Gaming Advertising Strategies: PlayStation, Xbox & Nintendo

Want to know what gaming advertising strategies look like for the top consoles? Check out the Pathmatics Explorer analysis for PlayStation, Xbox & Nintendo.


Mid-March marked the first week of nationwide quarantines. At that time, The Hollywood Reporter reported that U.S. video game usage during peak hours had increased 75% from the week prior, and that video streaming and overall web traffic had increased by 12% and 20% respectively.

America’s obsession with gaming and skyrocketing online activity throughout the last months has not let up. In fact, companies such as PlayStation, Xbox have released much sought-after consoles in the PS5 and Series X. The Nintendo Switch, which launched in 2017, is also seeing massive sales to keep families entertained while at home.

So, what do the gaming advertising strategies look like for each? We’ve analyzed the data from Pathmatics marketing intelligence tool to bring you the top ad trends for all three consoles.

PS5: See with sound

PlayStation has only spent an estimated $1.2M on 43 unique PS5-specific ads in the last two months. The gaming company has primarily focused on desktop ads, with 60% ($727K) of its budget invested in display advertising and 28% on YouTube ($333K).

The PS5 enjoyed a two-month ad campaign, starting on August 21 and ending October 16. 86% of its ad budget invested in direct advertising, and 13% on advertising via a DSP, Display & Video 360 ($150K).

Facebook and Instagram are absent from PlayStation’s ad strategy, and it’s particularly obvious from their top direct and indirect sites who their audience is. Direct PS5 ads were featured on Reddit ($229K), Gamespot ($163K), and ESPN ($111K), and indirect ads were placed on sites such as Fandom ($76K),

PS5 hit a mid-campaign spend peak on September 30, when it spent $137K on desktop display ads. All but $11k of that spend went to digital ads on Reddit, where PlayStation published creatives with the caption play has no limits.

Nintendo switches on more family-targeted ads

This family-focused display ad appeared across Conde Nast sites such as GQ, Pitchfork, Glamour TeenVogue, and Self.

Ah, the notoriously hard-to-find Nintendo Switch. One might think that digital advertising for the Switch would be somewhat stagnant because they are difficult to come by in most brick-and-mortars, however, Nintendo has spent $5.4M on digital ads for the console.

The Switch appeals to families in its creatives, whether that’s a mother and daughter playing Animal Crossing together, a teen playing on the Switch Console and then shifting to the handheld device on-the-go.

Since August, 61% of the Switch’s digital advertising is on Facebook. In the last two months, the Switch has been promoted the heaviest in hard-hit COVID states Texas (11% spend share with other states), New York (10%) and California (5%).

YouTube only comprises 14% (743K) of its ad budget, and the company spends 7% ($268K) on IMDB

Nintendo also advertises the Switch across a host of Conde Nast publications, including lifestyle media outlets GQ ($92K), Pitchfork ($6K), and Refinery29 ($82K).

Xbox favors video

For the last two months, Xbox has favored desktop video advertising, with 76% ad budget invested in this channel ($4.3M), followed by mobile display at 11% ($601K).

Xbox has a mixed strategy: while is has no problem investing in social sites such as YouTube (which accounts for all of Xbox’s desktop video spend, $4.3M), Twitter (384K), and Instagram ($127K), it also spends a collective $68K on gamer-oriented sites such as Twitch, NFL, Fandom, and Yugioh Wikia. On YouTube, creatives feature :15 ads for Xbox Game Pass and a longer 1:15 ad highlighting the Series 5 “next-gen technology.”

Xbox had at least one spend peak for desktop video per week over the last two months, with average daily spend hovering around $48K. Ad spend for this device continues to fluctuate daily. There are at least seven days where Xbox has zero spend, whereas others it can reach north of $150K. In early August, desktop video ad spend reached as high as $264K with creatives promoting Halo and Minecraft.

Gold medal ad strategies

PlayStation, Nintendo, and Xbox have each established strong ad campaigns with unique ad mixes and creatives that span a wide breadth of consumers. Families, professional gamers, and anyone in between is likely to be targeted by one of these brands.

We don’t anticipate they’ll slow down anytime soon, but if they do, we’ll be sure to share updates on our Twitter. Find us there, and let me know you’ve encountered any of these ads as you’re browsing YouTube or checking the news.

Want more? Browse Pathmatics’ blogs for deeper insights on social media and digital advertising from today’s leading brands.

*Data pulled from Pathmatics Explorer and highlights ad spend analysis from August 1 to October 28, 2020.

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Written by: William Merchan,

Date: November 2020