Last week was a huge milestone in Admix’s history: we have announced our $7m Series A round, led by Force over Mass, and with the participation of Speedinvest and Sure Valley Ventures 💥
The news comes about 18 months after our previous round – a $2.1m seed round led by Speedinvest. In these 18 months, Admix has evolved from a team of 8 to a team of 30+, from a proof of concept focussing mostly on VR to a production solution with 200+ game publishers using our platform (across mobile and VR), and over 500 brands buying our inventory programmatically every month.
This is what we have learned in the last 18 months leading to our Series A.
1. Game creators across platforms are looking for new business models
When we revealed our solution to the world in late 2018, we were surprised to find traction not only in the VR space but also mobile, PC, console, and eSport space. Across the board, creators are looking for new business models. Why? Because the gaming market is changing. With 1.5B people playing games every day, and another half of that watching people playing games, the definition of a gamer has expanded to a more mainstream audience.
These new players have different motivations than traditional hardcore gamers, they play games to pass time, and most are not willing to pay upfront. As a result, the business models need to adapt to cater to these more casual gamers. Publishers simply selling their games (regardless of the price point) end up leaving a ton of money on the table. And – unless you’re Fortnite or Supercell – advertising remains the best way to monetize the 97%+ users not willing to spend anything.
However, game developers hate traditional ads, with a reason – they’re intrusive and kill user retention. The whole industry is seen as a necessary evil. Anyone who has ever played a game will agree. Admix presents a god-sent opportunity for publishers to finally monetize their free audience without affecting the UX.
Across platforms, we’re seeing that trend to continue over the next few years, as gaming continues to attract more mainstream audiences, including streamers!
2. Increasingly more brands are willing to advertise in games
The conversation with advertisers has massively evolved over the past few years. When we first started, we were mostly attracting advertisers from the entertainment industry willing to target the old definition of a ‘gamer’. Fast forward 18 months, the conversation has changed. Brands are now willing to advertise in games because they know their audience is playing games, not because they are labelled as ‘gamers’. Subtle difference, but a difference that opens up the market from a few early adaptors to a $300B a year digital spend industry.
Over the past 10 years, several companies have had a go at in-play ads: IGA, Massive (acquired by Microsoft before being shut down), and Rapidfire. The reason they failed? They were not able to scale the demand side of the marketplace efficiently, i.e get enough regular advertisers to buy the inventory. Primitive programmatic technology was part of the issue, but mainly it was a timing issue. These pioneers were too early on the market. Gaming was already big back then, but it was still seen as a niche and ignored by most advertisers. To a lesser extend, that was still the case when I first started to conceptualise Admix in 2017.
Two years later – now is the time. Fortnite and esports have helped to set gaming as part of the culture. Casual and hypercasual games have shown that everyone (and their grandmothers) and now playing games. And the COVID crisis has further highlighted our dependency on online entertainment. A virtual concert with 12m people attending? Only in Fortnite. Raising $127m for good causes over a weekend? Only in Roblox. I wrote about these insane numbers in a previous article. Only games have the reach and engagement to deliver these kinds of numbers.
Gaming is where the attention is, and where the money is. Close to 1 trillion hours are being spent on games every year – that’s over 100M years of aggregated gameplay every year. In terms of eyeballs, gaming is a bigger channel than Facebook. The engagement numbers in games are now too big to be ignored by advertisers. Across industries, brands are hungry for new solutions to ‘get inside the games’ and capitalise on that attention. I confidently predict that within 3 years, 90% of brands will advertise in games.
So, a lot of what we learned has to do with the market timing. We are ideally positioned to capture a large chunk of that growth. So what’s our plan for the next 18 months?
On a day-to-day, it can feel like there are thousands of things to do to drive this business forward, dozens of routes we can explore. My job is to identify a clear North Star and get the team to put all resources in this direction. At a high level, we aim to build the first monetization solution that game developers actually love to use. People have written about this, and that’s honestly all there is to it – anything that doesn’t contribute to improving our product experience will be descoped.
Our next 18 months: we’ll keep focussing on the product experience
As the name suggests, what I call product experience is the product itself AND the way it is delivered to our publishers – by our partnership team, account managers, and tech support.
At Admix, we are truly obsessed with the product experience, and we will keep investing more resources into our technology to maintain our lead as the best in-play monetization platform. We are productizing everything we can, to increase scalability. Without that focus, we wouldn’t have been able to onboard 200 developers in a year and manage dozens of concurrent campaigns. This is an issue that all of our agency competitors will increasingly be facing as they try to grow.
In terms of product – as we start to work with larger publishers, across more premium titles, we need to provide them with more controls on the advertising experience, better compatibility with custom game engines, and of course better revenue overall. By nailing these 3 things, we will increase our lead in the space.
In terms of experience – we will be scaling our partnership team internationally to cover more ground. We will also introduce new offers to incentivize publishers to join our platform, such as a referral program and help with user acquisition. Our biggest differentiator here is that we understand game developers better than most – several of us are game creators. We speak their language, and we will stay focussed on building our team this way.
Focussing on delivering the best experience for publishers and advertisers will be the focus of the company for the next 18 months. I predict that by then, 3 things will happen:
- 90% of the world’s largest brands will embrace gaming as an advertising channel, and ‘in-play’ will become its own dedicated channel on the media plans
- new segments within gaming (such as esports, VR and AR) will create significant incremental growth in the market, as publishers start to nail down their business models.
- we will see various applications of gaming technology (mostly real-time 3D engines) in verticals outside of games, such as movies, and eCommerce. And that’s when the fun really starts 🙂
Until then – game on! 🚀
At Admix, we focus on user-friendly ads that are integrated with the gameplay, similar to product placements. In-play ads are the perfect environment for brands to place their ads programmatically and engage users while they play, without being intrusive and creating a bad experience. Get in touch to schedule a chat!
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