Big in Japan, now Adways is bringing its $1 CPA pre-registration UA platform to the west

Ken Asakura on marketing before launch

Big in Japan, now Adways is bringing its $1 CPA pre-registration UA platform to the west

For reasons both historic and structural, running pre-registration advertising campaigns for mobile games, especially core games, has always been a viable UA channel in Japan.

Typically run a month before the game hits an app store, these campaigns attract players with information about the game, and more importantly a reward, typically a high value digital item or in-game currency.

More subtly, but equally importantly, the campaigns also provide a crystalisation point for interested players to chat about games and build communities and alliances.

This is partially vital for multiplayer-focused titles, which require a lot of engaged users from day 1 to encourage a larger audience to develop.

Going global

"Our most successful campaign gained 110,000 pre-registrations for a single game," says Ken Asakura, CEO of Japanese digital marketing company Adways, of its Yoyaku Top 10 platform.

Yoyaku Top 10 has grown to over 1 million users, and generating over 1 million pre-registration per month.

So having build a strong pre-registration business in Japan, alongside its more traditional UA channels, Adways has just launched a similar service, called, in the west.

"In the west, there hasn't been much opportunity or action in terms of pre-launch marketing," Asakura points out.

Indeed, it's been Japanese companies such as GREE and DeNA which have been pushing pre-registration in the west. But as they've only been pushing individual titles, they've not had the scale, or perhaps the focus, to make the strategy work.

Those are two reasons Adways expects to be more successful.

It's bringing its satisfied Asian clients (including GREE and DeNA) to the western markets, and has also found willing local companies.

We're super confident in the quality of our users.
Ken Asakura

Glu Mobile, Warners, and Kabam, which used the channel for Star Wars: Uprising, are already signed up.

All about quality

This means its Android app (there's also a website, but most activity is app-based) is already full of games for interested players to sign up for.

"We have a powerful push notification system to tell people when games are released, while we add games to the app each Tuesday and Friday," Asakura explains.

Although a paid-for service, he's keen to point out that it is also curated to ensure only the highest quality games are added.

The reason for this, he argues, is that the platform requires quality throughout for it to be effective.

"We're super confident in the quality of our users," Asakura enthuses.

"So we need high quality games to keep that audience."

Honed service

Of course, like all niche platforms, has to be used in the correct way.

Timing is key to drive a high level of conversion from pre-registration to game install.

In Japan, the range experienced through Yoyaku Top 10 is 30-60 percent.

Content is also important. "It doesn't work well for puzzle games," he says, "And racing and shooting game have a different LTV to RPGs."

Yet for the right type of game, Asakura is certain adds something new - and complimentary - into the mobile game marketeers' toolbox.

Also, the service is surprisingly cheap.

Costing $1 per CPA (a PreLaunch sign-up), even with a conversion rate of 30 percent, you'd be getting relatively cheap CPI rates, while, as Asakura is happy to explain, these users are happy to spend money.

We'd like to work with cool 3-man indies. We're pretty flexible.
Ken Asakura

"One game had 7-day ARPU of $1.50," he says, also boasting of 7-day retention rates that are 270 percent higher than standard industry metrics.

All about scale

Yet, as he's happy to confess, it's still early days for the service in the west. The most popular game in the system currently has 18,000 pre-registrations compared to that 110,000 peak in Japan. 

Adways is looking to work with more developers, and not just the big boys.

"We're working out the best business model," Asakura says.

"But if they have the right game, we'd like to work with cool 3-man indies. We're pretty flexible."

Adways is pushing the demand side of the business too.

Features such as the ability to follow people within the app, as well as 1-on-1 chats have been rolled out to improve its community-building power.

"Our challenge is to scale while keeping our quality," Asakura explains.

"Our end goal is to become the biggest mobile game community; a mobile game version of Steam."

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.