audience Attention

Perhaps they have an unfair advantage because game makers are optimized to hold viewers attention– but as an advertising category, some brands are simply exceptional.

Usually the top spenders have the highest viewer tune-out but after spending big ($80.5 million running ads over 11,000 times in 2016), Playstation’s ads managed to keep viewers’ attention, returning the brand a 93.4% Average View Rate*.

Machine Zone’s ads also maintained viewers throughout the year, averaging a view rate of 92.69%.

Top spender, Xbox, however, didn’t see the same retention. After running ads over 17,000 times, the brand’s average view rate fell to 78.38%, the lowest of any Game-focused advertiser that spent over $1 million on TV ads.

However, when it comes to maintaining attention, it comes down to the strength of the creatives. Although spending similarly, Bethesda Softworks and Nintendo saw far different results in terms of audience attention. Bethesda, on the back of a $37.4 million spend, maintained an average view rate of 91.08%, while Nintendo, spending an estimated $31.9 million, averaged a significantly lower 84.08%

*Average View Rate is the average amount of an ad watched across all views of the ad. The average view rate is only calculated on impressions that are: (a) viewed from the beginning of the ad and (b) viewed either live or on the same day of the original broadcast.

Ad Spending

While the Console brands spent the year focusing on their latest platforms, most brands spent to push their flagship titles to new heights. Some brands, like Machine Zone, regularly spent more than $3.5 million in a day to make sure the world knew about their pride and joy, Mobile Strike.

See below a breakdown by brand and a look at the seasonality of the industry. You’ll notice the front end of the year when makers load up on the NFL playoff and College Bowl crowds.





Xbox’s heavy promotional spend earned the brand 4.8 billion impressions in 2016. Xbox ran 38 creatives throughout the year, with a $146.3 million cumulative estimated media value. Xbox spent most heavily on running ads during NFL Football, followed by College Football.

Machine Zone

Machine Zone focused its $90 million ad spend on promoting Mobile Strike — ranking Machine Zone’s 22 creatives by ad spending, the first 14 promote Mobile Strike. In all, Machine Zone aired ads 48,961 times and earned 5 billion impressions throughout 2016.


Over the course of 2016, PlayStation earned 3 billion impressions across its 45 spots. PlayStation spent most heavily on ‘The King,’ airing these ads 1,547 times–particularly during primetime TV — resulting in 817.4 million eyeballs on ads for that title. Out of the entire video game industry’s 2016 promotions, ‘The King’ was the most-seen advertisement.


Sony Video Games and 2K Games upped their advertising expenditure impressively from 2015 to 2016, with both brands seeing triple-digit spend increases year over year. Xbox and Playstation also made significant marketing increases, with both brands revving up spending before the 2016 holiday season.

Most Seen Ad in Video Games This Year: PlayStation 4 Commercial, ‘The King’

This single ad generated over 818 million TV ad impressions, the most of any TV ad within the Mobile / Video game category.

All data courtesy of iSpot.tv, which measures national TV advertising, its digital response, and audience attention in real-time from 10mm connected smart TV sets nationwide.