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Music artists, TV shows, and film are best positioned brand categories for in-game item activations

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Photo of Karol Severin
by Karol Severin

Accounting for 67% of global games software revenue in 2023, in-game spending plays a crucial role in monetising gamers. Over the years, cosmetic in-game spending (which does not grant advantages or progress in-game) has gained importance, especially among younger consumers. Younger gamers are growing up in an era where digital cosmetics items play an important role in defining their image.

MIDiA’s Q1 2024 survey explores a number of questions about in-game spending. Among others, we asked in-game buyers about why they purchase in-game items.

67% of 16-19 year-olds who buy in-game items say that they do so to customise their appearance for themselves, while 37% say they their motivation is to customise their appearance for others to see. Only 35% say they spend to gain advantage in the game. This dynamic changes with age. For example, among 45-55-year-olds who buy in-game items, 53% buy to gain an advantage and only 34% to customise their appearance.

MIDiA’s Q1 2024 survey (the findings of which will be examined in more detail in our upcoming report) further dives into the split between in-game items that are ‘third-party branded / licensed’ (e.g., an Ariana Grande skin) and ‘first party / core game’ in-game items (e.g., core weapons, Ultimate Team player packs, etc). This is to shine better light on the opportunity that non-gaming companies have with in-game item activations, be it through a licensing fee or a revenue share partnership.

For the third-party branded portion of in-game spending, we look deeper into the brand categories from which in-game items are being purchased the most. Overall, TV / movie and music artist branded items track the highest among in-game buyers. This also changes by age group – especially for TV / film branded items, where purchasing numbers drop among younger consumers. However, music artist branded in-game items remain popular among consumers aged 16-44-years-old. This is good news for music artists, as they are increasingly dependent on finding alternative margin-generating channels in the super-competitive low margin music streaming era. Music artist branded items track highest among fans of fighting games (further validating WWE’s partnership with Post Malone), racing games, first person shooter games, and sports games.

In a bid to address an opportunity in games, music artists and their representatives still often overfocus on how to get their music into a game. However, perhaps the more significant opportunity for artists is to think of games as merchandise (fandom monetisation) outlets, rather than places for music discovery and consumption (engagement monetisation).

Aside from music, TV, and film, our upcoming report also looks at in-game spending on other brands categories, including fashion, automotive, food and beverage, sports clubs and athletes, and games. Get in touch if you would like to be notified when MIDiA’s in-game spending report is published.

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