By Hagen Weiss
2020 is a unique year, to say the least. And that applies to all spheres of the economy, including mobile gaming and advertising.
There has been a significant increase in the number of mobile game downloads, with the current pandemic forcing people to spend more time at home and the barrier to entry being low (the majority of people now have smartphones and mobile games are usually free or low-cost).
Statistics made available by market research and analytics firm Newzoo show that mobile games are growing 13.3% year on year and will generate revenues of $77.2 billion in 2020. According to AppAnnie, “monthly time spent in mobile apps grew 40% year over year in Q2 2020, reaching a monthly all-time high of over 200 billion hours during the month of April 2020”.
Which is why we thought we would share a brief overview of global mobile game advertising and monetization trends in 2020 to give you some food for thought, taking into account, of course, your game’s unique audience.
Advertisers have spent a lot of time and effort targeting casual gamers this year – think Coloring Book – Color by Number & Paint by Number, Dragon Pop: Bubble Shooter and Gardenscapes.
This is interesting as these are not your typical gamers: they often play a game to have fun (not to compete) and for short periods of time (in transit, while waiting) and, increasingly, more and more of them are middle-aged women.
They were targeted and advertised to on social media (Facebook, Instagram) and through Google Ads.
While casual gamers tend to download free-to-play games, this is a demographic that should not be ignored as, being typically older than your hardcore gamer, they may have more purchasing power.
Unsurprisingly, video has been a popular ad format this year. This is a trend that can be observed in the marketing industry as a whole, with audiences having shorter attention spans than ever and responding well to visual stimulation.
This is especially true of the gaming industry. What better way to advertise a game than to create a short snippet that showcases the work of art that your developers have created?
Using video ads gives your potential users an insider look at what their gaming experience could be, which is far more convincing than a traditional static photo ad.
Someone that hasn’t spent a cent will be more open to being served in-app video ads than someone that has paid a premium to download your game. You do have to be mindful not to overload your app with ads as there is nothing more unpleasant for a user, which could lead to uninstalls and a higher churn rate.
You have to find the perfect compromise: determining the ad frequency that doesn’t bother your users but generates maximum revenues. This can only be done through testing different ad formats (banner ads, full-screen ads or opt-in rewarded ads, to name a few).
Opt-in rewarded ads are particularly interesting in a gaming environment, as your users will be motivated to pay attention to an ad knowing that they get something in return; extra lives, for example. But they can also decide to skip them entirely if they wish to continue playing.
So are playable ads, which are a win-win for both you and your users, who tend to find them enjoyable as they get to test out other games without having to exit the one that they are currently playing.
You should always put the user experience front and center and, when it comes to in-game advertising, this means serving ads that are of interest to your users: movie trailers, upcoming gaming consoles launches, cars, esports competitions, etc. This, of course, involves localizing your advertising to your market!
It also means being mindful of when and where your ads appear; placing ads during natural breaks is much better than interrupting the game at what could be a critical moment.
When done correctly, in-mobile game advertising does not affect user engagement, quite the opposite actually. Indeed, according to the Mobile Game Advertising Report 2020 which was commissioned by the Facebook Audience Network, integrating in-app ads in games has led to over half (51%) of gamers playing longer sessions and 47% of them playing more often.
Freemiums & In-Game Purchases
Offering a free game with in-game purchases is a great way to attract new users as there is no barrier to them downloading your app.
If you are serving in-app ads, offering a premium, paid version of your game that allows your players to get rid of ads is an interesting monetization alternative. Particularly if you are using a subscription-based model – you could entice your users with a one-month free trial of your premium subscription so that they can get a taste of what they are missing.
Similarly, if your users download your app free of charge but end up liking your game and wanting to get more involved, offering them cheap in-app purchases, whether it be accessories or virtual currency, makes monetizing your game a breeze.
People are competitive and have easier access than ever to their bank account as a credit card is usually linked to their smartphone or app store; presenting them with an offer while they are actively playing a game is an easier sell than trying to acquire new customers for a paid game, especially if you are a smaller or newly-established studio.
If you are going to go the paid app route, make sure that you analyze what your competitors are doing and set a price that is competitive.
More important than any kind of mobile game advertising strategy, focusing on building engagement is key and could help you reap significant long-term benefits.
Your customers are isolated at home – making them feel like they are part of a global community and building a relationship with your audience by actively engaging with your users on social media platforms and forums could translate into them spending more time on your app and, in turn, consuming more ads and going through with purchases.
We have already discussed the importance of customer experience and community management in previous articles and we believe that that’s something that will never go out of style.
One thing is certain, the future’s uncertain and gaming studios must remain flexible.
This means having more than one revenue source, keeping in touch with your audience and listening to your customers’ needs in order to be able to serve them with relevant advertising and offer them a quality gaming experience – especially considering the economic consequences of the pandemic which will no doubt have a big impact on your gamers and their purchasing power.
For mobile game advertisers, this could mean shifting the focus from customer acquisition to customer retention – after all, loyalty and customer lifetime value is the name of the game in this industry.
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