Making money off mobile games has vastly improved in the past 10 years. Such as any new technology, better understanding of the product, better distribution, and marketing experience has entered the space. Today there are many monetization models to take advantage of:
It worked so well for the early PC games like Doom and Commander Keen that it continued on in the casual space in the 2000’s. With the move of most casual game developers to mobile, it was very apparent that this was the right move to build on with this generation of mobile games.
With how to monetize Free-to-Play in the west, it is essential to understand that gamers in the West want to feel some entitlement to their fun due to the skills they have learned to win the level or battle. Games usually in the west start with a player with zero skills and gradually improving their skills and equipment from grinding, good strategy/skill, or great luck. Game that allow your players to purchase their way to the top of leaderboards quickly are seen as “elitest friendly” and will make your game dependent only on your big spenders as most low level players leave the game. So stay away from a strict “Pay to Win” model.
Reward programs are also becoming a big hit, but VIP membership that are common in many Asian games are still not popular among western customers, so it’s advised to move towards discounts and time-sensitive purchases such as during lunch time and after dinner for better sales.
There’s a lot more on the functionality of how to price and develop these initiatives into your games, but this article will become a book if I keep going. So, let’s move to other types of monetization.
Ad-oriented free games
Advertising in games has moved from banner ads, to every single idea you can think of: Pre-roll, post-roll, embedded, video, etc. The question is no longer which ad network to choose, but what are the right ways to advertise in your game so that it’s part of the game design. Gamers are already complaining about badly implemented advertising and advertising overload. If you are going to add to the frustration, you’re in trouble.
Take the time to experiment with new advertising and find ad networks that will help you with the right types of advertising that will appease your gamer demographics and great returns.
Some new interesting advertising models include rewards for viewing advertisements in the game, mini marketplaces of other games, cross game promotion rewarding, and self-learning ad placement systems.
This is quickly dying as only Minecraft has hit the top 100 most grossing games as a paid game. Gamers have been given so much free stuff, that only games with large branding or a big cult following like Minecraft or Five Nights at Freddy’s will have a chance for profitability. It is highly recommended you stay away from this unless you have mass appeal for your game in the west.
The reach of Facebook and Twitter on mobile games are becoming larger and larger and though you might not monetize from them, they are essential to retention and promotion. And though it’s mostly used for marketing of the game as well as the customer service for issues that a gamer is having, as a developer push hard to create ways to entertain your gamers by being creative in how they share their success on the networks that won’t annoy friends, family, and followers such as video replays or customizing screenshots and giving fun updates about the game to entice stickiness.
Paid acquisition according to Amazon’s General Manager of Game Services, Chris Drury, isn’t working anymore. Quality gaming experiences need to be more constant and fun to keep up long-term. This means constant updates built into the game for daily, weekly, and monthly fun. Amazon found that players who interact with the game for more days, increase in spending.
This moves into the idea that extended planning will save you a lot of pain and retention for your game. Gamers will ask for new stuff all the time, so prepare your game for the coming weeks and make sure new game mechanics are being prepared months ahead to keep the gamer entertained and paying for in-game stuff.
Something that is growing and should not be mistaken as a fad is the use of Twitch.tv and other game streaming sites for user acquisition. As this type of entertainment continues to grow, mobile games being played on the site is growing. Examples already are emerging of the power of UA from the services and later monetization of their followers playing the game themselves.
Finally, Data is king. Make sure you are gaining your data from your gamer’s actions, raw data, and other sources using data analysis like A/B testing or other tools built by you or others in the industry. If you aren’t ahead of what your gamers are doing, bad things like exploiting your game to break the fun of others, lost money on lost monetization moments, and losing the ability to build new ideas from the data will create hidden losses, worse retention, and bring in a worse ROI in your own UA campaigns.