Justin Wenczka took a look at marketing strategies during his session at Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014. “Video ads are an obvious choice at the moment, because 53 percent of mobile traffic is now video”, he says. “We found there are above average engagement figures around video content.”
Dmitry Shkolnikov is the product manager at Mail.Ru Group, where he is responsible for advertising API, custom solutions, and custom audience targeting. At Casual Connect Eastern Europe 2014, he announced the launch of Mail.Ru’s mobile advertising platform. This product, created especially for mobile developers, has brought him an entirely new view of this company. The team had only three months to create this network, and with hard work and focus, they were able to deliver it exactly on time. He reveals, “It has been very exciting to recognize that everything was executed precisely as we intended and we had produced an excellent product.” He felt particularly gratified because as the project manager, he was responsible for delivering the product. This platform has since been used to build their advertising network.
Shkolnikov brings considerable expertise to his work. He has 10 years of experience in IT, and before coming to Mail.Ru Group, he was at Begun Advertising Service. His time with Begun brought him the proudest moment of his career, when they were able to achieve a large-scale integration with Yandex, one of the largest internet companies in Europe. This project arose suddenly; the team had only one and one-half months to meet every requirement and deliver the result to market.
In the games industry, Shkolnikov foresees a new impact coming from growing synergy between the mobile segment and advertising through Real Time Bidding. He also sees data mining growing in importance. Companies will soon be realizing greater value from player data for user acquisition.
Away From Work
When Shkolnikov is not working, he can be found at the gym or riding his bicycle. He is a curious person, always wanting to know how things are work. He has only to see a new device to be investigating exactly how it works and what is inside; in fact, he can’t sleep until he succeeds.
And, of course, he enjoys gaming. His preferred platform is iOS. He appreciates F2P games when the gameplay is well-balanced, but too often, right from the beginning of gameplay, players are enticed, even inveigled, into making purchases.
A technology entrepreneur and CEO of Voxel, David Zhao is used to working in the mobile space. He has seen first-hand the importance of user acquistion. He explains why more focus should be given to user acquisition in this article.
As all game developers know, user acquisition is often the biggest cost of doing business and with still rising CPIs and increasing competition for each user’s time, it’s expected this upward trend will continue. Fortunately, advertising and marketing technology has evolved, providing game developers with new ways to acquire users more effectively. Following are a few things that have worked for developers we’ve worked with.
A study by analytics firm Localytics shows 20 percent of users open an installed app only once, and a mere 39 percent become engaged users. The most important part of user acquisition is to convert an install into an engaged player.
Activation introduces the user to your game, with the goal of creating a positive experience so they want to come back. In this phase, you want to show users not only how to play the game, but also the rewarding parts of the game mechanics. EA has done a great job activating users with Plants vs Zombies 2. The game starts with a play-through tutorial that shows users a simplified level of the game where they go through the thrill of destroying their zombies. For those that monetize with ads, I cannot stress the importance of keeping the first experience ads free. I’ve seen far too many cases where games show a full screen interstitial when you open it for the very first time.
When it comes to retention, push notifications can be a useful tool to get the user to come back. These have to be done thoughtfully, as bombarding the user with too many notifications is a sure way to get your app deleted off of their phone. On iOS, it’s also a good idea to first activate the user before asking them for notification permission.
The most effective notifications I’ve seen are those that reward users with in-game power-ups. Zepto Labs did this perfectly in Cut the Rope 2. It notifies users that there’s a reward ready for them. The incentive of power-ups gets users to open your game and brings them closer to becoming an engaged user.
If you have multiple titles, promoting your own games within others can be the most cost-effective way to maximize the value of your existing users. When cross promoting, it’s important to ensure you are not hurting retention in your existing titles. The frequency and placement of the promotion should be A/B tested to arrive at the best formula.
Multiple ad networks provide this functionality for free or at a low cost. However, using a standard ad unit for cross-promotion may make it look like a third party ad, which could feel disruptive to existing players. Many developers choose to roll their own cross-promotion tools for this reason. DIY cross-promotion gives developers more control and creates a more native experience.
King has a pleasant cross-promotion experience with Candy Crush. The promotion shows up at the bottom right corner, and when tapped on, it expands to be a creative with an option to download.
Focus on Quality Over Quantity
The quality of users acquired from different ad channels could vary greatly. We all know the retention rate for incentivized installs is terrible because the user only installed your app in order to get rewards in the originating app; they have no intention of sticking around.
Playable ads are one new format that could give developers an edge in acquiring quality users. The idea is simple: try the game directly in the ad unit, before asking the user to install it. The concept is no different than reading the cover of a book before buying it, or watching a trailer of a movie.
This is a powerful concept for advertisers, as it moves the “activation” one step earlier in the funnel. Typically, the install step is the main barrier of entry, with a 95+ percent drop-off rate. Most users aren’t giving your game a chance due to the install requirement. Even the ones that do may not actually be the right audience for your game; after all, they’ve installed the game without knowing what it’s really about. This is why you see a significant percentage of users opening your app only once after the install.
With playable ads, every install comes from users that have already played a demo. You will get an activated audience that’s more likely to become repeat users.
Spamming the user’s Facebook friends list can be an abusive practice and will instantly upset your user base. But when used properly, social is a powerful tool that increases the virality of your game. King has done this well in several of their titles. They are strategically positioning invite screens when the user runs out of lives. If you ask your friends, they could “send” you lives so that you may continue playing. For the person receiving the invite, there’s a purpose to engage with the new game, since you would be helping a friend with a free life. The incentive here gives user a reason to invite their friends.
For game developers, user acquisition can no longer be an afterthought. When the game experience is fined tuned to activate and retain users, it can super-charge the effectiveness of user acquisition efforts.
Explosive growth in the mobile gaming industry in Asia is anticipated by everyone in the games industry, since mobile and social networking have already become entwined in daily life there. Dutch-based research firm NewZoo released a report which states that revenue from mobile games in Asia will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 27.3 percent until 2016. They also reported that the Asia-Pacific region has 48 percent of the global revenue from mobile gaming, making it by far the world’s biggest market.
Trend Micro has now released the results of a survey documenting the explosive growth of the mobile games industry in Southeast Asia. This survey included responses from 2000 users in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Singapore. On average, one out of every two respondents in this area play games every day on a mobile device. Broken down by country, the rate is: Thailand and the Philippines, 53 percent; Indonesia, 48 percent; Malaysia, 46 percent and Singapore, 43 percent. Across the region, the most popular games are Adventure, Action, and Arcade games. And approximately 50 percent of respondents in Indonesia and the Philippines download games every week, but this is in contrast to a low of 22 percent in Singapore.
The regions vary considerably in how much users are willing to pay for mobile game apps. All players in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines are willing to pay for these apps, but the ones willing to spend the most are in Thailand, where 63 percent are willing to spend more than $10 USD for a game. This is a huge contrast to Indonesia, where 45 percent of users do not pay anything for their apps and another 31 percent will pay only $2 USD or less. Singapore and the Philippines are also very frugal in their game spending habits, with 80 percent and 71 percent of users spending $2 USD or less on a game.
It will probably always be difficult to find players who admit they enjoy in-app advertising, but the countries surveyed do vary in the number of users who say they hate them, from a high of 65 percent in Singapore to a low of 27 percent in Thailand. Players in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines say they hate in-app ads at rates of 50 percent, 45 percent, and 32 percent.
Rather shockingly, Trend Micro’s survey revealed that less than half of parents are aware of their children’s gaming habits. This breaks down to a high of 59 percent in the Philippines, 54 percent in Indonesia, 44 percent in Thailand, and 41 percent in Malaysia. The most careful parents are in Singapore, where only 23 percent of parents do not know what their children are playing.
Players throughout this area are very much at risk of downloading fake apps. For example, in the Philippines, although 71 percent of consumers check the authenticity of an app before downloading it, almost half have encountered fake apps. Consumers in other countries are equally at risk: 51 percent in Indonesia, 50 percent in Singapore, 50 percent in Thailand and 38 percent in Malaysia have downloaded risky or fake apps.
Across these regions, a very significant number of users seem unaware of the need for protection on their mobile devices. The number of users who do not use mobile security or anti-virus apps on their devices is highest in Singapore, at 58 percent. Malaysia and Thailand follow, with 44 percent of players using unprotected devices, and approximately one third of survey respondents in Indonesia and the Philippines use no form of protection on their devices.
Trend Micro has recognized the need for greater security on mobile devices and has responded with a new app called Dr. Safety. This app has six different safeguarding features; users will be much less likely to be deceived by a game that is a fake or risky app. Dr. Safety is available from the Google Play Store.