Successful game studios recognize and embrace the idea that games have evolved. Today’s popular games are operated as services that evolve and grow over time with new content, live events, and frequent updates. To be successful over the long term, games need to understand and segment their players, develop deep relationships, and to understand and meet the needs of multiple player segments – in other words, to excel at liveops.
If you are a developer of mobile games, monetization is your constant concern; it is critical to your success. And it will be harder for you to monetize in some markets than in others. Emerging markets may be a particular struggle for you. So, what do you need to do to be successful in these markets?
Stanislav Sychenkov, Head of Publisher Development at myTarget, is someone who knows these problems and can give you valuable information. Mail.ru launched myTarget, a mobile monetization platform. It is now a main traffic source for advertisers in Russia. Before coming to Mail.ru, Stanislav was responsible for ad monetization in Zeptolab, the creators of highly successful games such as Cut the Rope and King of Thieves.
At Casual Connect Asia Stanislav used the example of Russia to provide insights into successful monetization in the more challenging markets. From their experience they developed several principles that they and their partners all over the world are using. By doing these things differently they are enabled to increase their profitability. If you would like to learn more about what you can do to use these same principles be sure to watch the video of Stanislav’s full session.
Petri Ikonen, Creative Director at tracktwenty, joined EA in 2012 when they opened their mobile game studio in Helsinki, Finland. With responsibilities that include supervising the studio’s design team as well as doing many hands-on design tasks, he is vitally involved in developing tracktwenty’s creative culture and processes. At Casual Connect Europe 2017 in Berlin, Petri discussed the challenges of creating SimCity BuildIt.
By Ori Meiry, Head of Social Acquisition, yellowHEAD
Earlier this month, yellowHEAD had the pleasure of discussing user acquisition and retention for mobile games at Casual Connect USA 2017 in Seattle. Together with three leading players in the social casino arena – DoubleDown Interactive, Zynga and Playtika – we shared the latest trends we foresee developing in 2018 when it comes to maximizing acquisition campaigns.
But it’s true: even though the advertising industry has come incredibly far since the early days of the mobile banner, the way we deliver advertising experiences and messages to consumers in apps still has significant room for improvement. And the shift from fixed-budget, brand awareness advertising to highly measured, performance-based campaigns is only further expanding this gap. Advertisers are expecting more from mobile than ever before – and publishers must be able to support the ad experiences that drive these outcomes.
The ideal ad experience
What are these ad experiences, though? Is it full-screen video, leveraging the power of sight, sound and motion? Is it interactive and sensory experiences, using features like haptic effects and 360-degree video? The answer is yes, yes and yes – to all of the above. The best mobile ads are those that integrate multiple elements and formats, that are truly a hybrid of everything that is possible on mobile today.
However, there is one component that, whether it’s the foundation of the experience or simply an added component, consistently improves the quality – and hence performance – of every mobile advertisement. “Gamification,” or introducing elements of fun and competition (e.g., points, rewards, scoreboards, levels, rules) has long been proven to deepen engagement and satisfaction with ads. It makes an ad participatory and draws in the user (pull tactic) versus simply illustrating or explaining (push).
That’s why playables ads are here to stay. They attract and engage mobile users not just because they are new and different, but because they are truly opt-in. Rather than interrupt the content experience, they give the user the option of seamlessly moving into a different one – and when they’re done, moving right back, almost like an interlude.
Poised for massive growth
So it’s of little surprise that in an app developer survey we ran earlier this year, we found that playable ads were, by far, the mobile ad experience that gaming advertisers were most excited about in 2017 – much more so than full-screen video or social video. Already, more than half (64 percent) of app install marketers are using playable ads, and 7 out of 10 of them find playables to be effective.
On our platform, we’ve found that they can drive 100 percent higher install rates for mobile apps – more than double the rates of full-screen HD video ads. The demand is so high that many ad companies cannot build playables fast enough to keep up with it.
Not just for gaming advertisers
While app install marketers were the first to fully harness the power of playables, creating mini-games that drive downloads of their game, we’ve seen other verticals quickly catch on. Entertainment companies have started to “gamify” their movie trailers: For Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Disney’s campaign let players go on a treasure hunt for specific items hidden inside a video, and they were rewarded with additional video content from the film for everything they found.
For Transformers: The Last Knight, users had to “wipe away” the dust that was accumulating on the screen in order to keep watching trailer content. Brands in other verticals, like QSR (Buffalo Wild Wings), are also integrating game elements into their mobile ad experiences and seeing stellar results. Users are not only fully engaging with the ad (versus multi-tasking or passively viewing) but they are choosing to replay it over and over again – which multiplies the awareness impact and is a clear indicator of developing real brand loyalty.
3 reasons publishers should embrace playables
With so much positive advertiser sentiment and user engagement, you would think that publishers and app developers would be excited about playables, right? But the most common complaint is that they are almost “too good.” That is, the mini-game competes with their own, and users could be drawn away from their app.
I’m here to tell you that is no reason to eschew playables in your app – playables can have many positive impacts to your monetization. Here’s why:
Playables enhance user experience. Playables can add to the positive experience that users have in your app, not detract from it. And, just as mobile users became accustomed to value exchange (rewarded video) ads and started looking forward to using them in certain apps to build virtual currency or unlock gated content, they will also return to app environments that offer enjoyable mini-game ad experiences (versus annoying banner ads).
They pay a lot more. Playables have extremely high conversion rates, and users that do convert are less likely to uninstall the app, since they’ve already tried and enjoyed the game. Free trials work! They are also more likely to spend money and engage in high-value activities within the app later. This all means high value for advertisers, and therefore much higher eCPMs for publishers.
Incremental revenue stream. Playables can immediately run inside an existing video or interstitial display zone, but as they grow in popularity with users and advertisers, savvy publishers will begin to build a specific home for them as a “demo center” for discovering new apps. Since this essentially compartmentalizes the playable ads, giving them their own section, it’s a great way to address concerns from publishers that they distract the user from the game experience. With higher payouts for publishers, users could try new apps to get more points and even larger rewards than exist today with video.
As mobile users ourselves, we all get excited when we discover a new app. We tell our friends, family and everyone about it. But what if ads actually become games themselves and allow us to “play” instead of just see and hear? All of our lives could become a tad bit more exciting with some much-needed play.
Most free-to-play (F2P) mobile game developers have two major goals. The first is to create a really good game. The second is to implement an optimal monetization system to generate maximum revenue. In order to achieve these goals, developers require a good game economy.
I would advise to spend time to really understand what UA encompasses. - Saikala SultanovaClick To Tweet
So far in 2017, we have witnessed great improvements for user acquisition in gaming. Join Saikala Sultanova (currently Director of User Acquisition, Mobile at Ubisoft, and Head of User Acquisition at Space Ape Games at the time of speaking) during her session at Casual Connect Asia. She shared Space Ape Games’ best practices and latest findings, when it comes to supporting new game launches. One of the key takeaways that Saikala highlighted was: “To make sure that you always have a backup plan. So if you have a plan one to build a simulation, make a plan B because when things change and you go with your game to global launch and you have this ultimate goal so you will have plans A, B and C… If you have three different options, it helps you move towards the same goal.” Listen in to get your “UA takeaway” of the day!
Monetization is best when it’s a natural part of the whole game, not a separate artificial thing on…Click To Tweet
Teut Weidemann is a man that knows the game industry business, especially when it comes to common monetization mistakes. In a talk delivered at Casual Connect Europe, Teut divulged his knowledge from his 10 years of consulting F2P companies. In this talk, Teut covered some of the most common mistakes in game design and monetization systems – which should help prevent them for your next game so you don’t have to hire him to fix them! A big piece of advice that Teut imparted was: “In-game sales damage your revenue in the long term. Money compensates time or skill. The later the player starts to spend in the game, the more likely he will turn into a whale.” Learn more in the full session feature below!
Remind developers that early monetization planning goes a long way in sustaining business. - Simon TohClick To Tweet
The time for Asian-Pacific mobile app publishers to switch to programmatic methods for monetizing. As the Head of APAC Platform Sales for MoPub, Simon Toh spoke about the need for developers to take advantage of mobile programmatic to monetize risk so that they don’t miss out on differentiated demand, revenue and control user experience. Simon stated, “To grow your top line, it is important for you to find new ways to monetize more of your users preferably all of them and not be overly dependent on in-app purchases.” During his talk at Casual Connect Asia, Simon also delved into what the beneits for publishers which included a glimpse into innovative ad formats and spend trends in the APAC market. To learn more, tune in to the video below of his full session.
No matter how big or small your studio is, one fact remains true: paying for users is expensive. Paying for good users is even more expensive. And being able to retain them is the philosopher’s stone that every publisher desires in order to succeed in the mobile ecosystem.
This article is not a diatribe against companies offering user acquisition services or against publishers who decide to use a paid strategy to increase their user base. With good performance and proper management of costs and life cycle, paid acquisition can be very beneficial and a great way to accelerate traction for your games.
This article aims to show there’s life beyond paid advertising. We are going to demonstrate how we succeed in increasing our user base by using alternative strategies and tactics that required no investment.