IAB UK Gaming Trends: Audience insights during the coronavirus pandemic

Posted on Monday 16 August 2021 | Antonio Forte - Industry Initiatives Executive IAB UK

IAB UK’s Antonio Dale Forte looks into trend reports from IAB UK’s gaming members to see how user behaviour has changed during the COVID-19 outbreak. With stadiums closed and pubs off-limits, is gaming becoming a new way to socialise for sports fans?

The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on businesses within our industry and throughout the wider economy. The changes we have seen are unprecedented in recent memory, making it more important than ever that we come together as a community to stay informed of wider industry trends, changing audience behaviour and the opportunities that these present across channels during this crisis. 

At the IAB, we are pulling together analysis of consumer trends provided by our members to understand how consumers’ behavior is adapting to our current lockdown living.   

In the second of a series of exploratory pieces, we’re looking at the gaming sector; an area that has seen significant marketing growth in recent years, and is becoming increasingly important as we look to utilise channels that are seeing higher levels of consumption and engagement during social distancing.

It is first useful to understand the impact that lockdown has had on general gaming audiences and why there has been an increase in demand for content. Nano Interactive have reported a 33% increase in gaming-related searches across their networks. This is a trend supported through engagement numbers, with Verizon reporting a 75% increase in gaming data usage and App Annie seeing its biggest ever week for mobile game downloads in March (1.2 billion). As people are spending more time indoors, it is apparent that they are increasingly turning to gaming to stay engaged, entertained and to keep in touch with friends.

Breaking down this growth, we can see that people are gaming more across all demographics. Nano Interactive say that there has been an increase in interest in 18+ certificate games, indicating that gaming is becoming a key hobby for adults who are now at home. Meanwhile, Bidstack’s research points to an increases in video game use across all generations; with Gen Z up 47%, Millennials up 41%, Gen X up 27% and Baby Boomers up 25%. Venatus’ research also shows a 40% increase in daily users of child-targeted content and an increased dwell time of 20% among this demographic.

Looking in more detail at how these trends have impacted gaming marketing, we can see that the growth mirrors that of the wider gaming industry. Gaming marketing specialists Anzu, IronSource, Venatus and Bidstack all reported increases in use of between 12% and 81% depending on publishers. More specifically, Venatus reported a huge increase of 76.6% in mobile sessions, while Bidstack saw a 259% increase in individual ad requests through its native in-game platform. 

Interestingly, and perhaps unexpectedly, our members also reported an increase in ad interaction, with IronSource sharing a 6% increase in ad engagements and Anzu reporting a 223% rise in the average time their ads were on screen, as well as a 158% increase in impressions. 

Advertisers are still doing great work through gaming channels, such as the Government who recently partnered with leading games companies on their ‘Stay at home, save lives’ campaign. Yet the market is in an unusual position where publishers are seeing more visitors than ever before but advertisers are cutting budgets as they look to account for the uncertainty of the current crisis. However, many brands are still looking to reach their target audiences while they are at home, and gaming marketing can offer them an alternative way to share important messages and stay connected with consumers.

Jason Mandler, Chief Revenue Officer at Global Web Index, says that “gaming has seen large spikes in terms of the amount of time people are dedicating to it and this shift in behaviour is happening across nearly all markets and demographics”. 

We still don’t know what the long-term impacts of Covid-19 will be on the global economy and on society itself, but in the short-term at least, reassessing which channels can provide value to clients using insights like these can help to guide us in our new reality.

IAB UK Gaming during Covid-19 Podcast Episode - listen here.

The Insights



The gaming surge caused by the coronavirus outbreak - Anzu



In-Game Advertising: an upward trend in a market downturn



How Covid-19 has impacted the Gaming sector

Nano interactive

Nano Interactive

Gaming Economy, what are they doing now? 



Venatus and the Covid-19 outbreak

Written by

Antonio Forte

Industry Initiatives Executive IAB UK


Related content


Brands’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic will impact buying habits

Learn more

IAB UK Video on Demand Trends: Audience insights during the coronavirus pandemic

Learn more
Antonio Forte

IAB UK Audio Trends: Audience insights during the coronavirus pandemic

Learn more
Stay Engaged

Stay Engaged Session 2: Social Media Stories can Help Save the World

Learn more

Rediscover the joy of digital advertising

Champion connections instead of clicks. Capture audiences' imaginations, not just their attention. Boldly move to your own beat instead of letting tech set the pace. It’s time to rediscover the joy of digital.