This post was most recently updated on January 18th, 2023
You’ve heard it time and time again: “Adapt or die.” This is the mentality of game developers when it comes to mobile game monetization in this day and age when you’re a mere few seconds away from the next big thing. There are some great monetization strategies out there, but it can be challenging to decide which format is suitable for you.
As an ad management partner, who’s helped countless game publishers globally, we break down the best tips that can help you scale your ad revenue while keeping your players happy at the same time.
Luckily, there are some tried-and-true monetization strategies that can work for any developer. The trick is knowing where to look for them. If you’re looking for a new way to make money from your game, this blog post explains it all!
This article will give you 13 of the best game monetization models for game developers and publishers and help you learn what works.
Banner ads are probably one of the most popular ad unit types in video games. These are the banners popping across the top or bottom of the screen.
This monetization model can be implemented in many ways and you can use each approach depending on how much control you want over the ad’s appearance. You can add static images as banners or animate them with animations. If you want to take it one step further, you could also use HTML5 banner templates that resemble your game more closely and contain more interactive objects.
The main determinant of how much revenue is generated by banners is their position on the screen. This is why it is important to experiment with different types of positions and placements within your game to see which ones work best for your game type and your target audience. If a player sees an ad and doesn’t really care about it, he/she will simply ignore it, but if it catches their attention, there’s a good chance that they will end up clicking through (CTR).
Interstitial ads also known as full screen ads are the ad units that take up the player’s whole screen while gaming. It is able to grab attention easily lasting for 3-5 seconds. Interstitials must be acknowledged before moving on, unlike banner ads that fade into the background over time. As a result, they usually pay more, but they have to be presented in the right way. For example, interstitials should be placed before or after levels, or between lives. They shouldn’t be during an exciting part of the game, because players will get annoyed and leave. The money-making trick is to use Interstitial ads between levels, or during the trailers to the next level.
Video pre-roll ads are the best monetization strategy for game developers. Think of them as a TV commercial in your game! Pre-roll ads show up before a game loads, and they’re common with free-to-play games because they’re so lucrative.
All businesses are heaving investing in video pre-roll as they are the best for brand awareness & audience engagement. But that’s not all they do well. With video pre-rolls, you can tailor your adverts to suit your audience’s interests, which increases the likelihood of an ad conversion.
Notification ads are one of the most annoying, but also one of the most effective forms of monetization. The idea is simple: when someone logs into your game and plays a level, you send a push notification to their phone (or tablet, or computer) that directs them somewhere else (typically, an offer wall). They click on the ad, perform a specific action (like watching a video), and earn you money. If you’re using it in conjunction with an HTML5 game, it can easily be used to push people directly to other websites, where they’ll be able to make purchases without ever leaving your website.
While I’ll admit that I’ve been known to enjoy a good notification ad or two, these intruders can be more than a little bit irritating. Even so, they’re very effective at grabbing users’ attention and directing them towards a monetary goal.
A great time to show an ad for another game is just as players leave your game, on their way out.
A lot of times we can’t control where our players are when they play our games. They could be on a mobile device and want to check Facebook or Twitter quickly, or they could be on a computer and want to look up something on Google. Either way, by showing your player an ad for another game at the moment they are about to leave, you are capitalizing on their most vulnerable state: right after they’re done playing one of your games.
They just played your game, so they have a positive feeling towards it and towards you as the developer. Your ads will be fresh in their minds and they’ll be much more likely to click on them than usual. Even if they aren’t immediately interested in any of your ads, they’ll remember that you made that great game that they played and that you have other cool games too. You’ll stay top-of-mind with them and continue getting clicks, which equals revenue for you!
Sponsored Game Ads involve trading promotions with other game developers so that both parties benefit, get more users and make more money. A “More games” option on the menu screen that shows sponsored games or partner games is a great addon and this doesn’t even look like an ad.
You could include sponsored games or partner games in your own menu screen and get paid per click on them. They may not be as popular as your other options, but it’s still an opportunity to make some extra cash on top of all the ads you’re running from other places.
When you add sponsored games to your app or website, you’re typically making money based on “CPI.” This stands for “cost per install,” and means that for each person that clicks on the advertisement and installs the game, you’ve made a certain amount of money.
An affiliate offer is when someone owns a product or service, and you get your user to buy their product or service and earn a commission. Affiliate offers work really well when they are highly targeted. Say, your game is a war simulation game and your affiliate offer is for something very similar, its probably a good fit. If you make a learning game, and your affiliate offers are for education products, probably a good fit. You get the idea. A lot of times these offers can be presented in the form of coupons too, so for example your user can get a free one month trial of Netflix by using your promotion code. That gives them a reward, you get a commission, and everybody wins.
In-game purchases are one of the most popular business models to emerge from the gaming space. “Free to play” (F2P) games offer a game experience that is free to download, but then you have the option of buying in-game items or experiences. Although this model has been around for a while, it’s growing in popularity. F2P games have become so mainstream that they are even being used as marketing tools for other products.
Following are few popular in-game purchase options:
In-game currency: Using a generic currency within your game, and keeping separate purchasable coins that your players can buy most wanted items with is a no-brainer.
Consumables: This is like a subscription in-game purchase but its a great tactic to make consistent money.
Holiday Items: Holiday Items sell out like crazy during Q4 days like Halloween, black friday, Christmas, etc. It leverages FOMO in your players enticing them to buy it before the holiday season is over.
Variable Rewards: Randomizing rewards boosts the desire for getting it 10 times more. This is why variable rewards are more addictive than any other reward type in gaming.
Unlockable Characters: Unless you’re sleeping under a rock, we all know what unlockable characters are, and how desperate players get to unlock a certain character willing to spend big bucks for it. You can add to this effect by giving additional characters a different look, feel, talent, or vibe. For Instance: Cyberpunk, Pubg, etc.
Customization: Players usually pay more to reduce the amount of time it takes to upgrade their skills and customize their characters in most games. It all depends on which genre your game belongs to.
Extra lives: Providing a player with an extra turn or life when they fail and have to start over is a great idea for games that use turns or lives. A free-to-play model relies on the right purchase at the right time, and this definitely fits the spot.
Limited Edition stock: Many players are willing to buy limited edition digital items to gain an edge over their competitors and look better. Scarcity creates FOMO which makes them want to buy it before its gone thus increasing demand and selling out at the same time.
You want to sell add-ons? That’s a great idea, because it’s a strategy that works well in the gaming industry. For example, after you purchase the game, you can purchase expansion packs to unlock even more adventure out of the game. This is also one of the most used models in mobile gaming, and it’s also very profitable. There are different types of add-ons: expansion packs, characters, weapons, new missions, etc.
First of all you need to make sure that your users are really addicted to your game. Once they are, they are more willing to buy an add-on because they know they will be getting more out of it.
When your games are played consistently and retain a large amount of players, it could be time to consider a subscription-based model.
If your game has exceptional retention numbers and players love it, subscriptions can be a very effective way to make money. This is ideal for MMOs or games that have consistent updates and new content. These games are supported by the subscription revenue model.
A good example is Clash of Clans, which offers three different types of subscriptions: $4.99 per week for full access (ad free), $14.99 per month for full access (ad free), and $29.99 per month for ad-free play plus 30 gems per day. That’s already enough to get someone hooked on Clash Royale’s addictive gameplay and make them question why they don’t use their phone more often.
You could try to use a pay-wall method, where users can use the game for free for a certain period and after that, they need to pay to continue playing the game. For example, Boom Beach and Clash of Clans both use this method, with players able to play the games for free however they wish, but having to pay if they want access all parts of the game. This method has some big advantages over ads: there are no annoying pop-ups or anything else to distract from playing the game. Pay-walls also allow you to build up a user base before asking everyone for money.
If you look at it from a gamer’s point of view, you will probably agree that if you really enjoy playing a game you will probably be willing to pay something extra in order to continue enjoying it.
Additional paid content is the most common form of monetization post-launch and includes any kind of additional content you might add to your game once the main product is out, from paid storylines and characters to new weapons, gear, or other kinds of in-game items that players can spend real money on.
For example, let’s say you’re working on a game called Epic Quest. When Epic Quest launches, it has a base storyline that takes the player from level 1 to level 20. Once the game is out there in the world and people are playing it, your team may decide that you want to release four more storylines for purchase. These new storylines would be released as DLC (downloadable content) for $5 each.
This way, the developers get ongoing revenue—instead of making all their money at once like they would with an initial sale.
Episodic games are like episode-based media; you sell the game in chunks. Instead of one $50 game, you sell 10 episodes at $5 each. This works really well for story and adventure games that have very high retention. Rather than selling the whole game for $50 upfront, you can get many more sales if you build anticipation by releasing episodes one at a time with a week or two in between them. But be careful: if you make the first episode too short, it might not lock people into buying all the others (but it will still likely lead to many more sales than if they had to buy everything up front).
The structure of this model also works well for mobile devices. People have shorter attention spans, so it’s harder to hold onto customers when they’re playing on a phone or tablet. By selling your game in small chunks, you can better retain users over time while also making sure they don’t forget about what’s happening in your story between episodes.
It is important to note that you don’t need to limit your game to one method of revenue generation, and you should test different options until you find what works best.
With so many strategies listed here, let us know which ones are your favorites. There are some that depend on the type of game you’ve created, but most could work for any game. The secret is finding the one that fits your game best and helps you earn more money with less effort. Choose a strategy and implement it in an optimal manner that matches your goals, your game, and user growth.
Whatever approach is ultimately chosen, it’s critical to ensure that the goals and core demands of the game aren’t sacrificed in favor of maximizing profits.
You can make this easier and time-saving by letting us take care of the monetization aspect so that you can focus more on gaming development.
With over seven years at the forefront of programmatic advertising, Aleesha is a renowned Ad-Tech expert, blending innovative strategies with cutting-edge technology. Her insights have reshaped programmatic advertising, leading to groundbreaking campaigns and 10X ROI increases for publishers and global brands. She believes in setting new standards in dynamic ad targeting and optimization.
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