Mobile gamers are a fickle audience and a game that may have been at the top of the charts yesterday, is easily forgotten today, as more and more apps (with minor differences) flood the app stores. It is becoming imperative for game developers to not just consider monetization potential when implementing ads, but also the impact it has on the game play experience. Having a loyal user base is as much about your game, as it is about how you implement ads in your game. One wrong move and you are likely to annoy your fan base.
Among the plethora of ad formats available, lets face it - banner ads in games are dead. Banner ads are obtrusive within a mobile game experience (If you’ve ever accidentally tapped on one while playing your favorite game, you know exactly what I mean) and implementing banners means giving up space at the top or bottom of the game screen for a format which most gamers have learned to ignore successfully. Neither are gamers willing to look at banners during game play, nor are developers happy about having to design their game around this slot.
With the death of banners, focus is now on creating a native ad experience for gamers - be it in the look and feel of the ad, or how it fits in the actual game play experience itself.
Full page ads which fit into the natural interruptions of your game play have proven to be the most effective ad monetization template for games. These may be implemented in the form of static/rich media ads (interstitials) or as interstitial videos which play at timely moments in the games. While it may be tempting to use them more frequently to maximize monetization, we have noticed developers see maximum eCPMs when interstitials are used after every 2-3 minutes - this may mean at level completion or when a turn ends. With eCPMs 3X of static interstitials, video ads fit perfectly into the happy moments of your game - like level completion or level wins. It is important to ensure that the user experience is not marred by videos which keep playing every 2 mins - Frequency capping and session based optimization are key to a happy user.
Yet another variation of the video is the rewarded video. Rewarded video ads fit perfectly into your virtual economy as a means of redeeming a booster pack or an extra life or anything that the gamer needs to continue his game play. Rewarded videos are generally non skippable videos, placed in shop fronts and help in monetizing the game as well as increasing user retention, while at the same time ensuring that the follow up action is completely choice driven. While rewards are an awesome way to increase user retention, it is important to note that rewarded installs are a “dirty” way of earning money since it generally results in low quality users for the advertiser and can end up in your app being blacklisted by the major advertisers.
Native Interstitial Mock-Up for Devil Ninja 2
Rewarded Video in What’s the Difference
With ads becoming an integral part of a game’s monetization and retention mechanism, it is interesting to see how they can be used optimally for the different types of personalities in your game base. The most common classification of hardcore vs casual has long since been moved from the game to the gamer category. It is possible for even a supposedly casual game like Candy Crush Saga to have a hardcore gamer (who doesn’t have a friend who is already on the 589th level of the game) and for something as core as Infinity Blade to have a casual gamer base. At the end of the day, it comes down to the personality of the person playing the game and his motivation for doing so. Bateman and Boon, introduced 4 game play styles in their book - 21st Century Game Design. Lets take a look how ads can be used to successfully monetize and retain these different users.
The Conqueror - A patient gamer intent on winning, with sheer persistence and logistical optimization. Be it a hardcore conqueror intent on beating his own score or a casual conqueror fighting to win in PvP, these players are delighted by rewards that help them further their cause. Incentivized video ads which help them gain currency or rank rewards or open up a whole new challenge level are ideal for keeping them hooked.
The Manager - A persistent gamer intent on mastering the game mechanics with little consideration for actually winning the game. Getting stuck at any point can lead to sudden loss of interest with these gamers. Using video ads to keep them involved/engrossed during the wait periods of the game (such as waiting for a player's turn to end, waiting for your farm to build, etc.) is a good way to keep them hooked. Given the fickleness of these users, native interstitials are also an ideal way of monetizing the short run gamers with a pleasing ad experience.
The Wanderer - A player in search of a fun experience who is more interested in the story that the game builds than in winning the game. These players are invested in the characters of your game and will be delighted if their favorite characters are used to introduce the ads (Native frames/ Native Interstitials). Wanderers are more interested in toy-play than game play and can be retained longer if they are given new tools to explore at regular intervals. They will be delighted with brand video ads at level ups and equally excited to watch a video in exchange for a new environment or a fancy character.
The Participant - A player who is happiest when playing with other people or when the game is rooted in emotions. The participant is least competitive and better incentivized with social networks than free weapons/tools. Monetize these gamers with videos at happy moments, draw emotion with event specific native interstitials and keep them hooked with leaderboards/invites from their network of friends.
If you are a game developer and interested in exploring better ways to creating a native ad experience for your gamers, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Native interstitials are regular interstitials with frames which look native to your app. These frames can be applied easily through your dashboard and do not require any integration changes. Learn more about how you can apply frames for your interstitial site with InMobi and share your excitement about upcoming popular events (think Football!) with your users.