Over the past year the ad-supported online gaming industry has seen a spike in traffic; from December 2007 to December 2008, these gaming sites saw 27 percent more unique visits (85,977 from 65,547), along with 42 percent more total playing time, based on Reston, VA-based comScore's analysis. In the same period, traffic across the Internet increased only four percent (from 183,691 to 190,650). The top ten online gaming sites all saw an increase in traffic from US home, work, and university locations, at an average of 48.5 percent. The highest traffic levels are seen by Yahoo Games, up from 16,184 to 19,468, a twenty percent increase, and EA Online, from 12,673 to 15,369, up 21 percent. The largest increase, however, is at Spil Games, from 1,821 to 6,715, up 269 percent.
According to director of gaming solutions Edward Hunter, one of the activities that has benefited during this economic downturn is the online, ad-supported gaming category. “Not only have consumers turned to outlets such as gaming to take their minds off the economy, but as they curtail their discretionary gaming-related purchases they are turning to free alternatives.”
Despite a challenging online display advertising market, trends for online gaming look positive. From November 2007 to November 2008, total display ad views in this sector increased from 6.7 billion to 8.6 billion, a positive change of 29 percent.
This increase of display ad exposures is primarily due to an increase by thirty percent in the number of unique visitors: 52,066 to 67,834. Display ads per page are down seventeen percent, a beneficial "ad-clutter" decline trend.
These developments show a potentially symbiotic relationship between an engaged gamer audience and the advertising community despite the economic climate. Gamers are increasingly tolerant of ad-supported sites, and advertising agencies are developing their relevancy as they recognize the value of this resilient sector.