Monetizing Your Mobile Game: The Ultimate Guide [+ 9 Proven Methods]

Just how lucrative is the mobile gaming industry? 

Mobile gaming has radically changed since the late 90s. Snake, first published in 1997 by Nokia, could arguably be the precursor to modern mobile games. The game was preloaded on Nokia mobile phones and was wildly popular among mobile phone users and gamers alike.

In the mid-2000s, the introduction of the iPhone and Android phones, along the App Store and Google Play Store, birthed a whole new gaming market – the mobile gaming industry.

With the flexibility and ease of using the App Store and Google Play Store as a distribution platform, mobile game developers could easily develop and publish their gaming apps to a wide range of mobile phone users and gamers. By the late 2000s, in-app purchases were established by the App Store and Google Play Store, further refining the mobile gaming market by introducing various monetization models.

Today, the mobile gaming industry continues its rapid growth. In terms of revenue, the mobile gaming industry raked in a colossal $77.2 billion in 2020. In the second quarter of 2020 alone, mobile games recorded almost $20 billion in revenue due to the lockdown from the COVID-19 pandemic. The total revenue for mobile games made up almost half of the total revenue in the video game industry in 2020. Needless to say, mobile gaming is a massively lucrative industry, with all market trends indicating that it will continue to flourish and take a bigger stake in the video game industry.

3 highly grossing mobile games & their revenue earned in a year

To put into perspective how lucrative the mobile gaming industry truly is, let’s explore 3 of the highest grossing mobile games ever created and launched.

Candy Crush Saga

Image by Candy Crush Saga

Candy Crush Saga, released in 2012 by King Digital Entertainment, is a match-three puzzle game that is considered to be one of the most financially successful mobile games, grossing over $5.85 billion since its release, averaging about $725 million per year. During the peak of the game, its daily revenue was reportedly close to $1 million and in 2014, there were over 93 million players, with a three-month revenue of almost $500 million.

The game series, including its subsequent releases, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Candy Crush Jelly Saga and Candy Crush Friends Saga, has received almost 3 billion downloads and still consistently ranks as the one of top-performing apps with over hundreds of millions of monthly active players.

Honor of Kings

Image by Honor of Kings

Honor of Kings is a Chinese MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) developed by TiMi Studios and published by Tencent Games in 2015. Along with its international adaptation, Arena of Valor, it sits atop the throne of the highest grossing mobile game ever (as of 2023), with a lifetime revenue of $9.97 billion since its release, averaging nearly $2 billion per year.

In 2019, during the month of February alone (Chinese New Year season), the game generated $1 billion. Not only is it the most downloaded mobile game globally, it is also widely acclaimed by both players and critics, and has been featured in numerous international e-sports events, including the 2018 Asian Games and 2019 Southeast Asian Games. Five years after its release, the game continues to have more than 100 million daily active players.

Pokémon Go

Image by Pokémon Go

Launched in the summer of 2016, Pokémon Go is an AR (augmented reality) mobile game developed and published by Niantic. The Pokémon franchise needs no further introduction, but Pokémon Go and its concept was truly one of its kind, utilizing the player’s GPS and real-world location to locate, capture, train and battle Pokémon through AR technology, imbuing a sense of realism for aspiring Pokémon trainers.

Pokémon Go broke several Guinness World Records, becoming the most downloaded mobile game in its first month with over 130 million downloads and grossed $207 million, which is the most revenue grossed by a mobile game in its first month. It subsequently generated $600 million in revenue after being on the market for only 3 months, becoming the fastest mobile game ever to reach such a milestone.

In 2018, Pokémon Go had almost 150 million monthly active players and had over a billion global downloads in 2019. Going into 2020, the game continued to be one of the highest grossing games, generating $1.92 billion in revenue. Since its release, the game has grossed more than $6.46 billion in lifetime revenue, averaging about $1.6 billion per year.

How do Mobile Games make Money?

For most of the highest-grossing mobile games (including the three games mentioned in the previous section), users do not have to pay a single cent to play. So, how in the world do mobile games generate so much revenue?

Through various monetization methods and revenue models, it is possible for mobile games to achieve financial success. Currently, the mobile gaming industry is dominated by apps utilizing the freemium model, where the games are completely free to download and play, but are primarily monetized through in-app purchases. Players have the choice to make in-app purchases with either their credit card, App Store or Play Store credits. These games are usually designed with a virtual currency system (e.g., Pokécoins in Pokémon Go, Gold Bars in Candy Crush Saga) and in-game items that incentivize players to earn or purchase in-game currencies to enhance their gaming experience, such as allowing them to skip certain parts of the game or obtain special bonus items that they would not have easily obtained if they did not spend money on the game. These in-app purchases, also known as microtransactions, may also consist of items such as cosmetics skins, special equipment, bonus levels and extra lives.

Microtransactions are usually designed to be convenient and uncomplicated, allowing players to make in-app purchases on impulse during their gameplay. For example, in Candy Crush Saga, players can purchase extra lives to continue playing the game without having to wait for a certain period of time to be able to play again, or in-game items (e.g., boosters) to help them to clear more challenging levels. Since its release, the revenue generated from in-app purchases alone for Candy Crush Saga reportedly ranged from $50 million to $170 million per month. Another example is from Honor of Kings, where a cosmetic skin for a character sold in the in-game shop generated $22 million in just a single day. 

11 proven ways to monetize a mobile game

There are 2 main categories of mobile games – free-to-play ones, and paid ones. The method & strategy to monetize each type is different.

Free-to-Play Mobile Games:

Free-to-Play mobile games are often termed as F2P or FTP. These mobile games cost nothing to download and install, but as the player ventures deeper into the game, payment may be required to unlock new content or cosmetics. This monetization concept known as the ‘Freemium’ concept.

1. Freemium model + Micro-transactions

Freemium mobile games, similarly, do not cost anything to download and install on your phones. The game developers monetize their freemium games through micro-transactions.

Micro-transactions are a business model where users spend small amounts of real money to buy virtual goods and items.

This business model is not to be belittled – although the amounts that players spend may seem low, collectively, it is still a very significant amount. Currently, it is estimated that around 5% to 20% of the game’s player base take part in such micro-transactions. Product teams in these game companies thus work closely with the game developers with an aim to create content that drives the non-spenders to start spending.

One such company that derives its revenue from such micro-transactions is Epic Games. Fortnite’s in-game virtual currency, “v-bucks”, is used by players to unlock new content such as bonus features and cosmetic character skins.

Fortnite V-Bucks available for sale. (Image by Fortnite)

Fortnite players may also choose to spend their virtual currency on a “battle pass”, which allows them to unlock game rewards on a tiered level basis. Advancements through the tiers of the “battle pass” require players to play more of the game.

Fortnite’s virtual store, where players can use V-Bucks to purchase cosmetic items. (Image by Fortnite)

As these purchases are normally utilized in the game, micro-transactions are quite alluring for hardcore players. By spending money through micro-transactions, the skills and time barrier needed to progress further in the game becomes significantly reduced. That being said, the game developers have to ensure that a fine balance must be struck between non-paying players and the paying players. If this balance is not met, the players will feel extorted and eventually leave the game for a better one.

2. In-App Advertising + Mobile Ad Networks

Do you notice how in some games, you get extra rewards just by spending 30 seconds viewing an advertisement? Or that after every few rounds of game play, a video advertisement fills your mobile phone screen? And the only way to play more rounds would be to complete viewing these advertisements.

Such in-game advertisements are a way for mobile game development companies to make money through their game without costing their players any money. And as a reward for viewing the ad, the game rewards the players with bonuses like greater rewards, or the ability to play and unlock new content.

For such In-App advertising, the game is linked to a mobile ad network that pushes these video ads through the game via the internet.

One example of a popular mobile game currently deploying in-app advertising is Temple Run by Imangi Studios. One way to unlock new maps in the game (without paying any money) would be to view a video advertisement.

Players of Temple Run can choose to unlock a new map by watching a video advertisement. (Image by Temple Run, Imangi Studios)

Otherwise, players can opt to skip the advertisements, and pay real money to unlock new maps instead.

The cost to unlock new maps in Temple Run. (Image by Temple Run, Imangi Studios)

For Temple Run players who prefer an uninterrupted gaming experience, they can even choose to pay a nominal fee to support the developers for the complete removal of ads.

In this section, we’ll further break down and examine the 4 categories of in-app advertisements:

  1. Incentivized Ads
  2. Playable Game Ads
  3. Native Banner Ads
  4. Interstitial Ads

2.1 Incentivized Ads

Incentivized ads, also known as rewarded video ads or opt-in advertisements, are played when a player views the ad for an in-game reward, such game currency.

Incentivized ads utilize a pull strategy, as it encourages players to view them, instead of a push strategy where the ads are shown to the players whether or not they wish to view them.

Why should you consider allowing Incentivized Ads on your mobile game?

1. Churn-rate friendly as it doesn’t impose on the player.

Incentivized ads are only shown when the player opts-in and views them on his own accord. This doesn’t interrupt the gameplay or the flow of the game. And by doing so, players are less likely to feel irritated by ads and are less likely to churn.

In addition, the opt-in nature of such ads allow these companies to deploy them to their highly valuable player base without causing them to get irritated with the game.

2. You’ll rarely run out of ads to display.

Incentivized ads usually come with a large ad inventory. This allows game development companies to constantly keep their foot on the pedal with showing such ads without losing an opportunity to monetize their player base.

2.2 Playable Game Ads

This is a relatively new category of ads that are newly launched for mobile games. The key difference lies with its interactivity factor. Playable game ads are highly interactive because it is, playable. It’s like trying out a brand new game for 30 seconds when the ad shows up.

According to Facebook, playable ads result in users being 6x more likely to install and make an in-app purchase from the game than other formats of ads.

Game development companies who wish to implement playable game ads in their mobile games can turn to popular ad networks like Google Admob, UnityAds, Vungle, ironSource and appLovin.

On the flip-side, mobile game companies which wish to promote their mobile games through such playable game ads can do so through Facebook & Instagram.

The available placements are – Facebook News Feed, Stories, Audience Network interstitial, Audience Network rewarded video, Instagram Feed and Instagram Stories. Do note that for the Instagram selections, a lead-in video will be shown instead of the playable option.

How a playable ad looks like when loaded on a mobile phone. (Image by Facebook)

Key Features of Playable Game Ads:

1. A controller icon that pops up after a few seconds of the advertisement has loaded. Tapping it allows the user to test try the game.

2. A call-to-action button that appears at the bottom of the advertisement.

3. A swipe up arrow that also appears, leading to a full screen demo of the game.

4. A skip ad button that appears after around 3 seconds of loading.

2.3 Display Ads

Display ads come as the most standard type of advertising through mobile games, and can take various forms. These display ads, specifically for mobile games, are video ads, banner ads, pop-up ads, static ads and dynamic display ads. 

2.3.1 Banner Ads

This is a rectangular picture that is usually displayed at the top or bottom of a mobile phone screen when the mobile game is launched. These ads tend to pop up at prominent locations of the app screen, including being embedded in the title or at the end of level display screens.

Such banner ads typically contain static or animated images along with some text, and also in video formats.

Banners ads are great to integrate with any mobile game simply because they are the easiest to launch and the fastest way to generate revenue for your game. In addition, the user experience while playing the game is not compromised as the game is not interrupted. 

One of the popular ad network providers of native banner ads is Google AdMob. There are a few best practices that Google AdMob has come up with, for creating and implementing native banner ads in your mobile game.

1. Banner ads should look distinctly different from your mobile game content and not cover crucial areas on the screen of the game.

2. Banner ads should provide a great user experience across multiple device screen sizes.

3. Recommended placements for banner ads include title and splash screens, in 300 x 250 pixel dimensions.

Here is an example of how banner ads look like in the Angry Bird mobile game (the game developers have since stopped monetizing through banner ads).

An example of a Banner Ad as shown on the bottom of the screen when playing Angry Birds. (Image by Angry Birds)

2.3.2 Interstitial Ads

Interstitial ads are a type of ad that cover the entire screen of a mobile phone, and are shown during natural intervals during gameplay. This is vastly different from a banner display ad, which only takes up part of the screen’s real estate. 

Examples of how interstitial ads look like. (Image by MobileAction)

Some common insertion points for interstitial ads are:

1. During the pause in between different stages of the game.

2. During the transition in between different activities of the game. 

3. During the conclusion of a task in game, such as after the character levels up.

The whole idea here is to utilize non-intrusive transition points throughout the game, where the interstitial ads can be inserted into. Interstitial ads come in 2 forms of media – a static image, or a short video.

For mobile game companies wanting to deploy interstitial ads to their mobile games, mobile ad networks such as Google Admob and Mopub offer SDKs and helpful integration guides on how to set up interstitial ads into your mobile game.

Best practices when it comes to integrating interstitial ads in your mobile game:

1. Don’t flood your player with ads.

A fine balance has to be struck between excessively spamming your players with interstitial ads, even when it may look like a quick and fast way to earn extra revenue. Keep in mind that the player will feel irritated with too many ads, and this ruins the entire gameplay experience for him or her. Eventually, they won’t enjoy playing your game and churn rates will start to increase.

2. Pause your game’s action when showing an interstitial ad.

Be careful to ensure that your game pauses any gameplay when the interstitial ad takes over. Any player would absolutely hate to lose minutes of game play as an ad is playing. Any game progress should be paused, including its audio.

3. Preload the interstitial ads

Ensure that your players do not have to wait for the interstitial ads to load. These ads should be loaded in advanced and be ready when the time is right to display it.

4. Carefully consider when’s a good time to show interstitial ads

If your game has transition points interspersed throughout, it is a good candidate for displaying interstitial ads. This is because, the player is mentally prepared for a break in gameplay. This makes it easier to display an interstitial during this short time span without compromising on the player’s experience. 

2.3.3 Native Ads

Let’s face the hard truth – every player, that includes you and me, hate ads interrupting the overall game play. And that’s where native ads come in and fill the gap while earning revenue for the mobile game company.

Native ads, also known as contextual ads, are the use of sponsored ads that are designed to look like they belong with the original content of the game. These ads are not run through an ad network, and instead run directly in an agreement with the mobile game company. These sponsored ads fit the context and content of the game, and deliver a natural experience for the player who views it.

This, in turn, ensures that any interactions with these native ads are part of the gaming experience and nothing intrusive to gameplay. Churn rate is also greatly reduced – this presents a win-win situation for both the advertiser and the mobile game company.

Some examples of how Native Ads are done include replacing game features such as character skins, weapons, mounts, vehicles, armours, projectiles, damage skins, and other assets with sponsored versions of it. Some games even go further by replacing consumables such as potions, power-ups and even skin entire buildings or in-game billboards with the sponsors’ brand and message.

By the end, a successful native ad collaboration should have 2 main outcomes:

1. The sponsored ads are integrated as seamlessly as possible into the mobile game.

2. The sponsored ads drive a return on investment for the advertiser.

Native advertising space taken up by Lays in a mobile game. (Image by adgebra)

Here are my favorite 6 ad networks that support Native Advertising:

  1. Applovin
  2. ironSource
  3. Greedygame
  4. Mintegral
  5. Google AdMob
  6. Facebook Audience Network

2.3.4 List of Ad Networks that you can consider monetizing your mobile games with

  1. AdColony
  2. ironSource
  3. Applovin
  4. Chartboost
  5. Google Admob
  6. Facebook Audience Network
  7. InMobi
  8. Smaato
  9. Mobfox
  10. Unity

What to consider when deciding on a mobile ad network to host ads on?

With so many different mobile ad networks in the market, choosing the right one to host advertisements on might prove to be a challenge. Here are some of the factors to think about when deciding on one to go for:

1. Supported mobile ad formats

Before locking down on a mobile ad network, it would be best to see what types of ad formats are supported on their network and which your mobile game can optimally host while reducing disturbance to gameplay. 

2. Mobile ad network data & reporting

The types of data reported by the ad network and its comprehensiveness is quite crucial to your monetization success.

Key performance metrics such as impressions, clicks, video ad views and installs gives you a good idea of how well the chosen ad network’s advertisements connect to your player base, and how well it brings you revenue. 

Having poor numbers in these metrics could mean that the advertisers on the chosen ad network are not a good fit with your player base. To improve revenue, it may then make sense to switch to another ad network with other advertisers.

Also, metrics like ad format gives you an idea of how well the various formats of advertisements are performing. It gives you a better idea of which particular advertising format to focus on for the best revenue results.

3. Mobile ad network advertising pay out rates

Mobile ad networks provide publishers a choice between different pay out models to host advertisements on. Each of them pays out revenue when a different advertising objective is accomplished. Knowing and choosing the best type of pay out model is key in earning large amounts of revenue.

The 5 types of pay out models are:

1. CPM – Cost per Impression

The CPM (cost per impression) pay out model is considered to be one of the best for mobile game companies. This is because, a pay out is done every time an advertisement shows in the game. In addition, with predictable and stable daily average users of the app, mobile game companies can easily predict their revenue potential using the CPM model. This method pays out every time 1000 impressions of the ads are shown. 

The only disadvantage to this model is that CPM models pay out the least amount per ad. And this may cause mobile game companies to lose out on potential revenue if their player base is really interested in what the ads have to offer, and clicks through to their product offerings. In which, a CPC (cost per click) model or a CPA (cost per action) model may offer a better payout.

2. CPV – Cost per View

The CPV (cost per view) pay out model works great for mobile game companies whose games are designed to showcase video ads in. A payout is done whenever a video successfully loads and plays on the player’s screens when they play on the mobile game. The ads inventory for the CPV pay out model is usually huge as video advertising is widely popular. The payout rate for the CPV model is similar to the CPM model, and may be slightly higher in for some mobile ad networks. 

3. CPC – Cost per Click

The CPC (cost per click) model pays out whenever a player clicks on an ad when it is shown to them. In general, the pay out amount per click is higher than that of a CPM model.

However, the risk is that the impression of ads served is higher than the actual clicks on them – resulting in lesser potential revenue earned for the mobile game company.

On the other hand, if the products shown in the ads prove to be enticing enough to generate clicks, the revenue potential could be much higher than running a CPM pay out model. 

One way to choose between the CPC or CPM model would be to study the brands which are advertising on that particular mobile ad network. If you come across popular brands whose products will gel well with the demographics of your player base, you can opt for the CPC pay out model.

4. CPI – Cost per Install

The CPI (cost per install) model pays out whenever a player of your game clicks on a mobile ad, and installs the advertised app on their phones. CPI models usually pay out higher amounts than other pay out models (CPM, CPC, CPV) as the action required to install an app is much tougher than viewing or clicking on an ad. 

On the demand-side, the cost per install is the actual price an advertiser would pay to acquire new customers for their mobile apps. This is an important metric that mobile app marketers need to keep track of, and to find out strategies to keep it a low amount.

5. CPA – Cost per Action

The CPA (cost per action) model is a step further than the CPI model. It pays out whenever the player takes a specific action inside the advertised app. One example is paying out only when the player makes an in-app purchase on the advertised app. 

As you might imagine, this action is the most difficult to achieve, and hence, the pay out rates for this model are one of the highest. Having this option available provides mobile games companies more opportunities for monetization.

Paid Mobile Games:

It is more straightforward to earn revenue through a paid mobile game. A paid mobile game charges a player a one-off upfront payment before he or she is able to download and install it on their phone.

3. Up-front Payment

A very straight forward way to monetize your mobile game is to host it behind a pay wall. Players who wish to play your game would have to pay an upfront amount in order to install and unlock it.

Some examples of popular paid mobile games are Minecraft, Monster Hunter Stories and Bloons TD 6.

Top paid mobile games on the Google Play Store as of May 2023.

4. Subscription model

Mobile games that utilize a subscription model charge players on a regular, recurring basis in order for them to continue having access to play the game. The frequency is usually on a monthly basis. It is quite rare for mobile games to deploy the subscription model mainly because mobile game players tend to get bored of mobile games quicker as compared to PC or console games. As such, they wouldn’t commit to months of subscription fees to play the same game on their mobile phones when alternative mobile games can be easily installed and played.

However, this subscription model has proven to work on some mobile games, and they include Poker King by Tencent, TMNT Legends, World of Tanks Blitz and Warfriends.

The subscription model is more popular for PC games that are in the MMO (massive multiplayer online) genre, games like World of Warcraft and Runescape. However, more recently, game publishers have become more creative in deploying the subscription model even to games outside of the MMO genres.

Step into the world of games bundling.

Games bundling

Game subscription services from platforms like Humble Choice and EA Origin offers a curated bundle of games for players to install and play. The games available for download are different every month , and by subscribing, the player gets to expose himself or herself to different games every month at a hugely discounted rate.

These services also extend to other gaming devices such as console and even mobile.

Here are my favorite games subscription providers for mobile games:

1. Apple Arcade: 180+ iOS apps, with more being added all the time, at $5/month. 

2. Google Play Pass: 100s of Android games and apps available monthly, at $5/month.

3. Gameclub: An ever growing library currently containing 100s of both iOS and Android apps and games at $4.99/month.

Monetising mobile games beyond the phone screen

For games with a super fan base, and great Intellectual Property (IP) assets, companies can consider revenue streams that are in real life, outside of the digital realm.

5. Events Marketing

Event marketing is a good way to gather your player base in a single physical location. Such events include gaming competitions, game conventions and esports tournaments.

Some popular, large-scale title events are:

  1. BlizzCon
  2. IGN Convention
  3. Gamescom
  4. Paris Games Week
  5. Tokyo Game Show

* Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, these events are mostly held online instead.

Being the organizers of these events allow players to meet in person and take great photos for sharing. The higher the number of footfall, the more likely sponsors will fork out good money to be a part of such events in the future. And therein lies the opportunity for monetization.

6. Merchandising

From limited edition plushies of in-game characters, to fancy T-shirts designs of characters in action, die-hard players of a game title will fork out lots of money to own a piece of it.

Mobile games with a huge player base can commoditize their games’ intellectual property by creating such merchandise and putting them up for sale.

Brawl Stars’ limited edition merchandise created in partnership with LINE.
Maplestory Mobile’s official merchandise available for purchase through their Merch shop.
Fortnite’s collaboration with Hasbro in bringing to life their unique in-game gun designs via a Nerf Gun and Super Soaker.

7. VIP Programs

Some games, mobile games included, have rolled out a special VIP program aimed at pleasing the top spending players of the game. Inspired by real world casinos, these VIP programs have 1 main goal – to keep players happy and returning to the game.

These VIP players are often conferred special treatment and benefits, such as, earning a bonus on in-game spending or access to exclusive events or merchandise. The most common benefit that these VIP programs have is a dedicated customer service agent, which is readily accessibly by the players for anything game related. These customer service agents are responsible for addressing their players’ concerns effectively and quickly.

One game development company, Glu Mobile, provides their VIP players with a special hotline that grants direct access via the phone to their customer service agents. They have also announced publicly on their forums that “Any messages you send to Customer Care are marked with the highest priority, ensuring that you’ll receive the quickest service possible.”

Image by GSMArena

And by rolling out such VIP programs, more ordinary players may feel motivated to spend more in order to unlock that special treatment from the company. This in turn increase the number of high spending players of the game, while on the other hand, retaining the current high spenders. This was exactly how it played out for Glu Mobile, where there are even unofficial guides on their community forums teaching players how to become VIPs. And another forum thread where players can be seen discussing how much they might need to spend to attain the elusive VIP status.

8. Special Offers

Special offers are one-off offers that mobile game companies release during special occasions, or to a special group of players (eg. players who haven’t opened the app in over 2 months) to entice them to spend money on the game.

Brawl Stars’ Golden Week 2021 special offers that are heavily discounted for a limited time only.

The strategy to making special offers work is to know the audience and to time it well.

Brawl Star’s 2023 Golden Week special offer of getting 5x value on in-game purchases were launched during Japan’s golden week which was from 29 April to 5 May 2023.

The perceived value of such special offers go up when they are time bound and when they provide the player more value than their ordinary purchases.

Other strategies include offering a special boss package offer when a player is about to engage a high level boss, or a discounted starter package for newly launched games to give players a solid head start.

Some mobile game companies also extend a special offer to cosmetic items. Fortnite Mobile’s limited time offer of a Lava Legends Pack lets players buy a full armour cosmetic set, including a unique cosmetic for the glider. Similarly, this offer is time sensitive, and it would appeal to players who see value in jazzing up their character’s looks.

Fortnite’s special offer of a Lava Legends Pack at $19.99 for a limited time.

8.1 First purchases of special offers should be a ‘no-brainer’

For players who have yet to make their first purchase in the game, they should be offered an offer that they simply can’t refuse. Communicate the value of the offer clearly to the player, and create a sense of urgency with an expiry date on the offer.

8.2 Don’t let your fear of impacting retention hold you back too much

Some mobile game companies tend to hold back on pushing their special offers to the player too early as they are concerned that players churn because of that. It’s a valid concern, but the compromise can come in better timing the special offer.

One way to do so, is to push a special offer to the player when he first browses the store. With an enticing offer presented on his first visit, he is likely to be engaged and may return to buy more in the future. 

8.3 Don’t be afraid to offer savings on higher-tier items

The game’s more expensive and higher tier items should convert at a better rate than those below it. And to encourage spending, you should consider offering discounts on these expensive items. When the player sees that he is getting more value from his money, he is more likely to go ahead with the purchase.

9. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a way to grow a game’s fan base even before its launch. It’s also a unique way to raise funds that can be re-channeled towards developing a better game for everyone. 

One such mobile game, Lil BUB’s HELLO EARTH, was able to raise $148,003 through crowdfunding on Kickstarter with around 2400 backers supporting the project.

Another mobile game, Ekko and the Firefly: An anime-inspired fairytale was able to raise $25,320 through 215 backers on Kickstarter.

Overall, as of 2020, video games have raised more than $23.3million on Kickstarter, and this figure is set to increase year on year. 

Games that get the best funding on crowdfunding platforms

Let’s face it – not every crowdfunding story is a successful one. And not every project listed on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter meet the minimum amount to kickstart. Here are some strategies to ensure that your mobile game, should you wish to crowdfund, becomes a roaring success.

1. The mobile game should be educational centric

A study of the successfully funded games on Kickstarter reveal that games with that teach a new skill or language have a higher chance of succeeding on Kickstarter. 

2. The mobile game should have a strong niche audience base

Mobile games that are designed specifically for a niche audience have a higher chance of success. One example would be Sandigma, which appeals to a niche group of players from the RPG genre who like playing OvO RPG (Online versus Offline Role Playing Game).

In addition, its art style and game design appeals to a specific group of niche players.  

Another example of a niche game that successfully launched on Kickstarter is Legend of Ace – Casino Quest. This game is a unique fusion game that combines match-3 puzzles with a casino that is set in the medieval age.

Legend of Ace – Casino Quest saw its successful Kickstarter campaign launch in Sep 2015. 166 backers pledged a total of $42,061, collectively bringing this mobile game alive.

3. The mobile game should have a pop culture reference

By associating your game with references that groups of people beyond a hard core gaming audience  would relate to, its launch on Kickstarter would have a higher chance of success. The key here is to have these groups of people become loyal advocates for the game.

And that was exactly what the team behind ‘The Rocky Horror Show: Touch Me Game’ did. 

The holy grail of making money with a mobile game: High player retention numbers

Player retention is key for any game’s success – if a player has churned, you can’t monetise him or her. This makes retention critical for the amount of overall revenue a game brings in for the company.

Mobile games should aim for a 7-Day retention rate of at least 10%. In order to strike a balance between monetization and retention rates, here are some strategies to consider when implementing any of the strategies discussed earlier.

1. Ensure a smooth mobile gaming experience

The player should have a smooth experience browsing through the advertisements pushed to him through the app. Advertisements should be made obvious, and the player should not by any means be tricked into clicking or installing any advertised apps.

2. Capping of ads frequency

A balance has to be made between the frequency of which ads are popping up on the player’s phone, and the revenue generated. As the product manager for the game, you should have solid data depicting the lowest frequency of the ads while bringing in sufficient revenue. When you find out the golden number, your user base will be less likely to feel annoyed by the ads and thus are less likely to churn from your game.

3. Limiting SDK integrations through mediation

Game developers tend to work with many ad networks to maximize the potential of revenue generated. Different ad networks tend to cater to different groups of audiences, and it is standard practise to reach out to and integrate with as many as possible.

The more mobile ad networks the game owner chooses to work with, the higher the number of SDKs they’d need to integrate in the mobile game app. This may in turn slow down the speed of the app.

A workaround is to work with an ad mediation platform that integrates SDKs from multiple mobile ad networks with 1 single software development kit (SDK). These mediation platforms allow access to a variety of mobile ad networks with the least effort possible as it eliminates the search for mobile ad networks with the highest eCPMs payout. The mediation does it for you.

One such ad network that has a mediation platform is InMobi.

4. Introduce monetization early on instead of waiting till later stages

The sooner you introduce monetization in your mobile game, the longer your players will get used to how the game flow is like. To them, it will look like a natural component of the game, and not something that sticks out awkwardly like a sore thumb. 

Players will then be able to decide on their play styles and play the game while getting used to these monetization attempts.

5. Identify & target your whales for better monetization

For any mobile game, whales are very important. Whales tend to spend a lot of money on a game that they like, and this allows you to generate a lot of revenue from them. Focus on building an ongoing relationship with them through regular engagements and rewarding them well for spending. 

To encourage spending from whales, Unity suggests to offer lower priced bundles that are released at a higher frequency. This stems from their studies which show that 54% of whales have never spent more than $50 in a single transaction. They tend to spend around $20 per transaction instead.

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