In this case-study, we are going to look at how one of the biggest gaming websites worldwide earns revenue online: IGN.com.
What is IGN?
IGN, short for Imagine Games Network, is an American video-game and entertainment website and is owned by Ziff Davis. Its physical location lies in San Francisco but has online outlets in many different countries. Initially the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Chris Anderson, who is also known for setting up the TED-talk initiative and the tech-magazine Wired.
IGN first launched in September 1996 (#) and began as a cluster of 5 websites: N64.com (later ign64.com), PSXPower, Saturnworld, Next-Generation.com and Ultra Game Players Online. Nowadays IGN is everywhere, with a big focus on social media, streaming-services, videos on Youtube and a critically acclaimed website for all things gaming-related.
Ok, so how does a famous gaming-brand like IGN make money online? Mostly by creating and maintaining a very active online presence and working with some of the best game-journalists available. There are 4 main channels that IGN works with:
Perhaps the biggest amount of revenue comes from their insanely popular website. According to popular SEO-platform Ahrefs, IGN.com has more than 24 million monthly visitors. That is a lot! So much even that the website is located at number #71 in the most popular websites worldwide chart.
Also, according to the search-traffic measurement tool Alexa IGN has a very interesting link-profile, with more than 22k links from other sites. Search engines like Google and Bing use this link-profile in their ranking, and with this amount of links they are topping mostly all gaming-related keywords. No wonder they have an insane amount of traffic.
While IGN spends a lot of effort on writing interesting articles and profound reviews, it might be spending even more on creating videos. Most of the posts on the website are written transcripts of their videos, perhaps slightly showing a priority in content-creation. Their Youtube-channel has 12.5 million subscribers since September 2006, and have amassed a total of 9.590.048.831 views at the time of writing, spread between 135,173 videos.
IGN has apps on all popular platforms: iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android, Windows and a dedicated web-app. These (apart from the web-app) are more than just wrappers around their website, and all allow users with nice ways to consume IGN’s content and to stay up-to-date on everything about games.
Not only is IGN focussing on creating “regular” videos, they are also present at all the big streaming services: Twitch, Mixer and Youtube Gaming. According to Twitch statistics tool Twitchtracker they have some nice big stats going on for their Twitch-channel:
The statistics show a total of 226.450 followers at the time of writing, and more than 13 million views. Their Mixer-account shows more than 3 million views and around 95.000 followers.
This is how IGN.com makes money
Quick disclaimer: all numbers in this study are based on speculation and taken from public data of well-known tools. Keep in mind that, although it involves big numbers, IGN.com has a lot of employees it needs to pay, together with a massive pool of freelancers, hardware, servers, development-parties and more. Also, it has a stellar reputation for creating quality content and being one of the leading outlets in the gaming industry. This sort of thing costs money.
A good way of monetizing such a huge amount of visitors is advertising, both CPC and CPV, which you see a lot of on their website.
On initial landing, you are greeted with a big takeover-style advertisement, that takes in about one-third of the screen real-estate. Furthermore, multiple skyscraper advertisements are shown when scrolling down. In total, around 10 advertisements are shown in different sections and sizes.
And that is just the homepage. Since most people will probably land on reviews or news-articles, the homepage perhaps isn’t the most interesting page on the site. A review of The Outer Worlds shows “only” 3 advertisements – and a featured post section powered by ZergNet.
However, that same review article also contains affiliate links to Amazon. So not only do they earn money from ad-revenue, they also earn a commission from affiliates.
Thankfully they are quite transparent on the fact that they utilize affiliate-links to earn revenue, as mentioned on the page itself:
If you buy something through this post, IGN may get a share of the sale. For more, learn more.
When 24 million people land on your website every month, and on average visit 1.91 pages as seen previously on Alexa.com, there is a big chance that generates a lot of affiliate clickthroughs. If only 1% of visitors click on an affiliate link, that is still 480.000 referrals who have 24 hours to buy anything from the shop for IGN to earn a commission. Or if they implemented the ‘advanced cart-cookie‘, it’s 90 days! Nice!
According to Youtube-revenue platform Socialblade, IGN earns quite a lot from the huge amount of monthly Youtube-views:
While this is a speculative analysis, it shows that IGN earns between $27.6k and $441.6k of monthly earnings, based on views and advertisements. Here, the default estimated CPM range for Social Blade is $0.25 – $4.00 USD. In the last 30 days, 100k people subscribed to the channel, putting them on place 317 in the total subscriber ranking. Not bad! On average users earn around $1 for every 1000 views, as long as they have 10k views, 1k subscribers and 4k of total watch-time. When doing some quick (again speculative) math, this means that IGN has earned over $9 million from Youtube alone. We can at least say they have made some money out of it.
Whenever a big game is released or interesting new gaming-hardware is available for purchase, it usually gets a piece of branded content on the site/channel to showcase the product. These sponsored posts/videos are then seen by millions of gamers, which could really benefit sales. The amount of sponsored content on IGN seems to be rising, probably due to the increase in ad-blockers. Reddit-user Timjay22 showcases this in his post titled “Amount of Ad, Sponsored and Affiliate content seems to be on the rise“.
Although it is unknown how much IGN.com earns from each piece of branded content, it can be said that it probably isn’t cheap due to the huge viewership.
Last, but not least, IGN offers a special premium section called IGN Prime, a “Video Gaming VIP Membership”. Currently, this section is under maintenance but offered a no-ads website, free indie-games and exclusive content. At the time of writing, it is unknown what the new approach will look like, but the previous version offered 3 pricing options: $6.95 monthly, $14.95 quarterly and $29.95 annually.
On the one hand, IGN invests a lot of resources in creating and maintaining an entertainment powerhouse. On the other hand, it generates a lot of revenue from online alone. This money is made by monetizing its many viewers by displaying advertisements, affiliate-links, and sponsored content. They do offer a membership-section, but this is currently in a dormant state.