Top YouTube Sponsorships in Video Games
YouTube Gaming had its biggest year ever in 2020, with 100 billion watch time hours across 40+ million active gaming channels. And while these figures are almost unfathomable, they only look set to rise.
Partnerships between game publishers and gaming YouTubers are long established at this point, with collaborations such as let’s plays, walkthroughs, and game reviews generating stellar results. But some gaming YouTube sponsorships have gone beyond the merely impressive, achieving truly astronomical hype and business results.
In this article, we’re highlighting the top 15 gaming brand deals on YouTube to help inspire your own campaigns.
1. Lilith Games – AFK Arena
AFK Arena is an idle RPG game published by Lilith Games, one of China’s largest publishers. As an Eastern publisher looking to launch a mobile game in a Western market, the odds were stacked against Lilith Games as they looked to launch in the top-50 free game charts on the App Store and Google Play in the United States.
CloutBoost executed an influencer campaign for AFK Arena to not only meet, but exceed the campaign’s goals. Informed by data, we targeted influencers who offered the following: ability to attract casual gamers (given the casual nature of an idle RPG), past success when promoting mobile games, and consistent video performance—based on True Reach. To complement the integrated video ads, influencers also posted about the game on their social channels, in addition to running a giveaway to further amplify downloads.
Overall, AFK Arena hit #13 on Google Play, and #26 on the App Store, resulting in a highly successful campaign. Campaign reach exceeded 18 million, with over 12 million YouTube views to date. CloutBoost delivered 185% of expected views in the first month, and 441% of expected views over time. Since then, CloutBoost and Lilith Games have partnered again for AFK Arena’s first anniversary in 2020.
2. Gaijin Entertainment – War Thunder
Capturing attention isn’t easy in an increasingly competitive gaming space, so sometimes it pays to be different. That’s certainly what Gaijin Entertainment did with War Thunder, their vehicular combat multiplayer game.
The game’s marketing team took a bold decision to partner with one of the most controversial rap artists in Russia—Morgenshtern. While associating yourself with controversy is certainly risky, the numbers generated are significant as audiences rush to see what’s going on. In May 2021, Morgenshtern released a new music video—sponsored by War Thunder. The game is actually mentioned in the song, with a direct CTA to download it in the lyrics.
To date, the music video has generated an incredible 68 million views on YouTube, not to mention its audio release across major music platforms (Spotify, Apple Music). Engagement is also sky-high, with 1.6 million likes (but 176 thousand dislikes) and over 120 thousand comments. It’s clear that not all of the attention here is positive, but the eyes on the game as a result of this campaign can’t be disputed.
3. Plarium – Raid: Shadow Legends
Raid: Shadow Legends is a freemium mobile game that’s been downloaded more than 250 million times over the last two years. If you’ve ever seen games advertised on YouTube, it’s likely you’re familiar with Raid—the company has relied heavily on YouTube influencer marketing to grow its game. This game is known for its partnerships with all kinds of YouTubers – from gaming influencers to vlogging and cooking channels.
Not every integration has necessarily gone according to plan for Raid: Linus Tech Tips partnered with them for a video which led to significant backlash from the channel’s audience, ultimately causing the channel to announce they wouldn’t partner with Raid in the future.
That said, other audiences have responded positively. Another YouTube influencer, TomSka, partnered with Raid for a few videos, avoiding audience backlash. Implementation is key when it comes to brand partnerships: TomSka incorporated the ads into sketches rather than spewing generic talking points, resulting in a natural integration that his audience could enjoy.
Interested to learn more about mobile RPG marketing best practices? Check out this article on our blog.
4. Electronic Arts (EA) – Apex Legends
EA Sports released its free-to-play, battle royale shooter game Apex Legends in 2019 as a complete surprise—with no advance marketing. Games are typically hyped up and marketed for months leading up to their release, so to do the complete opposite represented a huge shift.
Instead, EA partnered with a group of popular professional gamers to help promote “Apex Legends” directly to their massive online followings during the first two days of the launch. Huge gamers participated in the “#ApexPartner” program, including Ninja, Shroud, and Dr. Disrespect. The radical, surprising nature of EA’s approach, as well as engaging some of the world’s most influential streamers, meant Apex became an overnight hit.
EA’s influencer marketing strategy contributed significantly to more than 50 million players trying out Apex Legends in its first month of release, and it’s been a top performer ever since.
5. Azur Games – Infinity Ops
In 2018, Azur Games launched a YouTube influencer campaign to encourage registrations for their upcoming launch of Infinity Ops. The campaign involved partnerships with several YouTube influencers who created videos to introduce the game.
The company also offered special bonuses (400 gold of in-game currency) to people who pre-registered for Infinity Ops before launch. The YouTubers who took part in the campaign asked their followers to pre-register, explaining the benefits offered and the game’s best features. Within 22 days, the campaign resulted in 1.3 million pre-registrations for Infinity Ops.
6. PlayKids Inc – PlayKids XD (PK XD)
PK XD, an open-world adventure game, had the goal to target relevant audiences in untapped regions such as Southeast Asia. CloutBoost partnered with some of the biggest gaming influencers from these regions to create dedicated gameplay videos. Videos were supported by giveaways and repurposed into 30-second ads on PK XD’s digital channels.
PK XD successfully hit their goal, with the campaign generating 13.4 million views to date across target regions, as well as a True Reach Score of 55.52% and average engagement of 4.27%.
7. Activision – Call of Duty
Call of Duty—the world’s best-selling first-person shooter gamer series—is published by Activision. Call of Duty: Vanguard is the eighteenth game in the series, developed by Sledgehammer Games.
Activision understands the importance of YouTube when it comes to promoting their game; influencer reactions help build an engaged community around games that publisher-owned content struggles to replicate. For example, ImDontai’s Call of Duty reaction video generated a 4.7x ER 30 engagement rate. On the macro level, Call of Duty’s owned and earned views on YouTube for July 2021 viewership hit 1 billion views—an extraordinary number.
“When we made a conscious decision to lean into YouTube influencers that was viewed as a huge risk. Now our influencer program delivers hundreds of millions of views for our key franchise.” Jonathan Anastasia, Vice President of Global Marketing, Call of Duty
8. Ubisoft – Assassin’s Creed
Assassin’s Creed is an action adventure video game published by Ubisoft. The game is a series that consists of 12 main games, in addition to multiple spin-offs.
Ubisoft partnered with highly talented stunt master YouTuber Devin SuperTramp to recreate the game in real life. In the 3-minute movie, Devin SuperTramp masterfully carried out super stunts in Paris, France. The campaign attracted 37 million video views, with 5.53 million views within the first week after launch.
9. Ubisoft – The Division
The Division is a third-person shooting game developed and published by Ubisoft (in conjunction with Red Storm Entertainment).
Ubisoft employed the services of YouTube gaming creators RocketJump, Devin Supertramp, and CorridorDigital to help develop Agent Origins, a short movie aimed at promoting The Division. Ann Hamilton, Ubisoft brand representative, explained how they selected these creators based on their strong fanbase within their target demographic, allowing Ubisoft to reach beyond their endemic sites. Hamilton also referenced the genuine passion and authenticity these influencers had for gaming, as well as the creativity behind their work allowing them to celebrate the game’s stories in a unique way.
The Division broke records, selling more copies in its first 24 hours than any game in Ubisoft’s history. While specific numbers weren’t revealed, Ubisoft referenced that “millions of players” engaged with The Division, suggesting over one million copies of the game sold on release day.
10. Seriously – Best Fiends
Best Friends is a mobile video puzzle game published by Seriously, a gaming company founded by ex-Rovio executives Andrew Stalbow and Petri Järvilehto.
Seriously spent more than 90% of its budget on YouTube sponsorship campaigns, displaying great faith in the power of YouTube to market video games. From PewDiePie to DanTDM, Seriously have partnered with the world’s biggest gamers, achieving incredible success.
Content created by sponsored gamers promoting Best Friends has exceeded 150 million views, with 40 million downloads and an active daily user base of two million. Seriously CEO, Andrew Stalbow, highlighted how “the world’s biggest mobile treasure hunt was built around a social influencer campaign that saw us trend on App Store search worldwide.”
11. Scopely – Walking Dead
Walking Dead is an apocalyptic mobile video game series developed by Scopely and published by Telltale Games.
Scopely partnered with PewDiePie and other influencers, having them appear in videos dressed like zombies from the game. The game went viral, with four million video views on YouTube and Facebook and the equal number of game downloads in its first week. Scopely CEO, Walter Driver, emphasized the need to get creative with campaigns in an increasingly competitive gaming landscape.
12. Coffee Stain – Goat Simulator
Goat Simulator is a third-person indie game developed and published by Coffee Stain.
Goat Simulator—which started off as somewhat of a joke—ended up as a success story for YouTube gaming sponsorships. Huge YouTubers like PewDiePie, Markiplier, and Jacksepticeye contributed to the game’s virality, resulting in over four million sales since release.
“I think the best way is just to show your game to as many people as possible, and then let them decide if it’s something they want to play.” Armin Ibrisagic, Coffee Stain Studios
13. Ubisoft – Far Cry
Far Cry is a first-person shooting video game developed by Crytek Studios and published by Ubisoft.
If you have the budget, partnering with a huge gaming YouTuber (assuming you’ve researched their audience) is hard to get wrong. Ubisoft have repeatedly partnered with VanossGaming to create gameplay videos for Far Cry, generating tens of millions of views.
Seeing influencer collaborations as a long term campaign opposed to a one-off video is the kind of perspective you want to be taking. Audience familiarity with your game can continue to build, and strengthening your relationship with influencers through repeated successful collaborations is always a positive.
“YouTube is an amazing channel for the video game industry. It allows us to share our video content with our consumers directly through our channel.” Ann Hamilton, Ubisoft.
14. My.com – Armored Warfare
Armored Warfare is a free-to-play online shooting game developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by My.Com.
My.Com leveraged YouTube influencers significantly as part of a pre-launch strategy that saw over 150 videos posted to more than 30 channels. The campaign achieved more than five million views in less than six months.
“We established long-term relationships with YouTube influencers, allowing us to reach our core audience of online tank and MMORPG players. Some campaigns recorded an impressive 10% views to sign-ups conversion rate.” Polina Haryacha, Founder at CloutBoost, who worked on My.Com’s campaign at that time.
YouTube offers your brand the chance to meet multiple goals, be it kickstarting a game launch, raising awareness in new regions, or increasing player retention—the sheer scale of its numbers cannot be ignored. But in an increasingly competitive YouTube landscape, determining your specific goals and outlining a strategy to achieve them is far from simple.
If you’re looking to maximize the results of YouTube sponsorships for your brand, CloutBoost can help. We’re a data-driven video game marketing agency with years of expertise across different game genres, regions, and campaigns. To collaborate with the right YouTubers for your brand, get in touch today.
Looking for more creative ideas for your video game marketing? Get inspired by our selection of best affiliate programs for gamers.