Mobile Game Monetization: Models, Tracking Tools, and Strategic Insights

February 11, 2022
Mobile games have become an important extension of the real world, where people interact, spend money, and arrange free time for fun activities. In the blog, we provide insights into mobile games monetization, which can be helpful to generate the highest revenues from your games.

Mobile games have become an important extension of the real world, where people interact, spend money, and arrange free time for fun activities. In the blog, we provide insights into mobile games monetization, which can be helpful to generate the highest revenues from your games.

Knowing what players expect from the games, how they are ready to spend money while playing, and what tools can improve your genre-specific monetization strategies will lead you to higher revenues and publishing more top titles.

App Annie, a market data company, calculated that “the mobile game market was poised to see over $3.1 billion in 2022.” They say “game metaverse” will capture not only people’s attention but a share of their wallets as well. That is why publishing mobile games top titles utilizing mobile games monetization strategies will lead to a quick ROI and high revenues.

Mobile Games Monetization Models to Consider

Mobile games make money in a variety of ways. Mobile games can be free-to-play, others are paid (e.g., a subscription). But we focus on the monetization strategies for free mobile games because the main trend of today’s game industry ecosystem is to deliver qualitative free downloadable content with perfectly elaborated in-built ad options relevant to the experience users are expecting.

Adjust, a mobile analytics company, stated the importance of “the multiple revenue sources” for game monetization in 2022. Making a diverse game monetization strategy helps avoid being too reliant on a small group of valuable users. Monetization rates are growing, but the competition is still hard for the publishers willing to perform in-game purchases, mobile game subscriptions, and participate in rewarded video programs.

According to Statista, 1.8 billion people downloaded mobile games in 2021, and this number will grow up to 2.2 billion by 2025. NewZoo emphasizes the mobile games market generated $83 billion in revenue in 2021, and will reach more than $100 billion in 2023. Cross-platform game development and diverse monetization strategy are promising to hit the market and get money for the games you published.

“Pay to Play” Formats of Mobile Games Monetization

SensorTower calculates that subscriptions option in mobile games monetization grew 15.1% in 2021, from $29.2 billion to $33.6 billion.

Subscription means that anyone can download a game for free, but a premium ads-free version is available as a subscription. This monetization model gives access to additional game features and content as well. “Content” and “access” are two key concepts of a subscription monetization model.

Udonis identifies the following subtypes:

  • subscription-only model
  • auto-renewable subscription (user has to cancel it manually)
  • non-renewing subscription plan
  • umbrella subscription (with no focus on a single mobile game, but with a cross-gaming experience. e.g. Apple Arcade $5 per month for a variety of games from different publishers or Google Play Pass $5 per 600 games without ads)

JournalDev speaks about popular paid mobile games as a type of game monetization (e.g., Grand Theft Auto San Andreas and Stardew Valley). They outline the key features of paid games such as improved resolution and graphics, customized control and game mechanics offers, game integration into your cloud storage, and the ability to build new characters.

Both subscriptions and paid mobile games lead publishers to substantial revenue performance due to the absence of a “buyer’s remorse” from the user’s side. People plan their spending and do not act spontaneously like with in-game purchases, so they get what is needed without the negative emotion of overspending. It’s a psychological issue to react to pleasant prompts more actively. That is about paid and subscription monetization models, too.

Rewarded Video As a Prompt for a Player Ad Response

Under a variety of game products on the market, the burden of the pieces of the ad appeals to the players from everywhere. So, this is why the players are more likely to react and respond with an action to the ad videos promising some reward.

TechCrunch shared the amazing statistics for the success of rewarded video ads: 68% of the players like this ad format. IronSource calculated that the users having watched a rewarded video are “six times more likely to complete an in-game purchase.” And when arranging your own game monetization strategy, remember about this least disruptive ad option.

People are really tired of life’s realities and escape into the game metaverse not to watch ad pieces. If you consider several ad formats for your game app, try to mix rewarded videos into your hybrid monetization model. For a hybrid-monetization model, consider including in-app purchases allowing users to buy features or items.

In-App Purchases Option to Reach Higher Monetization Efficiency

Players can face in-app purchases at any moment in the game. But Udonis, a mobile games marketing service, recommends a purchase when a user needs assistance (“Stuck at the level for the 10th time? Buy an additional feature”). The following metrics are helpful in estimating your in-app purchase monetization success:

  • DAU (daily active users)
  • ARPPU (average revenue per paying user)
  • conversion rates
  • customer lifetime value

When dealing with any technique of mobile games monetization, consider that the more qualitative additional game content you propose, the more responsive your users will be. That is why make sure your game development team has the necessary expertise, uses proven technologies, and can produce more game content after the release.

Ad Tracking and How It Contributes to Mobile Games Monetization

Ad tracking is essential and helpful in monitoring the efficiency of monetization strategy. It is crucial for gaining more valuable users and proposing more enriched game content to capture their attention further. Once you identify a responsive user, you can (if you utilize ad tracking) tune the targeting in a “find me more people like this” way.

Ad tracking options make personalized advertising more rewarding and profitable. And detailed targeting comes from mobile devices identifiers, including IDFA from Apple and GAID from Google.

Apple’s IDFA stands for “identifier for advertisers” and is an alternative form of what we call “cookies”. Game publishers can see that the user is playing game A, viewing the ad of game B, and responding to be interested and download the game.

GAID (Google Advertising ID) enables anonymous user ad activity tracking on Android devices. And in spite of the fact Google announced some limits for overall people’s activity tracking, it still contributes to understanding users’ behavior, tastes, and reactions to CTA for more improvements in ads performance.

Thanks to IDFA or GAID, advertisers can see responsive ad users, track them throughout games, apps, and even the web, and sell more options to them.

IDFA and GAID assist game publishers due to:

  • behavioral data analysis
  • arranging the mobile games ad targeting based on previous actions
  • adding campaign data for better optimization
  • helping to recognize users suffering from ad fatigue
  • retargeting option based on previous users’ responses

And it’s better to know all the options before implementing your game idea. When you choose a game development team for outsourcing, think about monetization strategy from the very beginning as well as about generating additional game content after the release.

All the mentioned-above options contribute to answering TOP-3 questions in game monetization:

  1. Where do I find ad responsive users?
  2. Which campaigns yield more revenues than it was spent?
  3. Which users generate the most revenue?

Those are the questions every AAA-quality games publisher is striving to answer first while arranging mobile games monetization strategy.

Inspiring AAA-quality Mobile Games Monetization Insights

Every blockbuster in the field of mobile games achieves high revenue thanks to a combination of monetization types. Publishers started in the gaming ecosystem without “in-app purchase” options:

  • Tap Tap Revenge: when a user taps on the screen to keep up with the song (3 million downloads, App Store Game of the Year, 2008, and only subscription monetization model)
  • Sega’s Super Monkey Ball with 300,000 downloads in the first 20 days after publishing was priced $9.99 (2008)

But now mobile game publishers work and invest in a freemium-model-oriented ecosystem. High-priced subscriptions or poorly presented useless interfering ad pieces do not work anymore.

Publishers should focus on the following ad types:

  • Playable ads – (e.g. Babbel developed an outstanding playable ad piece to promote 7-days free trial and push to subscription). They created a catchy lead-in video, then proposed to test users’ language knowledge in a plain gaming format, then ended with a CTA).
  • Rewarded video ads – (Futureplay utilized this ad format to perform an 80% ad conversion and achieve 22 ads viewed per install)
  • In-stream pre-roll video ads – (Wyzowl states “human attention spans are shrinking,” and knowing this, they identified the ingredients of a powerful pre-roll ad: it should be uninterrupted, push brand awareness, no longer than 6 seconds, targeted, and have a hook, something catching attention)
  • Interstitial video ads – (Google has announced this ad format is able to increase your ad revenue up to 42%)
  • Banner ads – (a possible, but not too engaging option: here, Reddit users discussed whether banner ads in mobile games were worth it)

Users are unlikely to respond to the ads unless they entertain them as the game itself does.

Power Your Strategic Decisions on Mobile Games Monetization in 2022

Last year brought awareness that by diversifying your monetization tools and combinations, you decrease the risks of slow ROI and low revenues. Starting to plan new top titles release in 2022, consider the following tips:

  • Users are looking for a more qualitative and fun experience with less effort and spending.
  • Players are more likely to react when the ad proposes in-game assistance (helpful in level completion or game challenges address).
  • Playable ads bring more fun and generate more of a response from users.
  • To succeed in mobile game monetization, you should better utilize several ad types and monetization techniques in your strategy.
  • Knowing IDFA and GAID changes is essential for ad revenue tracking and keeping your ad budget under control.
  • If a player responds to playable ads or rewarded video, he or she is more likely to complete an in-game purchase.

Rethinking your ad strategy seems to be helpful in 2022 because users’ tastes are becoming more sophisticated and they have less time for other activities (ads watching and replying) rather than game playing. The objective of monetization is no longer to sell more subscriptions but to attract more valuable users, who will continuously return and complete in-game purchases. That is what will help to bring more money to the mobile games world.

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