43% of Gen Z think ads in games ruin the experience

43% of Gen Z think ads in games ruin the experience Duncan is an award-winning technology industry analyst, specialising in cloud computing, blockchain, martech and edge computing.


The ZBD Gen Z Gamer Study has shed light on the central role that video gaming plays in how 18-25 year olds play, socialise, express themselves and engage with brands and influencers.

Based on a survey of more than 2,000 Gen Z gamers in the US, the study is a deep dive exploration of what shapes Gen Z behavior, with invaluable insights for brands, advertisers, game developers and publishers. 

It is estimated Gen Z’s spending power is upwards of $360bn in the US alone, with many more yet to age into adulthood. With a staggering 65% of respondents spending over three hours a day playing video games, and 72% saying they can be their authentic selves while playing online, gaming is a critical mainline artery to reach and meaningfully engage with Gen Z. The study indicates that, to do so, businesses may need to re-examine existing models and assumptions of identity, social interaction, entertainment and economy. 

Key findings of The ZBD Gen Z Gamer Study:

  • 65% of Gen Z gamers play video games for more than 3 hours every day. 72% say they can be their authentic selves while playing online, though a third (34%) say online gaming is too toxic for them
  • Gen Z gamers are most likely (57%) to play casual mobile games, which typically monetize with advertising, but 43% say ads in games ruin the game experience
  • 81% of Gen Z gamers have played or would play a video game which is entirely based on a non-gaming brand, such as Nikeland in Roblox
  • 67% would trust a brand more if influencers or content creators they know engaged with it, and 80% want fair rewards for content creators and influencers
  • 70% of Gen Z gamers make money through a side hustle themselves
  • 47% agree that ‘Bitcoin is real money’, and 74% of Gen Z gamers would be more receptive to ads in games if they were rewarded with Bitcoin for their time
  • Males are most likely to engage with influencers on YouTube (79%), while females favor TikTok (75%)
  • Among a selection of well-known influencers, Andrew Tate is simultaneously the most liked by males, and the most disliked by females

Ben Cousens, chief strategy officer at payment platform ZBD, said: “Gen Z is the first to grow up as digital-natives, meaning there are stark differences with any that came before. Things like subscriptions for digital entertainment services, which seem so new to over-30s, are already on their way to being as obsolete as the Sears catalog to Gen Z. It’s imperative for games industry companies, consumer brands and advertisers to understand how to communicate and engage with the most technologically plugged-in generation in history, which demands authenticity and fairness above all.” 

Gen Z affinity for video gaming runs much deeper than having fun

  • 43% of Gen Z gamers say gaming is more about the social experience than the game itself. 72% feel they can be their authentic selves while playing online
  • Just 55% of Gen Z gamers feel safe while gaming online, while a third (34%) say online gaming is too toxic for them

Preferred genres and attitude towards ads

  • The most popular gaming category is casual mobile, which typically monetises through advertising
  • 50% of Gen Z gamers say ads are a little annoying but that they don’t mind them in free games
  • 43% say advertising in games is so disruptive it ruins the experience
  • Almost three-quarters (74%) of Gen Z gamers would be more receptive to ads in games if they were paid some Bitcoin for their time

Data privacy and decentralisation

  • 42% of Gen Z gamers say big gaming companies have too much data about them, with only 18% disagreeing
  • 23% of Gen Z gamers own Bitcoin, and double that amount (47%) agree that ‘Bitcoin is real money’
  • 51% said they would be interested if their favorite games started offering Bitcoin rewards whilst playing, 22% said they were not interested.

 Gen Z live (and work) to game

  • 65% of those surveyed play video games for more than three hours every day, and 53% spend more than $20 per month on games. 
  • 54% have a gaming subscription, almost as many as have music subscription (65%)  or video/ movie subscription (71%)
  • 70% of those surveyed engage in some form of side hustle to make money, including social media content creation (29%), streaming (15%), and podcasting (7%). 

Don’t underestimate the power of creators

  • Gen Z are positive towards brand activations in games. A whopping 81% of Gen Z gamers have played or would play a video game from a non-gaming brand
  • 67% would trust a brand more if influencers or creators they know engaged with it
  • 80% agree that it’s important for influencers and content creators to be rewarded fairly for engaging with brands. Males prefer YouTube as their favorite platform for influencer engagement, while females favor TikTok

Corey Ellis-Johnson, 19, a Gen Z Marketing Advisor to brands, said: “Game developers need to understand Gen Z behaviors to enhance objectives within their game, and ultimately what appeals to them. Even refine based on heatmaps, and data – whether players are confused or show different behaviors to what is expected (pressing X instead of Y).Understanding the behaviors can allow developers to get higher retention since it’s more suited towards Gen Z characteristics.”

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person? Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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